I'm getting a good many hits from http://www.macgeneration.com today referencing the Apple Front Row stuff I posted. Many folks have been been pointing me to translation sites -- I've not found those to be much help since they do a literal word-for-word tranlation. For example...

'Depuis sa présentation, FrontRow suscite beaucoup d’interrogations. À sa façon, Apple se place sur le marché des media-center. Là où la société ne fait pas comme les autres, c’est qu’au lieu d’intégrer ce logiciel qui irait si bien au Mac mini, elle le propose avec l’iMac. Steve Jobs a beau avoir fait un pas en arrière, il reste persuadé que le centre du hub numérique doit être l’ordinateur.'

...becomes this after automatic translation...

'Since its presentation, FrontRow causes many interrogations. At its way, APPLE is placed on the market of the media-center. Where the company does not make like the others, it is that instead of integrating this software which would go so well to mini Mac, it proposes it with the iMac. Steve Jobs took a step in vain behind, it remains persuaded that the center of the numerical hub must be the computer.'

Somehow, I don't think the original message is coming through here. Although I admit some of the comments are really, really funny when run through auto translation...

'If it is true that the media center introduces with the iMac G5 is a logical evolution of the numerical hub to the APPLE sauce, its ease of use is a heritage of the iPod.'

Categories: Front Row | Media Center | Comments [4] | # | Posted on Monday, October 31, 2005 6:21:56 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)   

The BBC launched their experience in the UK Online Spotlight today, marking a total of 100 experiences worldwide availabile in Online Spotlight. My boss, Andrew, was pretty happy about this -- he's from the UK and quite happy we now have an offering where the people speak proper English.

I feel extremely lucky to work on a team which has produced a platform with the power and flexibility to enable content owners, designers and developers to create experiences for their customers. To the Media Center Team: Thanks! You guys are amazing!

I was thinking about it on the way home from work today...

We provide a platform where broadcasters can create entirely new channels delivered over the web to your television. Check out MTV Overdrive for Media Center. It's totally interactive and on demand. They have created a channel where the user gets to define the channel content. They are going to follow up with virtual channels for VH1, Comedy Central and mtvU early next year.

Have you ever been at work when you hear about a cool TV show airing later that evening, and won't be home in time to watch or record? We provide a platform which allows you to schedule recordings of TV shows from any place on the planet with an internet connection and web browser. The platform will leverage the cable, satellite, or antenna connection you probably already have in your home.

When you get home, you can watch those TV shows in your choice of rooms via Media Center Extenders. My wife and I do this all the time. We start watching a recorded TV show in the family room, pause it, go downstairs to the bedroom, fire up the MCX and pick up the show EXACTLY where we left off.

Oh, and the platform also allows you to enjoy MTV Overdrive for Media Center (or just about any other Online Spotlight experience) in any room courtesy of those same Media Center Extenders.

Want to check out a podcast or video blog on your stereo or TV? Newsgator Media Center Edition allows you to enjoy that long tail content using a remote control. Oh, it works on Media Center Extenders as well in any room of your house.

You can sync pictures, videos, music AND those recorded TV shows your choice of Portable Media Centers.

Developer enthusiast communities have formed around our platform, and they are a passionate group of folks. Media Center doesn't have the feature you want? Connect. Create. Share.


I spent about an hour chatting about the next generation of our platform with one of our Software Design Engineers.

We've just been warming up...

Categories: Media Center | Online Spotlight | Comments [7] | # | Posted on Friday, October 28, 2005 5:50:37 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

I left comments over on his blog this time rather than summarizing here -- his latest is a good read...

FrontRow, One More Time

Everyone seems quite taken with the new video service in iTunes (and viewable in Front Row).  Hmmmmm -- how do we let people know about the great content available via Online Spotlight...?

I'm usually reticent to say things like this, but here goes...

I *think* I will be able to share some special news on Thursday / Friday which will contrast the approaches taken by Apple and Microsoft nicely. No promises, but stay tuned.

