I'm not the brand manager for Windows Media Center, but I did what Jackie Huba said to do anyway and found this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQKI7YvtLhQ&search=Media%20Center at the top of the search results for 'Media Center'. Pretty cool romp through our user experience.

Update: These are still kinda lame (especially compared to iPod + iTunes commercials) and don't actually speak to what Windows Media Center is all about, but better than the general 'Start Something' campaign.



I'm beginning to see why awareness of Windows Media Center is pretty low, if these commercials are 'the best we could do'.


Categories: Media Center | Windows Vista | Comments [4] | # | Posted on Wednesday, March 29, 2006 6:12:43 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

Update: David Richards is back at it again with totally inaccurate and bogus information. His earlier article information was according to a 'Microsoft insider' and now he attributes the statements to Raymond Vardanega (Acer Austrailia Marketing Director) who was told these things by an unidentified person at Microsoft. Net result: total hearsay and David is admitting to not verifying information and sources. Frankly, it would be nice for David or Raymond to identify who at Microsoft told them this. Anyway, in this latest article David states "A major problem for Microsoft is that the current version of Media Centre (MCE) is clumsy and prone to crashing. It contains code which is not productive in delivering an entertainment experience for consumers." Totally, unequivocally false. Read on to learn more...

I've been reading what RobertSean, Loren and the XBox team have already said about the now infamous '60% Of Windows Vista Code To Be Rewritten' article by David Richards. For the record, this 'story' is absolute poppycock. The only reason I'm blogging this is because I got word of mouth some of our MVPs didn't know what to think -- and I want all of them and our current / future customers to be 100% confident we are on track to deliver a safe, secure and stable operating system with cool features (like Windows Media Center, Windows Media Player, Windows Sidebar, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera) with Windows Vista.

Robert put it this way...

Even the evidence denies this story. At Mix06 last week we had Media Center PCs for people to use, running, gasp, Windows Vista. An entire keynote (damn cool demos too) ran on Windows Vista and it didn’t crash the entire time. That doesn’t sound like something that needs a 60% rewrite. Or something that isn’t on schedule to ship.

Let me give you the backstory for Roberts comment (he hasn't heard this until now and it will independently corroborate his observation)...

I was responsible for getting six Media Center PCs built from scratch in one evening (Sunday night) at Mix06. It took Ernie Booth and myself about 6 hours, mostly because we had to share two installation DVDs and a single USB key among the six machines and they were spread out over four locations and two floors. Setup went without a hitch and the only driver we had to update post-setup was the sound card driver (using the USB key) -- every other device on these Dell enterprise machines (read: not originally designed to run Windows Vista or Windows Media Center) used the out of box Windows Vista drivers. The machines ran *great* for the duration of the conference. Clemens Vasters of the Indigo team even sat down at one of these boxes and watched football (soccer for us Americans) streamed over the net from his home in Germany one evening.

In addition, I was responsible for the primary and backup Windows Vista machines for the Joe Belfiore keynote. Joe rehearsed on Monday night, and towards the tail end of the run through using this machine we noticed the album art wasn't loading quite as fast as expected and the audio took a while to start playing. The reason: We had been running the machine through it's paces, adding new content and syncing devices to it non-stop for about 8 hours with no reboot. After 8 hours of *actively* running a beta OS with Visual Studio 2005, Q podcast application using the Windows Media Center Presentation Layer, Apple iTunes installed (wouldn't you like to know why :-) and FWIW was later uninstalled, which typically torques even my most stable Windows XP build) and greater than 10,000 tracks in the Windows Media Player Library it was performing pretty much up to snuff. A quick reboot (which I *always* do before an on-stage practice or live demo, but forgot to that evening for some reason) resolved all issues. The machine performed flawlessly after the reboot, again early the next morning during practice and again for Joe's keynote in front of 1000+ individuals (including Robert). We later used the exact machine on stage for our 'Developing For...' presentation at Mix06. It was a stock HP zd8000 laptop (again, read: not designed for Windows Vista).

