Music results latest: Media Center 1, iTunes 2

I have Windows 7 Media Center build 7100 running fairly well now, even using the Extender.

But what about that simplest of Media Center functionality, playing music? How difficult can it be?

Media Center fails massively on its useless database that seems to need rebuilding at the drop of a hat. With thousands of tracks, that takes quite some time, and it’s certainly irritating. There seems to be some linkage with Windows Media Player 12 too, which also suffers from regular database rebuilding. It’s so unreliable, I’ve given up using it for all but a few dozen albums.

Using your Windows Mobile device as a remote control using Microsoft’s Sideshow is so mediocre that I gave up using it within minutes.

The plus side of Windows Media Center for music is the Extender functionality so I can play the tracks in other rooms of the house. Perhaps surprisingly for Microsoft, WMC also supports a standard, DLNA, allowing sharing of medoa libraries between devices. But DLNA implementations seem to be a bit of an afterthought, and again, like the integrated database problem, seems to have appalling performance problems with anything other than trivial libraries (the PS3 DLNA client also has this problem).

So I tried iTunes instead. This suffers none of the database issues that WMP/WMC does. That’s a massive plus. I know every time I want to access a song it’ll be there without having to wait hours for a database to be rebuilt.

On the downside iTunes doesn’t like WMA encoded music and insists of re-encoding it. Also iTunes isn’t DLNA compatible so you’re into the realms of proprietary technology for distributed media. And of course it won’t run through the WMC Extender.

But there are two extra plusses for iTunes. You can run the audio through a terminal services client (aka remote desktop). Then there’s the real deal killer - the Remote app that you can run on your iPhone or iPod and remotely control the system over your WiFi. You can even run Genius from the remote to come up with a playlist.

So, Microsoft, wake up and smell the coffee: Sideshow as a Media Center remote is useless. But the database behind WMC makes the music library really makes WMC a disaster for serious music use.

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