Categories: Front Row | Media Center | Online Spotlight | Comments [1] | # | Posted on Wednesday, October 26, 2005 7:11:04 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

Oh, how I wish I spoke other languages outside of English (and C#). I just know some of the comments over at the german MacTechNews are good.  Even the flames look interesting, at least in German.

Categories: Front Row | Comments [5] | # | Posted on Tuesday, October 25, 2005 6:03:37 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

I found a really nice resource which explains the Media Center value proposition. At 4 minutes 45 seconds it is probably the best marketing piece I've seen us produce.  It answers one simple question...

What is a Media Center PC?

Note: Macromedia Flash Player Plug In Required.

Categories: Media Center | Comments [0] | # | Posted on Monday, October 24, 2005 6:30:58 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

Om Malik quotes me on his blog with Microsoft Media Center Vs Apple FrontRow.

He laments his problems with the digital video recorder (DVR) features of Media Center, which to date he hasn't gotten to play nice with his Comcast set top box.* He believes we 'overreached' by including the DVR feature in Media Center and makes the following suggestion:

'So what should Microsoft do? Two things. First release a Media Center XP Lite. Free. Basically help turn most of the newer PCs into simple devices for aggregating photos, watching DVDs, streaming music and playing back downloadable videos.'

Om states he 'would gladly pay $49.95' for a standalone version of Apple Front Row according to his I Want My FrontRow-on-TV post. I wonder why he would advise us to give away software which has a good bit more consumer value? Has he called for Apple to drop the price of the iPod by some significant amount because someone else shipped a competing MP3 player? Hopefully Om will elaborate further, because right now this makes zero sense from a business perspective.


I hope Om knows he can get a Media Center PC today without a TV tuner and thus fulfill his desire for a 'lite' version of Media Center on par with the Apple Front Row features (i.e. Photos, DVD, Music, Videos) for *considerably* less than a comparably equipped iMac with Front Row.

* My family uses a dual tuner Media Center with two Comcast set top boxes via IR blasting on a regular basis. While I have seen IR blasting issues (wrong channel recorded) they have been extremely rare in my experience.

Categories: Front Row | Media Center | Comments [2] | # | Posted on Monday, October 24, 2005 6:11:56 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

I've been following the Apple’s Media Center PC End Around post over at http://www.applematters.com.  It's sort of like watching a very loooonnnnng tennis volley. 'Apple copied Microsoft.'  'No, Microsoft copied Apple.'

Back...forth...back...forth...back...forth...ad nauseum.

Note: I've used and owned Apple products over the years, starting with the original Mac way back when (actually even before with an Apple IIe back in elementary school -- Beagle Bros, peek and poke were my middle name). I also managed a graphics art house with Macs, Windows PCs and SparcStations all living happily together on the same network. I'm not one of these 'Macs suck' kind of people. To the contrary, I believe Apple makes good products, even if I happen to work at Microsoft.

Here are a couple of thoughts I've been noodling over the last couple of weeks...

1) 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.

2) 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.

Update: I have added a chart which is the basis for my *opinion* there is no halo effect: http://www.retrosight.com/mediacenter/Apple_iPod_and_Mac_Sales.png. Read the comments for context.

3) 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.

Categories: Front Row | Comments [17] | # | Posted on Sunday, October 23, 2005 12:30:56 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

Michael Bohlin, a Microsoft Business Development Manager over in Sweden working with Online Spotlight partners sent this to a bunch of people this morning. I thought is was pretty cool and asked if I could reproduce here. Michael said yes. Enjoy!


A day in a traveller’s life:

I start the morning by unplugging my portable device (PMC, SmartPhone, DAP..) from my Windows XP Media Center computer on my way to the airport. While waiting for the gate to open I sit down and I watch the latest news broadcast and parts of yesterday evening episode of Lost. When on the plane and the seatbelt signs has been turned off I go to my music library and select the latest technology update from CNET before I tune in to some soft music  and enjoy the flight.

