Log in

View Full Version : Jim Louderback Says Personal Media Center Is A Dumb Idea

Kent Pribbernow
08-18-2004, 09:30 PM
<div class='os_post_top_link'><a href='http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,1558,1623744,00.asp' target='_blank'>http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,1558,1623744,00.asp</a><br /><br /></div><i>"The PMC tries to be good, but it's so full of compromises it winds up being worse than Bill Gates doing the white-boy rap with Eminem..."</i><br /><br />Harsh words, but given Louderback's track record, I don't put much faith in his analysis. Back in his days as editor for TechTV's Fresh Gear, he was incessantly critical of new products and often showed a lack of understanding in his reviews. For example, when Pocket PC devices first came out, he complained that internal memory only allowed a couple songs to be stored on a typical Pocket PC, obviously unaware what purpose the built-in Compact Flash slot was for. :roll: <br /><br />I'll wait to get my hands on one of the PMC gadgets before passing judgement.

Gary Sheynkman
08-18-2004, 10:48 PM
the pre-pmc devices of such nature were pretty good. Archos is holding the torch right now although i would like to see the iriver device before passing final judgement

Chris Gohlke
08-19-2004, 12:44 AM
My problem with the PMC is that you've got most of the parts there, why not also put a copy of a PPC OS on it as well. It can't cost that much more and you add enourmously to the functionality. Right now you can have a PPC without a lot of memory, or a PMC without a lot of functionality.

Felix Torres
08-19-2004, 02:53 PM
1- We *are* talking about a first-generation MS platform, here. To expect perfection is to ignore history. More, like most emerging platforms, there will be a tendency to judge them in terms of the familiar, rather than on their own terms. Witness how even today pundits keep hammering on PocketPCs for *not* being laptops or on SmartPhones for not being pocket computers. Usually the hype and mis-characterizations cancel out, but not always...

2- The one feature I *haven't* heard anybody address on PMCs is digital camera interfacing. USB host capabilities would be nice as would be built-in flash card readers, but it would be best if you could just plug the camera directly into the PMC. Probably a v2 feature along with gaming and bigger drives, I guess...

Mojo Jojo
08-19-2004, 03:27 PM
So... was 'bob' a first generation product? :D

Anyways, time will tell if this is something that takes off. I think without the proper infrastructure in place 'behind' the PMC, it may only be a hit product for a select few.

I'll agree in that I think the first generation product might act as a foothold to keep the door from closing but if it doesn't pick up a few more tricks and support I can't see the PMC's future as being a must have product for the masses.

Just my two cents.

Felix Torres
08-19-2004, 04:49 PM
So... was 'bob' a first generation product? :D

I'll agree in that I think the first generation product might act as a foothold to keep the door from closing but if it doesn't pick up a few more tricks and support I can't see the PMC's future as being a must have product for the masses.

Just my two cents.

For the masses?
Define masses, please.
Look, portable radio sells a *lot* more than portable video.
Which sells more than PDAs but less than Digital Cameras.

Its worth remembering that Digital music players are selling at the rate of millions per year while other CE devices sell at the rates of tens and hundreds of millions.

It is easy to define a product as a failure by setting the bar for success artificially high.
Will PMCs sell as much as music-only players?
No, not soon; they are high-end devices, after all.
Can they be profitable for the vendors? Undoubtedly.
Will buyers be happy with them? Probably; as long as they do their homework and understand what they are buying.

Will they kill the pod? Nah! Only Steve Jobs can do that.

Will they change people's ideas of what portable entertainment is supposed to be like? Probably.
Especially after the V2 PMCs with gaming come out.

Just remember that PMCs will not exist in a vacuum.
In the context of the times (digital cameras everywhere, PSX, Zodiac, PocketPCs, OQO, Media Center PCs, etc) there is room and *need* for PMCs, just as there room and *need* for Tablet PCs.

But massive sales are not an immediate result of introducing a new platform; it wasn't for PCs, it wasn't for TiVO, and it wasn't for the CD or the DVD.

First generation products put the foot in the door and test the waters to see how big the product's natural market looks like. Some times you get a BOB that turns out to be answering a question nobody is asking. Sometimes, you get WEB TV, which is useful and valuable to a small segment of the market, and sometimes you get a DVD-player, a product with the right features at the right time to blow the market wide-open in a short time (where short time = 3-5 years instead of the usual 5-10 years to ramp up a whole new category).