So, you would think I was running the February CTP or some other build which had been vetted and throughly tested for consumption by the masses and appropriateness to use with a high profile keynote and the demo machines.


I used the latest build from a development branch of the eHome source code tree which contained some functionality we needed to make the Q:Helix perform as expected. It was a random build which hadn't been through Build Verification Tests (aka BVT, the most basic of tests to qualify a build before broader release to other teams). It wasn't even from the main branch for Windows Vista (aka WinMain) which is what typically gets posted for beta testers. Generally speaking, if you select one of these builds you typically expect things to NOT work since the regression rate (regression=bug fix causes other things to break) can be pretty high. I had confidence any build I picked would work just fine.

And now you know...

...the rest of the story.

Categories: Windows Vista | Comments [8] | # | Posted on Sunday, March 26, 2006 5:59:16 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

Francis Hogle (Development Manager for the Windows Media Center team) has the first of his four part series posted which explains how the Windows Media Center Presentation Layer works in greater detail. Check it out...

A Quick Peek under the Hood - Part One of Four

Categories: Media Center Application Design | Comments [1] | # | Posted on Sunday, March 26, 2006 4:41:13 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

I've been learning more about how Windows Media Center Presentation Layer Applications are run on the XBox 360 Media Center Extender. For a while now I've been stating these apps render at 30 Frames Per Second (FPS). As the Hertz commercial says, well...'not exactly'.

But unlike the Hertz commercial, this 'not exactly' is a good thing. :-)

As Paul Harvey would say, here is the rest of the story...

For a Windows Media Center Presentation Layer Application, the Windows Media Center Rendering Engine running on the XBox 360 combines the video signal (deinterlacing when necessary) with the user interface and renders both to match the current frame rate of the display. On the XBox 360 in the United States that means you get a refresh rate of 60 Hz or Frames Per Second. (It's worth noting the XBox 360 native refresh rate can be different depending on the geography.) Generally speaking, the higher the refresh rate, the smoother the experience appears to the user and less noticeable flicker.

By contrast, the Hosted HTML or Hosted WinFX XBAP Application user interfaces are rendered on the Media Center PC with 3-5 screenshots taken per second (on average) which are sent over the network via a Remote Desktop-like pipe. Even though the XBox 360 display output is much higher these applications will appear to operate at a much lower framerate due to the rate at which screenshots are sent.

So, why have I been saying '30 FPS' for the last couple of months? It's what I knew from my work with the Windows Media Encoder (NTSC television is shot at 30 FPS and output to your TV at 60 Hz, film is shot at 24 FPS and typically projected at 72 FPS using the shutter to avoid flicker) and was the best way I could describe at the time how the three types of applications will appear to the end user. My apologies to our readers for not getting the facts 100% straight before posting / answering questions. In this case I hope you will say 'no harm, no foul'.

If you want to learn more about refresh rates, head on over to Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frame_rate.

Francis Hogle (Development Manager for the Windows Media Center team) is preparing a four part series which explains how this stuff works in greater detail -- look for it here soon.


Categories: Resources | Comments [2] | # | Posted on Saturday, March 25, 2006 8:12:39 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)   

Giovanni beat me to the punch getting some screenshots of the Mix06 build of Q. One thing I want to clarify (which Giovanni did in his original post and a later follow up): Q is not a shipping feature of Windows Vista -- it is a sample application for which source code will ship with the Windows Media Center Software Development Kit for Windows Vista.

Update: News is traveling fast, and it's the wrong news. I'm pretty amazed at how much the story gets subtly changed with each retelling. I'm linking to some here so they will hopefully clarify their posts before the hype machine gets going: Microsoft Podcast Client - or Mix06 Myth?, Les clients podcasts chez Microsoft, Microsoft Podcasting Client, Microsoft Demontstates New Podcast Client At MIX06.

Several folks (internal and external) have asked for screenshots, so here they are along with a description of the experience...