When arriving at the hotel I log-in to my remote TV service and schedule what I want to record this evening and for the upcoming days. I go to work and when I get back in the evening I log-in to my remote service and stream the recorded TV show over a secure line and the last thing I do before I go to bed is listening to some music and watching some family photos from the same remote service.


  1. I schedule everything I want to record as usual on my Media Center PC.
  2. I install a podcast application like iPodderX and have it pull the latest from CNET and put it in My Music library under podcasts (this way it will always be available and synched).
  3. I create an account at TvOnTime which enables me to remote which recordings I want to have on my Media Center PC.
  4. I create an account at Orb Networks which exposes my shared media folders to my account when logged in (not uploaded only listings). When I log-in to orb.com I can choose any content available on my Media Center PC and have it streamed over https (it generates an asx-file) to my laptop wherever I am in the world assuming that I have decent bandwidth available >300kbps (it will adjust, but 400 gives a good TV image). 

This is nothing futuristic! Try it today!

In the near future with Xbox360 and TV’s you will be able to access all media in-house no matter where it is stored. Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) which has been driven by DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance (which Microsoft is contributor to) has starting to see daylight. UPnP will give us non routable access to our in-house devices. This means that you today would be able to walk up to a speaker and select what music you want to listen to without knowing where it comes from except that it is either an internet service you have or it is stored somewhere in-house on your Set-top box, Xbox360, DVD Recorder, TV, PC, Media Center PC, etc.

Did you know that if you connect a portable music player which has the “Plays For Sure” logo like iRiver, Creative, Samsung Rio etc. (www.playsforsure.com) they will be able to play through your Xbox360 to the TV speakers or whatever you have it hooked up to. It can also of course synchronize with music library that you might have on the Xbox360 already. MTP (Media Transfer Protocol) is a technology that is royalty free that anyone who wants to be able to synch audio, video, tv, photos etc. between itself and portable devices can download and implement no matter what OS.

This is nothing futuristic! Try it today!

Philips TV’s does today come in versions called “Connected Planet” which accesses all your PC’s in-house.


Any piece of content that comes into the household should be able to be played out anywhere in the household and depending on the rules that applies to the copyright etc. you might be able to synch it to a portable device. Notice that we are not trying to move things around the house; we focus on playing it out remotely to whatever device you’re using.

A Possible Future?

  • It won’t be long before making digital backup copies of DVD’s to your hard drive is a legal reality.
  • It won’t be long before we will be able to buy full DVD movies over the web.
  • It won’t be long before operators can manage WindowsCE based Set-top boxes with Microsoft Operations Manager.
  • It won’t be long before Windows Vista will be the premium place to manage digital media content on huge storage devices in your house.

May the streams be with you!

Categories: Media Center | XBox 360 | Comments [2] | # | Posted on Friday, October 21, 2005 9:11:49 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

Stephen Smyth is VP of media at news agency, Reuters. He recently spoke to [itvt]'s Tracy Swedlow about Reuters' various interactive video services (which include an interactive TV channel on the Microsoft Media Center that was nominated for an Emmy Award this year for "Outstanding Achievement for Non-Program-Specific Enhanced or Interactive Television"), about the importance of interactivity to the company's consumer services strategy, about the company's interactive TV design philosophy, about its interest in video search, about its future ITV plans, and more.


I had the good fortune of working with Stephen and others at Reuters (like Tom Nguyen, Christopher Burtt, Matthew Waldman and Nic Fulton among others) on their video service currently in Online Spotlight. This is a 'must read' if you are interested in bringing a video blog or interactive TV experience to Media Center consumers. There are two things I especially like about the Reuters experience...

  1. They were the first service we had that grokked widescreen (as you will see in many of the interview screenshots).
  2. They are a great example of the power of our global platform (write once / run everywhere).  You can get the Reuters service today from Online Spotlight in the United States, Belgium, Netherlands, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Austria, Germany, Italy, Korea and they are expanding to other geographies soon.

