Windows XP Media Center Program Manager on Apple’s Front Row

“It was a no-brainer for Apple to port it’s iPod application over to Mac operating system and hook it up to a remote control. The interface has been tried and tested on millions of iPods. It’s low hanging fruit — they probably didn’t have to invest a ton of money to get the feature in their OS. Microsoft kinda / sorta did the same thing, only in reverse order with the Media Center first, Portable Media Center second,” Charlie Owen, Program Manager with the Microsoft Windows eHome Team (producers of Windows XP Media Center Edition), writes on his RetroSight blog.

Owen, “Porting the iPod application over to the OS is further evidence of the iPod halo effect Apple has been hoping for whereby strong sales of iPods translate into equally strong sales of Macs. It remains to be seen if there is actually a halo effect. I don’t think so. The price inequities between a Windows PC and Mac are far greater than iPod vs. any other portable player, and I’m willing to bet there are more iPods connected to Windows PCs than iPods connected to Macs.”

“Steve Jobs comparing the Apple remote control with the Media Center remote control was nothing but sheer marketing brilliance. It’s totally not about which remote control is better. Not at all. By making this comparison, Steve Jobs gave the illusion the two products were on equal footing EXCEPT for the remote. All things being equal, Joe Consumer will choose the remote with 6 buttons instead of 40,” Owen writes.

Full article here.

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MacDailyNews Take: Now, Owen’s a good guy – read his full article. He likes Macs and gives Apple credit for making good products. We have sympathy for Owen. Trying to make something like a Media Center within the confines of a bloated, malaise-ridden, creatively-challenged company, without the benefit of a single-minded, relentlessly-driven visionary like Steve Jobs, is obviously impossible.

Owen has a chart which is the basis for his opinion that there is no halo effect: The chart shows iPod sales dramatically increasing and Mac sales increasing right along with them. Owen seems to think that because Mac unit sales didn’t go from 800,000 to 6 million along with the iPod sales, that the iPod Halo Effect doesn’t exist. This is the “Program Manager of the Windows XP Media Center Edition,” folks. Is it any wonder why Microsoft’s effort is illogical?

Of course, Mac unit sales last quarter were up 48% year-over-year, besting the PC industry’s growth by a large margin. Apple is growing Mac market share. The iPod Halo Effect is undeniably real. Showing a chart that proves it’s real as evidence that it doesn’t exist is something only a Microsoft employee could understand. By the way, we know several people who used to own Windows boxes, who’ve recently purchased a Mac because they owned iPods first and decided that if Apple cared so much about the details of an MP3 player, then Apple’s Mac must really be something. And that, dear friends, even if we only knew one single person who did this, is actual, iron-clad proof that the iPod Halo Effect is real. Owen must have missed some meetings lately as Microsoft executives have already admitted that Apple’s ‘iPod Halo Effect’ exists since at least as far back as July. If you need more proof, there’s plenty in the related articles below.

Anyway, as to the rest of Owen’s piece: Microsoft is looking in the wrong places with their Media Center and, no, we’re not going to spell it all out here. We will say that Microsoft’s idea of taking the old TV+VHS VCR paradigm and trying to make it digital is hardly revolutionary. Apple is taking a different path, as usual. And, we haven’t seen all of Apple’s pieces, yet. Microsoft’s Media Center, we’ve seen, and nobody’s buying.

Related MacDailyNews articles:
Thurrott: Apple Front Row software copies Microsoft Media Center – October 14, 2005
Analyst: ‘media companies will call Apple to strike deals, Front Row is Media Center done right’ – October 12, 2005
Apple’s Front Row with Apple Remote and iMac G5: media center done right – October 12, 2005
Apple introduces new thinner iMac G5 with built-in iSight video camera, ‘Front Row’ media experience – October 12, 2005
iPod Halo Effect strikes tech columnist, gets new Apple iBook after fifteen years of Windows – August 23, 2005
Microsoft executives acknowledge Apple’s ‘iPod Halo Effect’ – July 29, 2005
Needham & Co: Apple ‘iPod Halo Effect’ fueling Mac purchases; predict 43 million iPod sales in 2006 – July 18, 2005
Comprehensive survey shows ‘iPod Halo Effect’ is increasing Apple Mac sales, market share – July 12, 2005
SG Cowen survey shows evidence of a significant iPod halo effect boosting Apple Mac sales – July 12, 2005
Merrill Lynch: Mac sales ‘appear robust,’ expects futher evidence of ‘iPod Halo Effect’ – July 07, 2005
RealMoney: Apple’s iPod Halo Effect ‘quite profound,’ Macs taking good market share from Wintel – June 27, 2005
‘iPod Halo Effect’ on Mac sales seen in Apple’s soaring second-quarter results – April 13, 2005
Morgan Stanley: Apple’s ‘iPod Halo Effect’ is ‘roughly double what the market expects’ – March 18, 2005
Apple’s ‘iPod Halo Effect’ begins to shine – August 03, 2004
Apple’s ‘iPod Halo Effect’ materializes, restarting growth in core Mac units – July 15, 2004


  1. The windows media center remote has a lot of buttons regardless of what it does. If you exclude the F1-Fn keys, the numeric pad, arrow keys etc you almost have a usable keyboard ie you may as well just use a keyboard.

