How To Make A Playlist On Apple Music On Pc What Apple Could Learn from Microsoft: Front Row Versus Windows Media Center

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What Apple Could Learn from Microsoft: Front Row Versus Windows Media Center

While the iMac G5 software interface for multimedia – Front Row – is new for the Mac platform. Windows users have had similar tools – in Microsoft’s Windows XP Media Center Edition – for a few years now. Is it possible that when Front Row matures, it can learn a thing or two from Windows?

Feel the music

For music, Front Row gives you a large text interface with only a few options. You can shuffle the playback order and search by some criteria. You can not create playlists, but you can access the playlists you have already created in iTunes. And you can not browse the Internet radio stations, but you can access the stations you have bookmarked in iTunes.

The Info Center gives you the same navigation and playback tools, and then goes a few steps further. It displays album artwork and also provides a search engine that will display results when you enter characters on the remote control. Some media center computers have over-the-air radios, but the software will also allow you to access Internet radio stations.

You can not browse or purchase new songs through Front Row. For it you need to use iTunes. The Media Center displays a prominent ‘Buy Music’ button when you start playback, but clicking on it triggers the album page and the message ‘Not designed for Media Center’. In other words, it does not work better than Front Row.

DVD on the menu

Because the iMac G5’s remote control has only six buttons, the fast forward and reverse buttons must function twice as a forward button. And you can not adjust the volume until you start playing. Playing a DVD is very simple, but you will find that the wrong button is pressed too often.

The remote controls supplied with Media Center PCs have special buttons for almost all DVD functions, so it’s easy to remotely watch and choose what you want to do. The interface is agile so you will always get confirmation that clicking the button is registered.

Straight to video

Front Row gives you easy access to movie files and video podcasts stored on your iMac and to movies stored on Apple servers. You can also play TV shows, but you need to use iTunes to find and buy them. Every playback in a full-screen window makes the 320 240-pixel TV show look blurry.

Media Center lets you play all kinds of videos on your computer and lets you burn them to a CD or DVD with a few clicks. But it also gives you access to a wide range of online content, including movies from CinemaNow (www.cinemanow.com), pre-recorded TV shows from Akimbo.com, and broadcasts from Reuters and other services. A big annoyance with news centers is that clicking on a few buttons triggers ads for paid content.

But when it comes to TVs, Media Center’s biggest advantage over Apple’s offering is that you can often connect Media Center PCs to TVs via high-quality connectivity. Media Center pauses and records TV shows. If the computer has a TV-tuner card with two sensors, it records two programs simultaneously and plays one-third.

You can add external TV receivers and digital video recorders like Elgato Systems’ EyeTV to the iMac G5, but the Front Row will have nothing to do with it.

Currently you can only watch high-definition Internet (HD) streaming with the Media Center, and then only if your TV Computers will only support HD. Microsoft recently announced that Media Center PCs with CableCard support will be unveiled this Christmas. Those systems should be able to play, pause, and record HDTV programs without the need for a cable box.

Media Center computers, in particular, surpass the iMac in part: it can not act as a server to distribute content (including time-shift TVs) to other devices throughout the home. Those devices include Media Center Extenders and the new Xbox 360, which comes with a wireless network.

Play catch

When it comes to multimedia management, OS X is not close to Windows XP Media Center Edition. But the media center has been around for more than three years. Comparing the Front Row that escapes it is as fair as comparing the wheels to the BMW. And Apple’s success with digital audio players, which was not new when it first went on sale, shows that the company can enter the product category and outperform the competition by offering better features and more style.

Clearly, Mac users will not be buying Media Center-equipped computers anytime soon (and it will be the same for Windows and iMacs users). But if Front Row chooses some of the extra features that Media Center has gained over the years, those users may have reason to be very happy.

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