Very simple answer… it’s all about performance, accessibility, and scaling.
In the product you mentioned, the MCx00, is a custom database “server” that is extremely optimized for performance. It’s why focus is fast, its why swim is unnoticable with your huge library, and it’s why flipping between pages is quick as well.
All of the Meridian “core” products are extremely optimized database engines, plus dedicated music streamers. You have to remember that those existed in a similar form back in 2006 (that was pre-iPhone, and when the top intel CPU was still a Pentium D). But even today, if you want to stream a 96khz/24bit stream from the cloud, or 5 of them, or serve up a good and fast browsing experience with 2000+ albums and 20k+ tracks, it is impossible from the cloud using today’s technology. It will become possible, but not in 2015 without a very clumsy experience.
Now, if you are a single unified library across all users, like Spotify, Deezer, Tidal, then it becomes a lot easier, since you are optimizing for 1 library – notice how badly the performance (speed and user experience) of Spotify degrades on your 20k local files.
I’m with you on the dislike towards the PC. I don’t like turning on the PC, I don’t like the transient nature of my laptop. I don’t like the maintenance of any general purpose machine. What I want, is a dedicated “core”. You want that core to be in the cloud, I want it local (for now).
You are right of course, but where technology sits right now, your cloud experience won’t be great – at least not for Roon’s standards. We are getting there, but we aren’t there yet. We do experiments in this area all the time. HTML5 does not meet my standards by a long shot. Even WebGL isn’t there yet.
As for the NUC needing TLC… Your MC200 is basically an older NUC inside, plus audio special sauce. It doesn’t need TLC because the operating system is custom and no one can mess it up. I have a Mac Mini at home in my rack, and it is a mess of software for video, audio, web, youtube, photos, etc… It breaks all the time because I keep messing it up. I have NUC for Roon w/ a custom OS, and it’s rock solid, like your “core” products from Meridian. This has nothing to do with the boards, it has to do with whether it’s running something general purpose or something specialized.
Roon’s strategy at launch time is to provide the DIY a solution via OSX/Windows plus the mobile OSs as “remotes”, and later, introduce the “dedicated” solution that doesn’t require TLC. We may do that ourselves, or we may partner with others to do it.
You can decide which camp you are in: DIYer or TurnKey. I personally am a DIYer, but I love the TurnKey experience.
Your question about the NAS is great – I totally disagree with HTML5, but there is no real reason a high end QNAP could not run Roon as your dedicated box. We’d just have to provide an image for it. We are open to that idea. It just not on the roadmap yet. Why don’t we focus on it? Because not everyone wants to shell out so much money for a pricey QNAP, and others want to shell out a lot more for an even less hassle solution.