    This is what Microsoft does not get.

  2. And I agree with alec:
    “I get the impression from Apple that they don’t want the unwashed Walmart masses as Mac owners. As a business owner, I can tell you that not all customers are worth having.”

    But Apple screens with price, not iPods. They only want people with good taste and big wallets. Not people who taste good. If they wanted a larger computer market share they would lower their margins (as they did with iTunes tracks). Their model is working just fine, and I don’t think we really want them to be Number 1 in computers – we them big enough to survive but hungry enough to strive and innovate – and have developers continue to produce for the Mac OS. If they grow beyond that, they become the WalMart (see the relevant South Park episode).

    MDN Word “Business” – It’s a business model that is working just fine. Enjoy your elite status as Mac faithfuls – save your friends and family if you can, but you can’t save the rest when they don’t want to be saved. To worship at Steve’s altar, you gotta bring cash as well as a desire to believe.

  3. There are a couple of problems trying to see a “Halo” effect with a simple quarterly sales graph

    1. One problem with the graph is that it doesn’t differentiate between people who bought an iPod first and then a Mac vs all those people who were already mac users and then bought an iPod.

    2. One would not expect any Halo effect by iPod sales on Mac sales to be simultaneous. I would expect that WIndows users who had bought a Windows PC in the year or two prior to buying an iPod would not switch in the next 6 months to Mac. It may take another 2 to 3 years before the switch happens.

    3. Since the switch from PC to Mac won’t be simultaneous, the effect of the current state of the economy will be an influence. With the mounting pressures on the economy, the influence of the halo effect may be muted tdue to an overall decrease in computer sales.

  4. If the iPod halo effect doesn’t exist then I guess I don’t exist either. I purchased my first iPod in May 2003, and since then I have purchased 2 Macs (an iMac and iBook). Prior to those two Mac purchases, I had not owned an Apple computer since I gave away my old Apple II in 1989. The “halo effect” is definitely real, regardless of what Microsoft or anyone else says.

  5. Apple should definitely NOT do more agressive marketing, print ads etcetera at this point. Just lie a bit low for the coming 6 to 8 months. The MacTels – that’s the moment to get the word out: LOUD n’ PROUD!.

    MDN Magic Word: take, as in: Prepare for take off …

  6. I’ll admit I’m not a statistician.

    I’m not stating folks haven’t switched to a Mac because of the iPod (Lance states clearly he is one of these folks, and I’m pretty sure he exists). What I am stating is there doesn’t seem to be a halo effect in a broad market sense in light of all iPod and Mac sales — the strong correlation just doesn’t appear to be there.

    I will concede there probably should be a ‘yet’ at the end of any sentence I write with regards to the iPod halo effect — I would tend agree with Buffalo: the halo effect might lag behind iPod sales some period of time. Only time will tell. It will certainly be interesting to revisit the chart a year from now.

    Thanks for your sympathy. You can’t imagine the horrors of working ‘within the confines of a bloated, malaise-ridden, creatively-challenged company.’

    ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”grin” style=”border:0;” />

    Charlie Owen
    Microsoft Corporation

  7. Apple didn’t port anything to the Mac OS. The secret of the iPod, iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, Garage Band, Final Cut Suite, etc is QuickTime. Repeat QuickTime. The way every JPEG, GIF, PNG, MIDI, WAV, MP3, AAC, MOV, etc file is handled is with this technology.

    Core Audio and Core Image were moves to place the essential code another layer down in the OS, but it”s all QuickTime. Add webkit and FairPlay to QuickTime and you have the basis for iTunes. If you doubt this, ask why QuickTime installs ALONG WITH iTunes on a Windows PC.

    Without the core of QuickTime there is no iTunes. Without QuickTime there is no iPod as we know it. Anyone who does not understand this needs to be working behind the counter at some fast food emporium.

  8. That there is some kind of halo effect is well demonstrated. The question is: How much of the current Mac uptick is due to the halo effect, and how much due to the fact Windoze users are fed up with all the malware for M$?

  9. Actually, as a technophile who also likes his A/V equipment, I felt that that the Apple solution is far too dumbed down. Evidently I’m not the target market.

