Happy Third Birthday, Windows XP Media Center Edition!
An open letter to Media Center users, customers and partners
Joe Belfiore, General Manager, Windows XP Media Center
My son just turned two years old. For his entire life, the TV set in our family room has been a magic box that constantly offers him reminders of his childhood — a photo slide show of his cousin Serena visiting from Florida; “The Hoppity Song,” perfect for jumping and dancing at a button-press; videos that Dad took of him first walking, or swimming, or even being a goofball and kissing his own reflection in the bathroom mirror. Sometimes in the middle of the night when he wakes up, my wife or I sleepily bring him into our bedroom and let him watch a video to calm him down — he long ago learned which icon next to the My Videos folder on the screen he should point to so that we would cue up the right one, completely on demand.
Alexander will never know a world without being completely surrounded by digital images of his life, or where every TV set in the house doesn’t instantly give him access to the music he wants to listen to — any song in the world — or the TV show he wants to watch, someday even any show in the world. And thanks to all of you who have worked with our team at Microsoft to make this vision a reality, there are 4 million households right now around the world that will enjoy the same “digital life” that my family does every day.
This month, Windows® XP Media Center Edition turns three years old. It was just three short years ago that the first PCs became available in the U.S., Canada and Korea with Media Center Edition and since then a HUGE amount of terrific stuff has happened with Media Center — and I am writing this letter to say an enormous, resounding THANK YOU to all the enthusiastic users and highly engaged partners who have been part of the community which is making this happen. (Shoot, in some parts of Europe and Asia, Media Center isn’t even two yet!)
2005 has been a giant year for Media Center:
- 130 PC manufacturers and more than 7,000 system builders around the world are shipping PCs with Windows XP Media Center Edition, with prices that range from more than $5,000 to under $500, in form factors that you can carry, that you can put next to your TV or that you might keep in a closet. These PCs have a huge range of features, from a terabyte or more of storage to learning remote controls, DVD changers, “instant-on” capability and support for voice control. The innovation is staggering.
- Media Center Extender has hit its stride and is about to explode. Linksys and HP have both successfully introduced the concept of an inexpensive and quiet device that gets you all the value of Media Center in every room of your house, and on Nov. 22 Xbox 360™ will be launched around the world to enable the world’s first integrated, high-fidelity, high-definition extender experience to end up in the hands of literally MILLIONS and MILLIONS of consumers. Undoubtedly, we will look back at this as the “Year of Media Center and Xbox 360.”
- More than 40 companies are offering hundreds of hardware products designed for Windows XP Media Center Edition. These include TV tuners, wireless networking equipment, keyboards, remote controls, portable video players and much more. All these things are designed to work specifically with Media Center Edition and to let people upgrade and add on to their experience.
- More than 75 companies around the world are offering terrific on-demand content, services and applications for Media Center through Online Spotlight, written to the world’s best platform for “10- foot” experiences designed to be displayed on TV and navigated with a remote control. These services deliver engaging scenarios ranging from MTV Overdrive’s new music videos on demand to Discovery Channel’s previews of upcoming shows. Other services providers in the U.S. include America Online Inc., Discovery Channel, Fox Sports, Movielink LLC, MSN®, Napster LLC and more. And Online Spotlight is now available in many countries around the world where Media Center is shipping. Did you realize that in 2004, ABC Enhanced TV won an Emmy Award (for Advanced Media Technology) for the Media Center version of its hit show “Celebrity Mole: Yucatan”? Interactive TV is actually happening today on the Media Center platform — not bad for a platform that is just three years old. And, besides these large companies, a thriving community of individual developers is also creating cool add-ons, such as support for eBay auctions, Netflix rentals and Skype phone calls all on your TV set; remote-control software that runs on your cell phone which allows you to control Media Center Edition, contacts, e-mail, weather, traffic, lottery results and much, much more. (Check out http://www.windowsmarketplace.com/mediacenter or search for “Media Center” on Download.com to explore the possibilities.) It’s amazing to all of us working on the software how far these folks have taken it, and you can bet we’ll keep working to make this platform better and better so that the innovation continues to grow.
- We’ve had terrific collaboration with broadcasters and other folks in the TV industry, and some of the results from these collaborations have already started to become visible. In Europe just a few weeks ago, we announced an alliance with Nagra, one of the world’s leading producers of conditional access technology that’s used by cable and satellite operators to protect premium digital TV broadcasts. Together with Nagra and Canal+ Group (a French satellite service), we demonstrated a tuner device that enables Media Center to deliver protected digital content not just on the Media Center PC but also to extender devices around the home network. This technology isn’t yet ready to be shipped in products you can buy, but the prototype device gives you a glimpse of a near-future where Media Center works with these types of services. In the here and now, of course, this fall’s update to Media Center Edition includes support for high-definition (HD) over-the-air broadcast in the U.S. (with dual-HD tuners), and can enable you to watch that HDTV on your Xbox 360!
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.
It’s not very often that a “professional job” gets to be as exciting as mine has been — I know that I’m very fortunate to be at the center of an incredibly exciting time in history, working on a product and technology that I’m very proud of, and — in particular — surrounded by the support of a wide array of talented and capable partners and users here in our Media Center community. It blows my mind that we’ve seen Media Center go from 0 to 4 million in just three short years. (Consider this: According to Strategy Analytics, in the first three years, only 2 million stand-alone DVRs were sold worldwide!)
As I look forward to the future, I can’t help but be excited about the terrific stuff we have in mind and in store for all of you. Our team is already hard at work on the Media Center software that will be part of Windows Vista™, and I’m certain you’re going to love it. It won’t be TOO long until you’ll get to see screenshots, demos and beta releases — so sit tight, and once again I’ll say THANK YOU for all the work and support in these years.
Happy Birthday, MEDIA CENTER EDITION!
General Manager, Windows XP Media Center