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Windows Media Center needs to embrace touch



Thinking about ways Microsoft can turn things around after getting mostly snubbed in the Google TV comparisons, despite offering a more powerful media option, I’ve come up with a few suggestions based on my own experience, starting first and foremost with touch control.

For those who don’t know, I use a Wacom Graphire Wireless to control my media PC alongside a standard remote. Works pretty well for me, but I have years of experience with pen input. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. Still, I think it could form the basis for a kick-ass, touch-based remote control.

First, having two separate control units is inconvenient but, to take advantage of everything my media PC can do, necessary. The remote is great when I’m in the full-view Windows Media Center, but minimally useful away from it. Meanwhile, the Wacom tablet works fine in the standard Windows view, but not as great in the WMC. My solution: put the two together.

Okay, I know I just wrote a paragraph ago that pen input isn’t for everyone, so forget it and go with multi-touch input instead, like a notebook touchpad. People are familiar with that for cursor control. On top of that, it also needs to support gestures. Directional swipes would work like the directional keypad and/or scrolling, as well as play/pause in some screens. Rewind and fast forward would work with two-finger swipes, swipe for skip and swipe & hold for extended skip. Basically, no matter how it’s implemented, a lot of button controls could be replaced with gestures.

Button replacement is the main goal here. Look at the standard WMC remote. It’s like someone looked at a standard TV remote and said “I wish this thing had more buttons”. It’s crazy. I personally would want a whole touchscreen remote with software buttons, but a gesture-based touchpad would be a more affordable approach.

Once that’s in place, web browsing in Windows Media Center should be a snap with navigation via gesture and cursor control. Typing will be somewhat limited using the alphanumeric keypad, but adequate for what you’d really need on a TV.

So that’s the main thing I’d like to see. Another idea, and this is more a personal thing, is native Blu-Ray playback support. The HP software included on my media PC can work as a plug-in in WMC, but it pops up off-center in fullscreen. Outside WMC, however, it works fine. Also can’t get to all the settings using the remote. Seems designed for cursor control.

Aside from that, there also needs to be better marketing for WMC (as in, “any”) as well as affordable systems that people can easily connect to their TVs. On the plus side, some rough edges aside, especially with plug-ins, the on-screen interface is excellent. I just need a better way to interact with that interface.



  1. jaxim

    05/23/2010 at 5:40 pm

    • Sumocat

      05/24/2010 at 8:48 am

      Perhaps I should clarify: I’m endorsing a touch control remote so I can control my media PC from the couch, not a touchscreen that would require me to walk up to the screen and touch it.

      • Brett Gilbertson

        05/25/2010 at 5:07 am

        I use remote kitten on iPhone… Although I prefer a good keyboard like the Logitech DiNovo Edge – the bigger the remote the better – makes me feel manly ;-)

  2. sbtablet

    05/23/2010 at 6:24 pm

    Microsoft? Advertising? Why would they want to let people know about good products they put out? Can you say OneNote?

  3. feralboy

    05/23/2010 at 8:24 pm


    Actually, Microsoft seems well aware of what they have in OneNote these days. They’re including it as one of their free Web Apps and they’ve made it the centerpiece of their Office hub in Windows Phone. Plus, including it in all versions of Windows 2010 is big. In the last six months I can remember hearing more than once from a Microsoft exec that OneNote is their fastest growing Office app and they expect it to be open all day on people’s machines like Outlook often is. I’m actually looking forward to the day when I don’t have to explain to people what OneNote is and why they should be using it (:

    I know that’s not advertising per se, but merely putting the focus on it so brightly is likely to go a long way in making people aware of it.

    • ChrisRS

      05/24/2010 at 12:33 am

      It’s part of Microsoft’s commitment to a discoverable interface. You are supposed to click on the OneNote icon and discover a great application all on your own. Too many hints would take the fun out of it.

  4. Techni

    05/24/2010 at 1:01 am

    “I personally would want a whole touchscreen remote with software buttons”

    Almost no one would agree with that.

    Buttons need to be felt.

    • Sumocat

      05/24/2010 at 6:30 am

      You don’t agree that I would want a touchscreen remote? ;P

  5. Tyler

    05/24/2010 at 6:18 am

    I agree with most of your points, but the thing that really gets to me, is all of this can happen now….for a touch based remote, there are a few good apps for WM6.5 that add this functionality (if you can dedicate an old phone to this task you are set), with the ION chipset, you can get a decent WMC machine for < $500, and with some add in products, you can have good Blu-ray playback (still not native, i know). I wish MS could package things up correctly, and then advertise….they could be leading the way, and people could know it.

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