The media center capabilities of Windows Vista included in Vista Home Premium and Windows Ultimate represent a step-up in high-definition optimization. If Microsoft can live up to its claims of improved system stability, it should improve the appeal of PCs in the living room. However, CableCARD integration is not even necessary for its main competitors — inexpensive (at least to acquire) cable and satellite TV set-top boxes.
Microsoft has thus far focused on content integration, UI quality, consistency and responsiveness, and appeal to a digital generation used to managing content via PCs. However, Microsoft would really give its media center capabilities a boost in the arm if they could provide functionality that overshadows the now commodified DVR that has been its centerpiece.
It’s now offering a TV-based user interface to Windows Live (above) that includes support for voice and text chats and VoIP calls using Verizon Web Calling. But the navigation of Spaces shown above, while certainly visual, seems designed to terrorize the agoraphobic. It reminds me of the intimidating layout of the Grand Convocation Chamber in the Star Wars prequels (left).