Windows 10 On HTPCs: A Missed Opportunity


A little while ago I finally pulled the trigger to install Windows 10 on the PC hooked up to my TV. While I think the OS is overall an improvement over Windows 7 (I never used 8 or 8.1), I’m pretty disappointed with how much Microsoft has neglected the potential of using it on a TV setup. I don’t know whether or not I should be surprised given the company’s current direction though.

On one hand, the main thing I (and probably people in general) like about Windows 10 is how it brings back the desktop interface elements we missed in 8 (what I saw of 8 anyway): the start menu and all that, while maintaining 8’s improvements over 7. Windows 10 is pretty good at that. On the other hand, I always imagined Microsoft’s “metro” Windows interface, which I thought made no sense on a laptop or desktop, might ironically be a pretty good fit for a PC connected to a TV.

That grid of big icons could become a strength when you’re sitting 10 feet away from the display. When you’re trying to turn on Netflix from a couch, Microsoft’s app store approach should make more sense than trying to bring it up on a web browser. This is all of course assuming you can access all that with the right input device. That is, the Xbox controller or an Xbox media remote… which you can’t.

All Microsoft really has to do is make the full screen start menu work like the Xbox dashboard when you connect an Xbox controller. Right now all you can do with the Xbox pad is control a few functions in some Windows apps. I imagine the apps that let you control Windows 8 with the Xbox pad work for 10 but I haven’t tried them. In any case, the Steam Controller pretty much ends up solving the problem in another case of Valve doing for the PC what Microsoft should have been doing all along.

Maybe once Microsoft goes ahead and starts merging Windows app development with the Xbox One and developers start designing apps for the Xbox controller we’ll see that functionality flow back into Windows. Maybe around that time Microsoft will get the idea to apply the Xbox dashboard as an option for Windows.

For now though, Microsoft seems to be the one company unconcerned with Windows on the TV. Valve has been pushing TV PC gaming hard, and Intel has the Compute Stick — Windows in a tiny HDMI device. From Microsoft’s neglect of this potential and how cagey it’s been about Xbox games on Windows I think the company is afraid any decent PC connected to a TV with Windows 10 could begin to dismantle the Xbox’s relevance

When you think about it, it’s always been strange that one company has simultaneously sold an open PC platform and a closed game platform — pretty much two completely opposing things.


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