Categories: Media Center | Online Spotlight | Comments [1] | # | Posted on Friday, October 21, 2005 7:25:52 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

David Fleischman (Release Program Manager) and Peter Rosser (Software Design Engineer) have joined the ranks of bloggers from the Media Center Team.

So, what made each of you decide to start a blog?

Categories: Media Center | Comments [3] | # | Posted on Friday, October 21, 2005 12:45:06 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

Nishant Murarka, a Software Test Engineer on the Media Center team, is a home theater wizard.  He takes the complexities of home theater audio and explains it in such a way even I can understand. If you are interested in hooking your Media Center PC up to your sound system, his article Connect an A/V receiver to your Media Center PC is invaluable.  I wonder whose home is pictured in Figure 10...?

Categories: Media Center | Comments [0] | # | Posted on Thursday, October 20, 2005 7:55:17 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

While our Windows Vista Community Technology Preview program is a mere two months old, we have already seen the benefit of letting the masses weigh in with feedback. Some of it very complimentary, some of it not so much. Good and bad, all of this feedback is very valuable to us in delivering the best Media Center experience possible.

Paul Thurrott is out with his latest review of Windows Vista based on pre-Beta 2 bits and bytes and really takes us to task for the new user experience and interface.

First of all, let me say while Windows Vista build 5231 does give you a sneak peek into Media Center it's not what we consider to be the 'best foot forward' build. Take anything you see, hear or experience yourself with regards to Media Center with a grain of salt until it is actually launched. That's when the all of the features will be in place and you will get a true sense for the user experience look and feel.  In the meantime, keep the feedback coming on pre-release builds.

Also, expect changes to take place between this build and RTM -- so all the usual caveats apply (what I'm about to tell you may or may not be in the final release of the product...blah...blah...blah.  You've heard this, yes? Yes. Good, let's move on.).

That said...

The first seven paragraphs of Paul’s review are mostly all negative comments without specifics. We can't really action on those, unfortunately. Feedback is always welcome  -- honest to goodness, we really do want to hear the good, the bad and the ugly.  Feedback with actionable specifics is even better.

Taken at face value, I suspect his comments are mostly a fear of change -- Media Center is now on its fourth version and Paul probably feels as though it's in a good place; Don't fix what isn't broke, so to speak. I can sympathize. My wife gives me plenty of unvarnished opinions when I bring home builds with new or different features for us to try. Heck, sometimes even I get sick of the level and pace of change (just ask my co-workers).

In one of these seven paragraphs, Paul suggests the overall usability of Media Center in Windows Vista is seriously in doubt.  I don't think so, but I'm willing to take a closer look.

For the record, I'm not a usability engineer or a designer.  I have spent lots of time with those two teams here in eHome, and some amount of their knowledge has rubbed off on me while working with them in conjunction with partners in Online Spotlight. My goal with this post is to provide more information for the features Paul references so the community can evaluate with more context.

Let's get some apple to apple screenshot comparisons to use as the basis for our review and evaluations. All of these come from the exact same build Paul uses in his review (5231). Click on them to get a larger version.

Start Menu


Music Library


A basic indicator of usability is the number of steps necessary to accomplish a given task. Generally speaking, it is better for the user to take as few steps as possible to accomplish a task.  I'm going to focus on two tasks Paul specifically calls out in his review: Search and Playlists.

For these tests we will start at the same place in the Start Menu...

  • 'My Music' in the current released version of Media Center ('Emerald').
  • 'Music Library' in the Windows Vista version of Media Center.

I believe the static screenshots above will allow you to count these for yourself...

How many steps does it take to view Playlists?

Current = Select My Music --> Down Button --> Down Button --> Select Playlists (4 Steps)
Media Center for Windows Vista = Right --> Select Playlists (2 Steps)

How many steps does it take to be able to search music?

There are actually two paths...