    Apple likes to make things easier to use, sure, but this is just ridiculous. I know what I’m doing, yet Apple’s product forces me to wade thru iPod style menus to get to what I want. Why should I have to?? In this case, ease of use translates to slower operation times – quite the opposite to their style of computing where ease of use does have a tangible effect on productivity.

    Ok, so they’ve gone for the illiterate (technology wise) masses, whereas the MS solutions kinda go after geeks (not that I’d get their particular solution either.) Apple’s solution is likely to be seen as a great by those who are scared of complex products, but the people who are competent or knowledgeable with hi-fi will look at this as a “baby’s toy” or similar. Of course, this isn’t really serious a/v hi-fi, as watching downloaded videos with a res of 320×240 and severely compressed audio is hardly a quality viewing experience (content quality aside.) Maybe their target market is 15 year olds?

    Apple could fix this pretty easily by including a more complex remote control – one with the simple stuff on the outside, and the more complicated 40-50 buttons underneath a flap panel. This is certainly not unheard of, and in fact, many hi-fi manufacturers already do this. The more expensive solutions (like hundreds of dollars) typically have touch screens and customised screen layouts.

    Will Apple fix their remote so it’s more like a real hi-fi remote, and less like an iPod shuffle?? I would certainly hope they would do so should this product take off in the future.

    (Actually, now I think about it, their remote control design was probably chosen as a cheap solution to future proofing it – basically, they can add/remove applications to/from Front Row without impacting their remote control. The more expensive route would be to use an LCD or similar touch display.)

  10. Hey Reality Check, does the Media Center remote have Ctrl-Alt-Delete functionality, because without it the whole remote would be useless! :-0

    That made my day! Thanks!


  11. For a start, you couldn’t have had a halo effect before Q1/2004.


    Because everything before then was Mac only!


    Now for some more reasonable facts…

    If Apple ships around 1.325 million CPUs for the current quarter, Apple will have grown CPU shipments at a compound growth rate of 33.0% per year since the launch of iPod/iTunes/iTMS for Windows. In fact, even if Apple only ships the same number of CPUs for the current quarter as it did last quarter (1.236 million), Apple will still be growing at 28.5% per annum in terms of CPU units shipped.

    If you go back to the previous two-year period (from Q2/02 to Q1/04), this compares to 659,000 CPUs being sold in Q2/02, growing to 829,000 CPUs, or a compound growth of 7.95%.

    In other words, Apple’s Macintosh unit sales are accelerating nearly [B]FOUR[/B] times as fast since the introduction of iPod/iTunes/iTMS for Windows than it achieved beforehand.

    Maybe two years is too short a period, so let’s extend the period from Q2/2000 to Q1/2004, when sales actually declined from over 1 million CPUs to 829,000 CPUs – a compound reduction of -5.58%/annum.

    Now, it needs to be admitted that Apple’s revenue per CPU has declined during that period, from an average of $1843/unit during Q1/02 to $1303/unit for the quarter just ended, but that deflation has been a factor throughout the industry, and Apple’s CPUs are still – at a superficial level – more expensive at the entry-level than Windows/Intel/AMD base systems.

    in short, to deny the existence of the “halo effect” is – to be honest – whistling in the wind.

  12. macdude sez:

    “I went to two major mac stores in so. california and was going to purchase the new 20″ iMac. To my suprise THEY WERE SOLD OUT! They didn’t even have a floor model! They told me I should come back in about 2 weeks.”

    This is why they’re not advertising…if you’re already selling something faster than you can make it, advertising it heavily actually creates consumer ill-will. I mean, YOU were disappointed you couldn’t get one, right?

  13. I think there is some halo effect, but you have to jump through some hoops to figure out how meaningful it is, and since Apple doesn’t supply us with all of the segment breakdown anymore, its nigh impossible. For example, how much were sales helped by the introduction this year of the affordable mac Mini? Or an increasingly popular G5? Every article I’ve read says apple’s sales to school districts and universities has rebounded nicely this year. How did the halo effect influence the surge in school purchasing decisions? Did the introductions of Panther and Tiger have an impact? What about the security concerns scaring PC users – viruses, shareware, etc.? How about iLife? Of the 6 mac switches I’ve advised over the past year were to people who were either sick of their PCs being compromised or worried about it, or to people who recently got a digital camera and saw me demo iLife with their pictures. Honestly, I have met no one that said “hey, this ipod is cool. I’m getting a mac.” I’m sure it happens, but not enough to close the sale, and we are talking about sales here. I think the so-called halo effect may have helped, but maybe not as much as people hope. Maybe Apple has some really good products and strategies on the computer hardware and software side too that stand on their own merit.

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