Windows 8: Perfect for the Home Theater



My brother and I were arguing over the phone about Windows 8 and how it fit into our living room. He and I built an HTPC for his house a few years ago. Using a Ceton tuner for cable and first generation i3 parts, we put the system together over the course of a day. When it turned on and Windows 7 came up on his new plasma television we were ecstatic that everything was up and running, but then we had to pull out his mouse and keyboard to pull up Windows Media Center. We failed to realize that this was an operating system that was designed with two things required: mouse and being close to the device. It was not designed to be a passive, intuitive process. When most people sit back to watch TV they don't want to have to exert mental effort to figure out how to work it. The only thing that concerns the average user are the power, volume, channel, and guide buttons. What you don't want to do is access a mouse and keyboard, then plug them in or make sure you're close enough for wireless, and then click the start menu, search for media center, pull it up, wait for it to load, go into the guide, and click whatever you want to watch. That's what I would do for Windows 7. That's why Windows 8 makes all of these processes easier even though it doesn't make it easy for you to access Media Center.

Windows 8 is the first operating system that is at home on either a television or a laptop.

When you look at the Windows 8 interface, formerly known as metro, you will see large tiles that display programs rather than an interface that creates barriers between you and your device; such as a keyboard. The fact that Microsoft has committed so strongly to the Metro UI is great for users of Media Center, rather than something frustrating because Media Center isn't standard. (We're just going to stick with Metro because it's simpler.) Windows 8 is the first big name operating system perfectly at home on either a television or a laptop. This is a huge, but wonderful, shift in the approach that Microsoft is taking to its operating system.

What you are able to do is have large blocks of information rather than tiny pieces of text. Microsoft has unwittingly created the perfect home theater operating system. You don't have to get up really close and look things up or attempt to find a program, you just click over the home screen until you get to the program you want. This could be media center or anything else really. This is in many ways the approach that microsoft took with media center, although in a slightly different way, and the fact that this is now, for the most part, prevalent throughout the operating system, makes it a much easier process to set up an HTPC. This set up is not without its faults, however, and that is because Windows Media Center will not come standard with Windows 8 and that is a definite downside to this set up. If microsoft begins setting up roadblocks for Media Center users then they are annihilating a possibly fantastic set up at the cost of a little more profit from not having to pay royalties for DVD licensing. If there were just a little bit of effort on Microsofts part to improve Media Center then they would be keeping enthusiasts like myself happy, but for every one of me there are a thousand consumers who "want it to just work". I don't like the decision to move away from Media Center by making it a fairly premium feature, but but I can understand it. They made an operating system that is perfect for a home theater, but have not capitalized upon that opportunity.

What results from this shift in perspective is a much more versatile and, overall, user friendly experience than years past. The live tiles allow for the interface to be viewable on a large screen from far away in a manner that other operating systems are unable to do. The argument that one might make is that you can have Windows 7 boot into Windows Media Center if you really want it too, but that takes expertise and you have to extensively customize Windows 7 in order to do so. The emergence of Windows 8 as a user interface signals the end of an era in Windows computing, but it also the beginning of a new one. The fact that Metro seems so natural on the big screen is a testament to the fact that Microsoft may have managed to do something that Apple could not: seriously break into the Home Theater market. It all depends on how hard it is to get Media Center in Windows 8.