Friday, June 30, 2006

A softer, gentler hate

John recently asked if I still hate Microsoft after getting my Xbox 360. Well, yes. But it's a softer, gentler hate.

I'm not a big gamer. I like games, sure, but I'm not the type to put in the number of hours to justify owning a $400 piece of "ultimate" gaming equipment. The trick about the 360 is that it is a bit more than just gaming, it's more "entertainment" equipment. They advertise that connected to a Windows Media Center PC, the Xbox 360 can access your photos, videos, and music from the computer and play it on your TV. Cool. That was the selling point for me. Not to mention the fact I could get a "free" 360 by doing a bunch of online offers. I'll save the details of the so-called free offer debacle for another post, but suffice it to say that I got my 360 and it was reasonably priced.

Now, here's where the softer, gentler hate comes in. The 360 doesn't come with any games. So, you have to fork over another $60 to buy one if you actually want to use it for its primary intended purpose. Cha-ching. I didn't care too much since I just wanted to connect to our family media and be able to browse all the family vids I had edited, listen to our whopping music collection, etc. while at the TV. I connected the USB wireless adaptor and... nothing happened. You see, they forgot to mention that to connect your PC to the 360 you either have to wind an ethernet cable through all the rooms of the house to connect the two, or BUY a Microsoft proprietary wireless adaptor. My perfectly good, high quality Linksys adaptor would not work. Price for a MS adaptor: $100. Cha-ching.

To avoid the cost of games and ridiculous proprietary MS peripherals, I rented a game from Blockbuster ($8 for 2 days--and people DO this?) and wound the obligatory 60 feet of cable through my house. I installed the necessary software and it worked without problems. I happily sat on my couch and accessed photos and music from the computer. However, when I went for my family videos the 360 reported that it could not play the video because the appropriate codec was not installed. AVI is not an obscure video format. In fact, I believe Microsoft made the format in an early version of Windows. Regardless, after a quick fact-finding trip on the Internet I found that indeed the only videos my 360 would play are MPEG (but not MPEG 4) and WMV--Microsoft's proprietary licensed format that uses digital rights management.

WHAT? Unbelievable! Further, using the 360 controller to control playback of DVD's or music is a little tricky. But don't worry, you can buy a handy-dandy Microsoft Xbox remote control at Walmart for only $30. Cha-ching. The fact we HAVE a handy-dandy Microsoft WMC remote control is moot. It won't work.

Hence, the hate.

But, please understand, this is not the vitriolic bitter hate I usually reserve for Microsoft, this is a mild hate tempered by the fact that I really like the games I've played so far, I like being able to download demos, access my music and other stuff. Basically, once you get the full story on what the costs and abilities will be, the 360 does it what it does really well.

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