March 14, 2011, 7:16 PM — Mary Jo Foley at All About Microsoft got an interesting Tweetfest going by asking whether a Windows PC or Xbox would end up with the starring role as Microsoft's living-room hub of the future.
It's a fascinating question, though largely moot considering the difficulty most people have getting a PC or Mac to take on the role of media server, the cost (or perceived cost) of having a separate PC for that role and general preference of most people to take advantage of some of the features of product that's easy to use, but not invest the time it takes to build something that will do exactly what they want.
It's a great question, partly because it hits on a whole series of migrations in both personal and corporate computing and broadens itself to include not only Microsoft's product strategy and the general direction of technology development, but also just how lazy most people really are.
If I had to bet on whether a PC and an Xbox would be the media (and communication and multi-device storage control) hub for home users, I can't imagine anyone actually taking a bet against the Xbox.
With a PC you have to configure the shares, give everyone in the house rights to both the media and control of connections to the TVs, DVRs, stereos and Slingboxes and a host of other sometimes-aging, always random collection of electronics hanging around the house, which everyone in the house would like to connect the second you mention it might someday be possible.
Even when it should be possible, it's still necessary to map folders on each person's computing, data storage or phones devices to the hub. That has to happen through either cheap wired switches, cheap wireless switches, not cheap but badly designed cable or fiberoptic routers from the ISP, powerline modems from almost anyone, and strings with cans on the end that once connected phones with AT&T printed on the bottom and a warning that the user leased the bakelite, but could not own it.
The Xbox -- despite a tendency to self-destruct, stop working for no clear reason, red-ring itself with no warning at all -- is at least designed to let users network successfully even without knowing anything about networking.
Microsoft tried to solve the home-networking problem before, though to Microsofties the problem is not how difficult home networking can be