Current = Select My Music --> Up --> Select Search (3 Steps)
Media Center for Windows Vista = Left --> Select Search (2 Steps)


Current = Select My Music --> Down --> Down --> Down --> Down --> Down --> Select Search (7 Steps)
Media Center for Windows Vista = Right --> Right --> Right --> Select Search (4 Steps)

As you can see, the end user can get to these features with fewer steps in Media Center for Windows Vista, and that's a good thing for usability. These same efficiency gains are present in many other features as well.  In fact, the Start Menu itself represents a fairly dramatic step in efficiency since it puts more features at the top level of Media Center.  Does that mean the new paradigm is definitely usable? No. The data suggests it's more usable, but this single test is not enough for a definitive statement. Luckily, our usability team has been working interactively with a mix of experienced and non-experienced Media Center users to evaluate these approaches.

With regards to the Music Library feature, Paul states...

'Instead of the simplicity and beauty, we get ... ah... a jumbled mess of album art, arranged horizontally, not vertically (Figure).'

The screenshot Paul references in his review with '(Figure)' might make it appear that way -- but it's missing key metadata which I know should be present.  I theorize this is due to...

  1. The fact this is pre-beta software.
  2. The machine might not have been setup properly and / or is experiencing issues.

The screenshots I've posted above and below are an accurate reflection of features as presented in build 5231. Based on those, what do you think?  Love it or hate it?  Why?  Leave comments for us to read.

Another way of looking at usability is the ability of the user to easily find and identify items in their library. I will admit this test is more subjective than our first, but I think you will see the goodness we have introduced for the end user. Again, let's take a look at the screenshots above.

I can see more albums at a time...

Current = 12
Windows Vista = 27

I can get more detail (metadata) about those albums...

Current = Album Art, Album Title, Album Artist (3 Items)
Windows Vista = Album Art, Album Title, Album Artist, Number of Tracks, Total Time of Tracks, Album Year (6 Items)

And I have more sorting options at my fingertips (especially nice for those, like Thomas Hawk, with large libraries)...

Current = Album, Artists, Songs, Genres (4 Choices)
Windows Vista = Artist, Artists, Year, Provider, Date Added, Genres, Title, Year, Rating, Composers (10 Choices)

So, the net is I can see 225% more of my library at one time, get 200% more information about each album in my library and sort that library in 250% more ways. And the beautiful thing: None of text or images had to shrink in size to accomplish these improvements -- they are nearly (if not exactly) the same size.

Moving on, Paul calls out 'weird tilting and fading of the album art.' This actually isn't new.  We have tilting in the current version of Media Center.  For example, with the context sensitive More Information button illustrated here.


It *is* more pronounced or noticeable in this build of Media Center for Windows Vista. The team has been and is taking a close look at the right balance for this visual styling. What you don't see in these static screenshots is the animation from non-tilt to tilt, which provides a ton of context -- it makes much more sense once you experience the animation first hand. For those of you testing build 5231 now, feel free to leave feedback in the comments on the tilting feature -- we will be sure to read.

You don't actually have to select a sorting option with the OK button to accomplish basic sorting.  As you navigate the choices left and right Media Center 'auto previews' what the choice looks like in the background. Once you move down from the choice we animate the preview to front and center.  You can accomplish richer sorting by selecting the options with the OK button. Again, the animations provide wonderful context for the sorting -- without it, static screenshots only tell half the story.

Here are two examples of those options (sans animations, unfortunately, but hopefully they give you a better picture of the feature).

Example 1: Navigating the default sorting options.

Music Library Default View

I move up to navigate the sorting options to the left and right.  The sorting option grows larger and brighter while the library 'tilts' to help me keep track of where focus is moving and prepares to preview the sort.

I navigate right to the artist sorting option. The 'tilted' preview automatically changes.

Here I have navigated down from the sorting option.  The tilted preview automatically snaps to front and center, and the artist name grows larger and brighter.

Example 2: Navigating richer sorting options.

Music Library Default View

Here I have navigated up to the sorting options...