But think on this, would DVD players had done as well if they'd been introduced in the 80's when most TVs in use couldn't display the resolution carried on the disk? Probably not.
Today, of course, 800-line TVs are cheap and readily available and the DVD output is so much better than that of VHS that nobody buys movies on tape if they can help it.

The same applies to PMCs; the supporting infrastructure (broadband, online movie delivery, digital cameras, home digital video production tools, etc) are all coming into place now, just like the equivalent capabilities were coming into place for digital audio back when Rio invented the digital audio player.

So, how will PMCs sell to the "masses"?
Who knows? It all depends on whether by masses you mean Joe six-pack or Jane commuter or Ike the tech-geek.

There's a hell of a lot more Joes than Ikes but if you're starting a new market, Ike will get you going. In time, Jane and Joe will start to notice and the market will grow.
Or not.

A product's success is not a function of raw sales numbers (especially early on) but of profitability and user satisfaction.

It may be that the PMC market proves just big enough to profitably support three players.
Or it could be big enough to support dozens of players.
Until the product actually hits the street and consumers start using it for a while we really won't know.

Until then all we can do is guess based on what previous products have done and how the environment for such a product looks like today.

Three years ago, MS introduced XBOX with broadband-only online gaming capabilities.
Big gamble, said the pundits.
Big mistake said the opposition, who hedged their bets with dial-up support.
Today we see reports that there are more broadband users in the US than dial-up users and XBOX Live has ramped up nicely for MS.
But its taken three years.
And three generations of XBOX Live games and software.

New markets aren't built in a day.
And somebody has to be first and take risks.
"You can tell the pioneers by the arrows in their backs."
And by their banking accounts, if they survive.
Cause there is value in being first into a market.
How much is at stake here remains to be seen.
And it'll be at least 3 years before the real winners and losers become clear.
Plenty of time for Apple to get into the market once others prove it exists.

Mojo Jojo
08-19-2004, 05:43 PM
No worries at all... I was rather vague. :)

By masses I guess the closest would be joe-six pack. In my mind however it would be the grandmother test. Not neccesarily meaning dumbed down but that the benfit/enjoyment it brings is greater then the hassles to use it. As it relates to me, if my grandmother needs to do a lot of steps, or a few complicated steps, then the outcome isn't worth it.

So... would she like video and pictures of her grandchildren, weddings, maybe a fun show to watch while getting her hair done. Sure!

Does that mean the PMC is for her?

Nope, she wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole.

So, my opinion here, is that it is an interesting device. However there is no backend support, no easy way to transfer content. She can't go to wal-mart and pick up her shows and drop them in.

I can definately see where the author is coming from and agree. In my mind I don't see this device becoming a large market with the product as it stands now. Does that make the PMC bad? Nope. Does that mean future versions and releases will be bad? Nope.

Perhaps it isn't coming across because I also agree with you Felix. :) First gen, starting point, adoption time... time to see what happens for the second round. However the first round appeals to a small subset.

Felix Torres
08-19-2004, 08:50 PM
Perhaps it isn't coming across because I also agree with you Felix. :) First gen, starting point, adoption time... time to see what happens for the second round. However the first round appeals to a small subset.

Exactly and that is where Louderbeck and his ilk miss the boat.
They expect a product and a market to materialize, fully developed, overnight.
It hasn't happened yet.
In some cases its taken decades for ubiquitous products to evolve into mass-market established products.

Heck, even PCs fail the grandmother test for the most part; almost half the households lack a PC and thus are incapable of using a digital media player of any kind.

Now, over time, we might see PVR-capable cable set-top boxes with USB ports capable of feeding content straight to a PMC the way Media Center PCs will do on day one.
(But we still don't have home CD players that can do that!)

Maybe then a PMC will become a mass-market product.
(75% of housholds have cable. Now *that* is a mass market!)
But until that comes to pass, it'll be techies and the adventurous who'll buy the first-gen product.
And they'll do it in the full understanding of what they're getting into.

Too much impatience out there among the pundits, I think...