On September 27, Microsoft and a handful of partners took the official wraps off new Windows Center Media Extenders, which are priced at about $350 a piece and available this holiday season.
(Microsoft rolled out earlier this week the updates to Windows Media Center in Vista Home Premium and Vista Ultimate required to support these "Pika" extenders.)
At least one influential critic thinks this price point will result in Microsoft pricing itself right out of the kinds of markets it hopes to attract with devices designed to allow users to stream Windows Media Center content, like photos, music, video and more, to TVs, DVD players and other devices around the home.
Microsoft Media Center Most Valuable Professional Chris Lanier has been blogging up a storm of discontent about the new extenders:
"What doesn’t Microsoft understand here? First the public’s feeling is that they are limiting Extenders to the Xbox 360 so they can grab all the profit (not really since they lose on every 360, but that’s the general public’s feeling) so their solution is have partners add Wireless-N and additional codec support in standalone v2 Extenders and sell it for $80 more than an Xbox 360? Even better, codec support on the Xbox 360 Extender doesn’t seem like it will improve much."
Lanier had some constructive criticism for the Media Center team, as well, including making wireless an option (not the default); gigabit Ethernet support; more attractive exteriors; and a $150 to $200 price point for third-party extenders.
The new Media Center extenders are a component of Microsoft's connected-home vision. They're not as pricey as the "big-ass" Surface tables, but are they to gain widespread consumer adoption?