...and selected one of them with the remote OK button to get additional sorting options.  In this case, I'm going to sort by year.

Here is the view of my music library view after selecting to sort by year.

After reading Paul’s review and my thoughts here, what do you think...?

Are we on the right track, or have things gone horribly awry?

Leave comments for the team to read -- we value your feedback.

Categories: Media Center | Comments [52] | # | Posted on Thursday, October 20, 2005 12:07:43 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

Scoble and the Channel9 team have a great interview up: Jeff Henshaw and David Alles - Xbox 360 and Media Center: Living room of the future.  XBox 360 + Media Center is going to be huge (especially for developers).

Categories: Media Center | XBox 360 | Comments [1] | # | Posted on Saturday, October 15, 2005 6:55:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

Excerpt from the Joe Belfiore open letter circulating around (bold highlight mine)...

"It’s very exciting for me to look around at all the enthusiasm out there for Media Center, and once again I say thank you. There’s something special about the PC industry and the fact that it openly encourages partners of all kinds to innovate and ship creative solutions — it’s hard to keep up with! There’s definitely a buzz within the development team at Microsoft as, every day, posts from blogs are forwarded around our group — maybe something about the next cool new Media Center PC, or the latest speculation or wishes about features in the next year’s upcoming release. (I’m personally a fan of Thomas Hawk and Ian Dixon — thanks for your ideas and suggestions!) We love hearing from all of you and are doing our best to listen and keep the right new features coming."

Two thoughts come to mind:

  1. I'm glad I work for a company where the General Manager of the team (the head honcho -- my bosses' bosses' boss who manages the entire team of 200+ people in the Media Center product group) chooses to be connected to the community at this level.
  2. I know Thomas and Ian are too modest to point out the mention from Joe on their own blogs. Thomas and Ian, you guys are stellar and inspire me on a daily basis.  Thanks!

Group Hug!

Categories: Media Center | Comments [2] | # | Posted on Saturday, October 15, 2005 2:12:43 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

Casey Chestnut says 'what i want to know is how does MCE get its interface over to the XBox?'

This is a laymans answer: We ported the Media Center rendering engine to the XBox 360.  Instead of using a Remote Desktop / Terminal Server paradigm like we did with MCX v1 we send all of the 'stuff' which defines the UI over the wire to be parsed on the XBox 360.  All of the logic (i.e., managed code) stuff stays on the PC. Content (audio and video) is sent out of band and decoded locally on the XBox 360 as well.

Categories: Media Center | XBox 360 | Comments [1] | # | Posted on Friday, October 14, 2005 6:45:46 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

First of all, I love his conclusion (I couldn't have said it better myself)...

'...existing XP Media Center Edition 2005 users have a wonderful and free update that gives them new capabilities and better stability and performance. And potential Media Center PC buyers no longer have any reason to hold out. Either way, UR2 will give you the best possible PC-based DVR and digital media experience available today. Highly recommended.'

There are a few inaccuracies in Pauls review though...

Paul --> '...you can still only record two shows at a time, even with four tuner cards installed.'

False. You can do 4 recordings all at the same time. 2 x NTSC and 2 x ATSC while playing back a recorded show (NTSC or ATSC) on the Media Center PC and / or Media Center Extender(s).

Paul --> Microsoft has added a fourth zoom mode, intelligent zoom. In this mode, the edges aren't actually pushed off the side of the screen; instead, the center of the picture is stretched more than the edges”

Actually, it's exactly the opposite. Its stretched LESS in the middle and MORE at the edges.

Paul --> Media Center does a "soft reboot," shutting down and restarting all 6 of its background services (such as those that control TV recording and scheduling).”

False. We only restart ehShell.exe -- all other Media Center services are left untouched.  In addition, the conditions in which the restart of ehShell.exe will occur are very, very specific.  In a nutshell, the restart happens only if we can guarantee there will be NO user experience impact at all. A simple example is there is no restart if you are listening or watching any content, or recording a show. I can see this feature might become thorny for some -- Ed Bott has already asked 'So what happens if I’m recording a movie from a pay channel that runs from 3:00 AM to 5:00 AM?'  The answer is your recording is not affected. In fact, end users should never even know this feature is there at all.

