First Look: Internet TV Plug-in for Media Center
Microsoft will be releasing a beta of their new Internet TV
plug-in today (US only), it should be automatically downloaded to your PC and will show
in the TV+Movies strip. The video
content will come from MSN Video, so you might have seen links to some of the
content off your Hotmail account or after a search on MSN. Over 100 hours of content is supposed to be
up, and I assume more will come as time goes on.
Since I have been playing with it over the past week, I must
say that it is the most impressive Internet TV application I have used so
far. The main reason I feel that way is
because it is one of the few that actually have a UI that provides easy
navigation, especially with a remote.
Video quality seems to depend on the specific content, some
of which looks very nice and some of which is so bad I wouldn’t bother
attempting to watch. There are a few
Halo 3 trailers that looks pretty good (silently above SD), but I watched the
premiere of Journeyman and it looked like it was about 320x240 at 400kbps. That is clearly not something that I wanted
to watch through a Media Center Extender on an HDTV.
Content is actually pretty good for only having 100 hours
up. Full seasons of Arrested Development
are up, content from other joint-MSN properties like MSNBC and FOX Sports, a
number of concerts from bands/groups like John Mayer, the Pussycat Dolls,
Oasis, Elton John, and more. There is
also select content from National Geographic, History, HGTV, bio, A&E, and
All of the content is ad supported with the help of YuMe
Networks, which actually works nicely from what I have seen so far. Now, I’m not sure how much of the advertising
was live but basically after the video is done streaming I got a quick ad. 90% of the time in my testing, it was a Xbox
360 ad or some sort. I except more to show up, and I really don't think it will be bad at all.
Overall, I’m impressed with the Internet TV plug-in just as
I’m impressed with the Sports
Lounge that was launched at the beginning of the year. As long as Microsoft continues to add
content, I can see myself using this often.
For a platform that gets very few feature updates on a regular basis,
these plug-ins do a pretty good job filling the void.