MythTV vs Windows Media Centre: is Linux still in with a chance?

When it comes to media center software can the Linux solutions hold up against Windows XP Media Center and the looming Vista Home Premium with MCE built-in?

Funnily enough the answer is less to do with features and functionality and more to do with perception and corporate muscle.

Recently I attended a briefing where two modern media center machines were being demoed.

Both were naturally built around PC components and one was running Windows XP MCE the other an undisclosed Linux-based solution (though it looked to be based on MythTV).

The demo covered all the usual suspects — TV viewing recording and playback; multiple video and audio playback formats; streaming from networks; slideshows; EPGs (though admittedly we’re shafted in this record here in Australia); and more all wrapped up in a visually appealing interface.

In terms of functionality the machines were identical.

Menu navigation was clear and simple and both produced quality playback of live and recorded material.

So why are commercial Linux based solutions so few and far between? Is it just the ubiquity of Microsoft the pull of its corporate might or is MCE actually the superior solution?

I haven’t played with MythTV in a while (read: years) or the equally brilliant Freevo and admittedly while MythTV was a pain in the seat to setup when I did play with it pre-built systems have just the happy end result for users and I can’t think of anything directly that would place it under MCE.

Chatting to the rep of the Linux solution afterwards I pinged him about why his company went with Linux. For them the functionality was everything they needed but not surprisingly cost was also a key factor — the open source solution meant no MCE license fee and the unit could be priced more competitively.

Now granted of the systems demoed even if functionally equivalent MCE was leagues above the Linux box for sheer looks and style.

MCE is beautiful to look at and use — but if had the choice between a swankier interface and saving a few hundred dollars on the cost of the unit I’d go for saving the money anyday.

However unless I build my own solution I probably won’t have the option. That said I might just do that.

Do you use a media center PC and if so is it Linux based?

Images sourced from