There have been quite a few interesting posts and articles on the web regarding Media Center Extender feature of the XBox 360 (see CNet, Slashdot, CVG and GA Forum for a sampling). I have decided to port this FAQ to it's own post and will update regularly to help clear up some of the confusion. Put any additional questions you might have in the comments and I will track down the answer.
1) Does every XBox 360 come with the Media Center Extender software built in?
2) How does that work with the XBox 360 Core System which doesn't have a hard drive?
The Media Center Extender software for XBox 360 is sent over the wire each time you launch Media Center on the XBox 360.
3) If you are sending the bits over the wire each time, doesn't the MCX boot time really suffer?
Not enough for most folks to notice. We have spent a lot of time optimizing the code sent over the wire to make sure it's fast.
4) Is the Media Center Extender software cached on the XBox 360 hard drive, if present?
5) Is the Media Center user interface on XBox 360 the same GDI version (sans animations) as the version 1 Media Center Extenders?
No. We ported the Media Center renderer over to the XBox 360 so the Media Center user interface renders in full fidelity on the XBox 360 just as it does on the Media Center PC itself. For the most part, consumers won't be able to tell a difference between the two.
6) Will high definition content play on the XBox 360, and if so, what formats?
Yes, high definition content will play on the XBox 360 via the Media Center user interface using the DVR-MS (Recorded TV) and WMV format (up to 1080p). This will include high definition digital cable content using the recently announced CableCard module. It will decode and display 1080p WMVHD using any output, including 480i/480p/720p/1080i over component. It will also output up to 1366x768 over VGA.
7) Will Online Spotlight experiences (and those available via Marketplace or other third parties for Media Center) work on the XBox 360 Media Center Extender?
8) Can I create my own apps to run in Media Center Extender for XBox 360.
Yes, using the Media Center SDK located at http://msdn.microsoft.com/mce.
9) Do applications in Media Center run on the XBox 360 or on the Media Center PC?
Applications run on the Media Center PC and have their UI remoted to the XBox 360 via technology similar to a Remote Desktop Connection / Terminal Server. No code from the application actually runs on the XBox 360, therefore the XBox 360 is safe and secure from a malware / virus perspective.
10) Is the audio / video content sent over the same remote desktop like session?
No. Audio and video streams are sent out of band and decoded locally on the XBox 360.
11) Is the XBox 360 as loud as my old XBox when running Media Center Extender?
No. In fact, when running the Media Center Extender software, it's virtually silent with the fans at their lowest setting. From my experience, it's quieter than the VCR in my kids playroom when running MCX.
12) Will the XBox360 will have other codecs available for it (e.g. Xvid, Divx).
Yes and no. The Media Center Extender for XBox 360 can support uncompressed PCM audio when a custom DirectShow filter is installed and registered, meaning you can use [insert audio codec name here] as long as it uses this approach. See Registering a Custom File Type for more information. Video codecs natively on the XBox 360 are currently limited to MPEG1, MPEG2, DVR-MS and WMV.
[The custom DirectShow filter solution works for audio since the PCM audio is uncompressed, but still within limits of typical network bandwidth. Any video solution using the same approach would involve real time transcoding (seriously CPU intensive) or sending uncompressed video over the wire (net bandwidth becomes an issue). Just FYI.]
13) If the Media Center Extender software is sent to the XBox 360 each time you launch the Media Center, does that mean that the XBox 360 will automagically inherit the new Vista MCE interface when used with a Vista MCE?
The plans for Media Center Extender for XBox 360 in the Windows Vista timeframe haven't yet been announced. [Sort of a lame answer, I know -- sorry -- there are some things they won't let me talk about yet.]
14) Will my first generation Media Center Extender (hardware or XBox MCX) continue to work when I use the new Media Center Extender for XBox 360?
15) Can you fast-forward and rewind music stored on the host MCE computer using the Xbox 360 Extender.
16) Can you play back AVI files in Media Center Extender for XBox 360?
17) Will the Xbox 360 be able to play DRM-protected video that has been recorded on your Media Center PC?
Yes, as long as the DRM applied or specified by the content owner allows (which is the case for the vast majority of all content today).
18) Can you rip music CDs to the host MCE computer from the Xbox 360 Media Center Extender?
No. However, you can rip music CDs to the XBox 360 hard drive, if present, using the XBox 360 music feature on the Media blade.
19) Does Media Center Extender for XBox 360 support keyboards and mice?
Not at this time.
20) Do I have to insert a Media Center Extender game title like for my XBox?
No. You can keep a game title in the drive while using the Media Center Extender functionality.
21) Do I need a Media Center PC to use Media Center Extender on XBox 360?
22) Can I get to other digital media content on XBox 360 without a Media Center PC?
Yes. XBox 360 has several built in digital media features accessible from the Media blade: Music, Pictures and Videos. Music can be locally ripped music (see Question 18) or music streamed from any Windows XP computer using Windows Media Connect. Pictures can be streamed from any Windows XP computer using Windows Media Connect. Videos are downloadable from XBox Live and can be cached locally on the XBox 360 hard drive (if present).
23) Will WMVHD discs play on the XBox 360?
No. These discs are designed to play on Windows XP machines. See http://www.wmvhd.com/ for system requirements to play these titles.