Front Row vs. Media Center?

October 14, 2005

So I, along with everyone else in the world it seems, tuned in for the latest announcement by Apple on Wednesday. At first, I was confused… iPod w/ Video? iMac with a remote? what?

But then as I started to grok their latest move, their genius dawned on me. People already use iPods for portable media devices. People will buy the latest incarnation of iPod just as much as they’ve been buying the previous incarnations. People will start to buy video content through iTunes. People will want a home media hub. People will want a Mac with tight iTunes and Front Row integration. Case closed.

To me, it seems like a pretty good play for Apple. After all, how else do you get yourself into the wildly lucrative home entertainment space?

The iMac sucks though you say… or does it? What about those people dropping $1000 for a LCD TV at Best Buy? Will they pay $1300 for a LCD TV + iTunes + Front Row + video chat + a full fledged computer? And of course, let’s not forget, Apple products have unseated Sony products as being the sexiest consumer electronics on the block. If I was Best Buy, I’d put the new iMac in the TV section, not the computer section.

Along with everyone else, I’m also thinking that Apple will be releasing a Mac Mini with DVI/component video out, Front Row pre-loaded, and a remote. Goodbye Media Center/Tivo/Portable Windows Media Player. Hello Apple.

On the content front, they are revolutionizing things as well. Check out this analysis from Mark Cuban – selling video programming for $2 a pop might just fundamentally change the way network television shows are produced.

Sure this announcement was as drool inducing as the iPod Nano a few weeks ago, but in the grand scheme of things, I think it’s way more interesting. Why is it that some people are saying ho-hum, who cares about a video iPod/Front Row? Beats me… are these the same people that said ho-hum who cares about TiVo? ho-hum who cares about Netflix? 😛

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No Responses Yet to “Front Row vs. Media Center?”

  1. nwistheone Says:

    Frontrow will have greater impact on the WMC share when it’s readily available for all Macs; this partnership between Apple & Disney is only the foot in the door of a greater transition, maybe even the death of television as we know it.

  2. markjen Says:

    Good point NW. I see Front Row being available as part of Mac OS soon and the iMac is a high margin item that they can probably sell a good number of in the few months before they launch Front Row for all Macs.

    The content distribution partnership is really important as well, but as you saw from iPod/iTunes, you need both the hardware and the service to be successful. Only one, and you’re in for a heck of a time – just ask the Windows Portable Media Player guys and all the other online music stores out there 😉

  3. ajma Says:

    What about recording TV? I rely on my MCE for that. MCE has that online spotlight thing too and you can rent movies from it. Too bad the partners charge so much for movies.

  4. prosser Says:

    Front Row’s feature set is so behind MCE’s that comparing the two is like comparing an IPod to MCE. After all, Front Row only has one thing that an IPod does not: a remote. It’s disengenuous (of Steve Jobs, and of you) to judge them as if it were an apples-to-apples (no pun intended) comparison.

    MCE is a mature, integrated experience to Front Row’s animated menu system.

    Front Row is only Apple’s first shot in the arena the Jobs said he’d “never, ever” enter, but MCE is not exactly a stationary target. Come back and talk to me about Front Row being an alternative when they support NTSC, ATSC, PAL, SECAM, and DVB-T. Of course, by the time they have that support, they’ll need to add MHEG-5, DVB-S, CableCARD, Firewire recording from satellite & cable boxes, and IPTV too.

  5. markjen Says:

    Hi Prosser – I understand where you’re coming from, but then again the iPod doesn’t have WMA/Ogg Vorbis/etc. support, and it doesn’t have a radio tuner. I don’t see that stopping it from dominating the portable music player market 😉

    It seems to me that nowadays it’s not the feature list that wins over consumers anymore…

  6. prosser Says:

    I think there’s a big gap between a “feature list” and major functionality like “supports TV”. I also assert that the list of TV

    standards I put out is not really an analog to traditional features, since each country really only supports one or two of the standards

    (3-4 at most), so getting any market penetration at all there requires supporting the in-country standards.

    Apple tends to think simple, and to nail the user experience in the limited areas they stake out. That’s great, for the users they cover, and for their competition as well, since there are simply huge areas of the market that Apple doesn’t compete in.

    I disagree that a feature list won’t win over consumers because that’s too broad a statement. There are compelling features (like supporting the kind of TV in your region), and not-so-compelling features (like a particular way of managing stored media). The key to success is having the compelling features in the product. The hard part is figuring out which features are compelling to which users.

  7. roiv Says:

    I agree with prosser being a MCE user myself. Although I have only experienced front row at a computer display in a electronics store, you really can’t compare the two. The apple remote is simple that’s for sure, but if apple are ever to enter the dvr (which I guess they have never claimed that front row ever was going to replaced) then 5 buttons (can’t remember how many it was) just ins’t enough. eg. if you wan’t to change to channel 139 quickly then using a jogwheel like thingie really isn’t the way to go. However I wonder. Can you buy the front row remote and extension separately, or do you have to buy the newest everything to be able to use, which is the way Apple usually does it. I recall that MCe2005 can’t be installed as an addon, which is really poor since the rest of the system is typical windows, so buying it as an addon wouldn’t require that much. Just my five cents of thought here.

  8. Danyel Says:

    I agree with MarkJen about Apple’s Front Row experience. I’m recently installed Front Row on my machine, and the whole interface just blew me away. It was very simple and easy to use. This weekend, I used Front Row to play music from iTunes, photos from iPhoto, movies from Quicktime and even some DVD movies I have.

    The only thing I’m missing is Remote Control which I’ll buy from Keyspan or TwistedMelon. The only thing Front Row is missing is DVR capabilties.

    Granted the only experience I had with MCE was at store display, but Front Row just seemed more intuitive for me.


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