Categories: Media Center | Comments [6] | # | Posted on Friday, October 14, 2005 6:07:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

Why did it seemingly take us so long to get Emerald (aka 'Update Rollup 2 for Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005') in your hands (after all RTM was a couple of months ago)...?

Well, for starters....

• Check out the official press release at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2005/oct05/10-14DigitalLifePR.mspx.

• Remember a few months ago when we announced over 2 million sold? Joe Belfiore, in a 'Happy Birthday' open letter to Media Center users, customers and partners, tells us there have been 4 Million Media Center PCs shipped to date!  Four major releases in as many years -- who says Microsoft can't ship software?!?!

• Emerald brings several new features to Media Center.

• Emerald sets the stage for you to enjoy a Media Center Extender experience as it should be...

  • Every Xbox 360 that ships will have Windows Media Center Extender functionality built in, allowing seamless access to all the digital entertainment stored on a media center PC in any room of the home.
  • Xbox 360 will be provide the richest, most hi-fidelity Media Center Extender experience to date (all that groovy, swoopy, 3D goodness).
  • We will get high definition content playback on the XBox 360!

• There are four new online resources launching today...

http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/mediacenter/default.mspx has gotten a much needed facelift.

• We added a new Games category (including two partners) for the US version of Online Spotlight.

• Our friends in Denmark, Norway and Sweden have their very own Online Spotlight.  Our international designers and developers are coming on strong: The Norway Online Spotlight is launching with at least nine (9!) partners and Sweden with at least twelve (12!).  By contrast, US Online Spotlight originally launched with only three.

• The following partners launched today in the US version of Online Spotlight...

  • MTV Overdrive. Overdrive is MTV’s broadband network, delivering the hottest video content to Media Center PCs. Overdrive provides access to live performances, music videos, artist interviews, never-before-seen footage of MTV shows, the latest news, movie trailers and more. It’s all online and all on demand, now at the touch of a remote control button.
  • DISCover. Designed exclusively for Media Center PCs, DISCover’s My Games gives customers access to a wide range of PC games that they can digitally demo, buy and stream. Customers can view an in-depth game guide with screen shots, box art and descriptions for thousands of top games, and can purchase “boxed” games via top online retailers with the ease of a Media Center Edition remote control.
  • Game xStream. Game xStream’s now-live gaming-on-demand service for Online Spotlight connects users to its extensive catalog of video game titles from leading game developers, from which they can buy and stream games instantly. Within minutes of pressing the Buy button from a Media Center Edition remote control, gamers can begin playing graphic-intensive games from publishers including Merscom LLC, Global Star Software and Encore Inc.

And several more new experiences will launch later this year or early next...

  • mtvU. Through nonstop streaming service that can be watched continuously, or by using unique on-demand capabilities empowering visitors to customize their experience, mtvU’s broadband platform showcases a powerful lineup of original programming serving as a gateway to the latest new music, as well as a source for one-of-a-kind student produced content that will drive and direct the network.
  • VH1 VSpot. VSpot is VH1’s new broadband entertainment network that delivers the best video programming on demand to Media Center PCs. VSpot offers thousands of music videos, exclusive performances, artist interviews, live event coverage and behind-the-scenes access. Customers may also watch VH1 shows, movie clips and trailers, and VSpot originals on demand at VSpot.
  • Comedy Central. Windows XP Media Center Edition will optimize a soon-to-be-launched broadband channel by providing users with a variety of gateways to access Comedy Central content whether it’s short- and long-form video, audio or text.
  • Akimbo. The Akimbo Service will offer Media Center customers more than 5,000 programs from more than 75 partners, including British Broadcasting Corp., National Geographic Society, Discovery Communications Inc. and the Hallmark Channel, as well as hard-to-find specialty offerings such as independent films from IFILM Corp. and Undergroundfilm.org — all available through the Media Center interface. At DigitalLife, Akimbo will be showing for the first time Major League Baseball playoff games delivered the next morning to Akimbo subscribers in a 10-minute condensed version.
  • (More) AOL. Building on the availability of its AOL Music on Demand service, AOL will extend additional features to the Media Center PC, including its AOL Pictures digital photo service and AOL Radio Featuring XM.