Intro Animation

A really cool launch animation occurs when you first start Q. Approximately 15 images of various types of electrical circuit schematics rush at you (transparent, so you see multiple layers at once) which pivot on the center midway through. This is followed by the Schematic logotype flying from behind you. The electrical schematics are framed in the square of the Schematic logotype as it comes into view. All of this happens in about 6 seconds. This animation is 100% Media Center Markup Language (MCML) and PNG files. Proving the Model + View separation which is a pillar of developing in the Windows Media Center Presentation Layer, Schematic created this animation independently of the development work on the Q:Helix and other application elements following. We checked their MCML into the source tree as is -- zero changes.

Channels Page

The Schematic logo at the end of the intro animation 'falls back' after about a second to reveal the background and Channels page, followed by the Q:Helix rotating down into place, locking on the first item in the list. The helix is center locking so all items rotate into the center of the application. We think this makes the app pretty usable because the user only has to look at one location for focus -- it doesn't bounce around like a series of stacked buttons (Windows Media Center uses a similar paradigm, but it's not exclusively locked to a single position).

As you move up and down in the list, the current Title and Description zooms back away from you into infinity while the next Title text flies in from the right and Description text flies in from the bottom. Meanwhile, the background is animated with the RSS logo randomly 'melting' down the screen (kind of Matrix-y like). There are a couple of alpha blended layers here -- the small animated RSS logos are alpha blended in front of the Channel text on the left side as well as the background.

Items Page

Selecting a Channel, in this case the American Experience podcast, will navigate you to the items for that channel with an elegant crossfade into a different background and a slightly different Q:Helix animation (faster, zooms toward you a bit, and has an extra spin or two which happens really fast).

Selecting an Item will result in the audio or video playing. If audio, we animate with an alpha blend between the image provided with the item and a blue RSS logo. If video, we start playback in place of the image provided with the item. The video element will move just like an image in the Q:Helix. Selecting the currently playing video will take it full screen.

A big THANKS to the following folks who helped us pull this together from scratch in a very short time (about 3 weeks to implement once we had the conceptual designs, all the while keeping focus on our day jobs).

Peng Lee, Kevin Hosmann and Robert Perrine from Schematic who designed the Q:Helix navigational concept and opening animation, as well as coding of the opening animation. They also provided the background images which seem to be animated, but are in fact static images -- brilliant!

I approached Stephen Toub about this project and asked if he could provide the code-behind for the RSS feeds in about a week. The next morning we had solid, working code ready to wire up to MCML. 'Nuff said.

And finally, Mark Finocchio (you get to meet Mark face:face in an upcoming Channel9 video, btw). Originally I was going to do the UI implementation (MCML) for this project with his help as needed. My time then became consumed helping get portions of the JoeB keynote ready, leaving me with zero time to give to Q. I asked Mark if he wouldn't mind stepping in and helping us out by creating the balance of the MCML. As with Stephen, the bulk of the MCML was complete the next day, and Mark continued to introduce elegant touches up until the Friday before Mix06. Really, 'nuff said.

We hope to release the Q app with Beta 2 so you can us the app (rather than relying on screenshots and low res video caps) and tell us what features and improvements you would like to see.

Categories: Media Center SDK Code Sample | Q | Comments [3] | # | Posted on Friday, March 24, 2006 4:01:34 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)   

As Aaron notes, the Q application will be included in Joe Belfiores keynote and shown by myself and Stephen Toub while at Mix06. We've been subscribing to various and sundry feeds to test things out -- now it's time to decide what to put into the Q:Helix.

Nominate yourself or others in the comments, with a pointer to the RSS (not HTML) feed. Who knows, your content might be showcased on stage in front of all the attendees at Mix06, demonstrated by JoeB himself. :-)

Categories: Mix | Q | Comments [6] | # | Posted on Thursday, March 16, 2006 10:51:57 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)   

Posted by Nate Dunlap a few minutes ago, and I just felt compelled to link...

"...but one API the architects forgot to include was the "HelpStopDuchenneMuscularDystrophy()" feature."

