Recently a few blogs have referred to a piece describing the evolution of Windows Media Center. After Microsoft bought WebTV, the product evolved into a very mature, robust, and downright delicious application known as Windows Media Center (The Vista version is commonly termed “VMC”).
Meanwhile it seems two other Microsoft teams were busy developing two other Windows media applications. The Windows Media Player (which first appeared in, what, Windows 3.0?) has evolved into a very nice mp3 library and video file player. Meanwhile Microsoft developed another team meant to tackle the music market’s biggest entity, iPod/iTunes. This team introduced the Zune line of players two years ago. The robust players are nice and boast something Apple doesn’t, a full-service subscription service (like Rhapsody’s fantastic service). However, they require their own desktop media software.
So, for a person using a Zune and VMC in their lives, they have to use three separate pieces of software that contain many redundant features. I would like to see Microsoft roll up all of their media players into one umbrella: Media Center. Get rid of stand-alone Windows Media Player and Zune software and make them subsets of VMC. Put the Zune store (containing music subscription and purchase outlets as well as TV and Movie Rentals) inside of VMC. The Zune subscription service could be a no-brainer if it could be accessed by all extenders on the VMC’s network + up to 3 Zune Portables. Finally, have two VMC viewing modes: 2ft (“Desktop”) and 10ft (“Theater”). The Desktop mode would essentially be the quick-loading Windows Media Player branded under VMC, but would contain the current Zune store. The Theater mode could offer media browsing and purchasing, but would be more specialized for playing already-obtained music, like VMC currently does.
By wrapping up all of these services into one umbrella that appears on everyone’s copy of Windows, users could have a completely vertically integrated, logically arranged solution that the average person could easily understand.