Mac HT – Keep it Simple

If you’ve been reading here, chances are good you are an early adopter and as such willing in some cases to live with a few bumps along the way. The obvious comparison to the thinking we’ve begun here is naturally to the Windows Media Center since it’s been developed as a full platform, including integrated hardware. Until recently in fact you could not even purchase the software to build your own system and with good reason…

Thomas Hawk posted today about some bad news he got following an upgrade to the 2005 edition on his Windows Media Center HP system:

In the back of my mind I remembered something about a MPEG decoder and finally after more searching I remembered that I needed to download and install a new DVD decoder. Ok, so I should have known better — but, geez, so should the HP tech. Anyways, I download the 30 day trial decoder from Nvidia and everything was fine. My wife of course was not happy with me as she had to sit there without television in the living room for the four hours that I dealt with this.

I still can’t believe that Microsoft did not include some kind of free DVD decoder with the 2005 upgrade — or at least hit me with an error message that said, “hey idiot, you need a DVD decoder,” instead of the very random, “the required video files are missing or corrupt.” By choosing to cheap out on the DVD decoder they add to the aggravation and decrease the WAF (wife acceptance factor) immeasurably.

Everything is fine now but it reminded me why so many people hate computers and why there still may be quite a bit of hesitancy for people to move them into their living rooms. I barely have the patience to deal with issues like installing a new DVD decoder, uninstalling corrupted drivers and reinstalling new drivers, going to websites and downloading patches etc. And although I’m nowhere near the PC expert that I should be, there are a hell of a lot of people who know a lot less about PCs than I do. I can only imagine the fear of moving a PC into their living room and dealing with these complexities.

As the market for the MacHTPC develops, developers and product designers will need to keep a single mantra in mind – Keep it Simple. Features are great to have, but they are not required because if you fail at ease of use what difference does it really make? Make sure your application or device connects simply and works everytime it is called into action.

While there are already more than a few dare I say “bolt on” components for the mini as well as any other Mac for that matter, you can’t current buy an out of box configuration that matches what Windows Media Center can offer, though as our readers here will certainly agree, that would mean running Windows. This pending market needs to focus intensely on simple installation procedures if any are needed at all other than basic connectivity to announce the device as a part of your system.

I’m torturing my wife enough with the developing changes in our living room… help me prove it’s a worthwhile and wonderful change.

— Jonathan Greene

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