• Lots more partners announcing stuff over at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/presskits/2002/winxpmediacenter/partner.mspx.

• More countries are getting Media Center starting today: Belgium, Turkey, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Taiwan.

• More countries will get a genuine, official Electronic Programming Guide (EPG) by the end of the year (meaning they won't have to hack one in): Belgium, Czech Republic/Slovakia, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain and Sweden.
• We published a revised Software Development Kit available online and offline.  You can instantly drill down into the Important Changes to Media Center Edition for the details on the new stuff.  Want to be ready for developing in Media Center for Windows Vista? Start here and here.  We also published a higher level overview of the SDK (PowerPoint Presentation) which can introduce you to developing for Media Center.

...and that's only a partial list.  Listen for all of the news from Digital Life in New York (Matt Goyer is there).

And we aren't slowing down resting on our laurels either: The entire team is now squarely focused on delivering even more goodness in Media Center for Windows Vista.  Stay tuned!

Categories: Media Center | Comments [7] | # | Posted on Friday, October 14, 2005 4:40:29 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

Found this over at http://www.jackcheng.com/...

I'll have more to say later about this comparison. BTW, I'm flying down to Silicon Valley today -- anyone want at Apple want to have me over late this evening to chat...?

Categories: Media Center | Front Row | Comments [5] | # | Posted on Thursday, October 13, 2005 5:20:34 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

I've heard rumors of this for over four years now: http://www.apple.com/imac/frontrow.html.

Frankly, I'm underwhelmed -- I really expected Apple to have much more to brag about, especially given their momentum with iPod over the last couple of years.  Based on everything I'm seeing, Front Row doesn't even have feature parity with the first version of Media Center released back in October 2002. No hint of a developer platform either -- that's a shame -- I was really looking forward to dusting off my Mac coding skills again.

But don't get me wrong -- I do think this is a good thing.  The halls here in Building 50 are buzzing with excitement (and yes, it's positive excitement -- we love this stuff).  It's classic Microsoft vs. Apple, and we haven't really had that for a lonnnnnng time, and some of us miss that competition.

So, welcome back Apple, it's good to see you again!

What do you think -- was this a good move for Apple?

Categories: Front Row | Media Center | Comments [8] | # | Posted on Wednesday, October 12, 2005 8:06:31 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   
Categories: Humor | Comments [1] | # | Posted on Monday, October 10, 2005 9:56:17 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

This happened a couple of weeks ago so I'm a bit tardy about telling you.  Check out the new landing page at http://msdn.microsoft.com/mce.  We refactored the page a good bit to help you drill down on all the great resources at MSDN and elsewhere on developing applications for Media Center.

Let me know what you think...

Categories: Media Center | Media Center Application Design | Comments [2] | # | Posted on Saturday, October 1, 2005 6:15:49 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

I posted a couple of quick samples / tools you might find handy...

onRemoteHandler.zip contains a complete onRemoteEvent handler which traps all of the remote control buttons passed into hosted HTML applications. Well, almost all -- I didn't explicitly include the 'More Information' button because we don't really recommend you leverage that button.

KeyPress.zip is a utility function which will present a Media Center dialog for each button press passed into hosted HTML applications.  I've used this in the past to confirm my remote control presses were actually being passed into the pages if experiencing some weird behavior.  It's especially helpful if you are using frames and you need to validate the button presses are being passed from parent to child.

Categories: Media Center SDK Code Sample | Comments [1] | # | Posted on Saturday, October 1, 2005 6:08:45 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   
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