Visit WPF can do lots of things... to learn more on how you can provide feedback to enable this feature.

Categories: Muscular Dystrophy | Comments [1] | # | Posted on Thursday, March 16, 2006 10:33:19 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)   

My good friend Michael Patten, Senior Program Manager on the Windows Movie Maker team is now blogging over at http://www.videoscreencast.com/. Michael will be planning 'to focus on Movie Maker, Encoder and Windows Media Center.  I also plan on including lots of videos and screen captures.'


He got a very positive response a couple of weeks ago when I posted Movie Maker Team Thinking About Blogging.

A bit of history: Michael was the PM for the Windows Media Series 9 Encoder (which I believe is still the current version) and we collaborated 'back in the day' on the Visual Basic.NET Batch Encoding sample for the Windows Media Encoder SDK (I still use it occasionally). I was the developer on the project -- it was something like a six week turnaround if I recall, from the ground up -- lot's of late nights / early mornings, but WAY fun. Needless to say, I had the good fortune of being able to cut my teeth in product development with him. Ultimately, this encounter led me to a deeper involvement with the Windows Media Center team and moving to Seattle area.

So, welcome to the blogosphere, Michael -- I'm going to enjoy learning more about Movie Maker!

P.S. I used Movie Maker to capture and create the movie of the Q app in action tonight. :-)

Categories: Movie Maker | Comments [1] | # | Posted on Wednesday, March 15, 2006 8:46:33 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)   

Sorry I've been absent for just about two weeks. I've been 'heads down' with preparations for Mix06. We had the keynote run through today and things seem to be on a good trajectory.

I locked myself in the home office tonight and finally cleaned up the cruft from and posted the specification for Q. Keep in mind this thing is nowhere near final -- I'm sure we will have bunches of revisions in the months to come, mostly in response you give us via feedback and comments.

[An hour or two later...]

OK, I got so jazzed playing around with our alpha drop and the opening sequence from Schematic I just had go all Channel9 / Robert Scoble-ly and make a short video to give you a sneak preview.

My hat's off to Robert, Kevin, Peng (Schematic folks) and Mark and Stephen (Microsoft folks) for doing such a fantastic job on this stuff on a super tight deadline. You guys ROCK!!!!!!

Specification: http://www.mediacentersandbox.com/q/qspecification.zip

Movie: http://www.mediacentersandbox.com/q/qmoviealpha.zip

As always, comments are welcome.

P.S. Oh, and you'll notice I'm no longer referring to this puppy as our Mix06 project. :-) That's because we are going to ship this application source code with the Windows Media Center SDK as a sample.

Categories: Media Center Application Design | Q | Comments [5] | # | Posted on Wednesday, March 15, 2006 8:28:56 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)   

I happened to find this little tidbit in my referrals for yesterday (hardly ever look at them, but did just now). It's old -- from Jan 2004 - July 2004. I wonder what happened to his / her project...?

"I'm involved with a kind of experimental class at my school in interactive television. We're supposed to make a windows media center application to work with live tv, etc. I'm curious if anyone has any experience with windows media center and C#, specifically the remote control functionality."

Hey, Chrix, if you are still around, give me a shout and an update. :-)

Categories: Media Center | Media Center Application Design | Comments [2] | # | Posted on Thursday, March 2, 2006 1:27:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)   

As part of the ongoing 7 minute 20 second conversation pieces towards a 72 hour conversation at Mix06 here we present MIX06: The Digital Home.

Thanks to Ron Pessner (Senior Director, Windows eHome) who literally last minute agreed to be caught on film with me -- brave, brave soul. Best quote: 'A truly compelling value prop for consumers' at 6:51 from Ron speaking about Windows Media Center and Media Center Extender for XBox 360. I couldn't agree more (although I can't actually say that phrase well yet -- my brain doesn't seem to want to string those syllables together as nicely.

Categories: Mix | Comments [1] | # | Posted on Thursday, March 2, 2006 12:04:10 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)   
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