Is the Xbox the living-room winner?

Netflix and Microsoft announced a deal earlier today that allows Xbox 360 owners to download movies through their game consoles, which appears to be another step in the software company’s Trojan Horse approach to winning the living room/media-server wars. Will this give it an edge over Apple TV? MG Siegler seems to think so — he’s dropped his earlier championing of Roku’s media server box and is now calling Microsoft the winner. I’m not so sure just yet, however. Apple TV has its flaws, but so does the Xbox, as more than one person has pointed out (Chris Albrecht of NewTeeVee still likes the Roku server, and so does Webomatica).

I’ve been looking for a media-server solution for some time now. I’ve used a repurposed desktop PC that I hooked up to the TV, and I bought a MediaGate audio/video server (essentially an external hard drive with audio and video output jacks) which unfortunately isn’t working at the moment, and I’ve thought about buying an Apple TV or an Xbox or a Mac Mini — the latter being what my friend Rob Hyndman uses as a media player for all his movies, music, photos and so on.

The Mini is about twice the cost of the Apple TV, but it has more features because it’s a full PC. The AppleTV and the Xbox are about the same price at $350 or so (not much more than my MediaGate drive cost), but of course one plays games and the other doesn’t. That doesn’t mean all that much to me — although I like video games, I’m more interested in the media server part of the equation. The Xbox will play pretty much any kind of Divx, Xvid and other video formats, which as far as I know the AppleTV won’t. That could be the deal-breaker for me.

One of the biggest issues for a Canadian, however, is the amount of content on either box, which is underwhelming at best — not so much when it comes to movies, but certainly when it comes to TV shows. If what you like is anything made by the CBC and the occasional CTV show like Little Mosque on the Prairie, then you are probably going to be in heaven. Otherwise, you are out of luck. Got any thoughts about which is better, Apple TV or the Xbox? Let me know in the comments.

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