website hit counter November 2007 - Posts - Chris Lanier

November 2007 - Posts

Ricavision Debuts New SideShow Remotes!

Ricavision has finally come out to play with new SideShow remotes.  First off they have a brand new design in their VAVE100.  Not only does it have SideShow built-in, but it is now a universal learning remote too.  Everyone’s dream of Media Center control is about to happen when this thing ships.

The VAVE100 Universal Remote Control with Windows Vista SideShow Technology is the new top of the line SideShow-based remote.  Features include…

  • Control 20 different entertainment devices from a distance of over 50 feet via IR
  • 2.4 Inch QVGA LCD Display with a resolution of 240x320
  • IR+Class 1 Bluetooth with Audio streaming
  • Learning feature and Macro support (Built-in 1500 brands via LCD display setup)
  • One touch of the Windows Media Center
  • Let the SideShow Begin!  Built in SideShow support
  • Rechargeable Lithium Polymer Ion battery
  • Includes docking station with RC6 receiver, Bluetooth transceiver and a power charger

Check it out on pre-order for only $274.00.  Ships in February 29, 2008.

Next up is the non-SideShow VAVE50 Windows Vista Universal Remote Control.  This is more of a Harmony replacement than anything else, but it looks more Media Center friendly then any Harmoy remote on the market.  Features for this guy include…

  • Controls 15 different devices
  • LCD screen to identify your device
  • LCD screen allows for user defined keys and favorite channels
  • Media Center ready

No word on price or availability yet, but you can assume it will be less expensive then the VAVE100.

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Also, Ricavision has setup their PLIX Gadgets Bank, which allows you to download gadgets specially designed Gadgets for Ricavision’s SideShow remotes.  Currently listed are PLIX Photo Gadget, PLIX Radio Gadget, PLIX Movie Gadget, and PLIX Weather Gadget.  Standard Sidebar Gadgets should also work too.

One sad bit of news, their Fridge Magnet/Scribbler Device, eBook Reader, and eChatter are now said to be prototypes still in development.  I wouldn’t expect them to ship soon because of that, which is too bad because they are great ideas that I would love to get my heads on.

Digg it!

Update: Sideshow will support control of Extender sessions. 

Xbox 360 Gets DivX Support; Extender Doesn’t

The new Xbox 360 Dashboard gets MPEG-4 ASP support (DviX/Xvid), but yet again the Extender portion of the Xbox 360 gets nothing.  People don’t seem to be too happy about this, yet again.  Microsoft didn’t take any hint from my advice, but that’s really nothing new.

Other Dashboard additions are playback of AC3 audio and support for AVI files (so DivX with 5.1 Dolby Digital should work).  There are also tons of fixed for video playback of various other formats.

DWAnderson also talked about the lack of support.

SageTV Excels As Microsoft Fails

Following the delay of v2 Media Center Extenders, SageTV has released some information and photos of their upcoming Media Extender and the reaction has been superb (here, here, here, and here for just a few examples).

Let’s get right to it, their SageTV HD Media Extender (STX-HD100) will be $199.  Hey, they listened to customer feedback and choose a good price point.  Sure, I’ve said in the past that $150 is the perfect price but considering this is coming from a small company, they sure nailed the price.  Linksys and D-Link, who have both delayed their release of v2 Extenders, failed to intro products at price points that I consider reasonable.

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SageTV HD Media Extender (STX-HD100)

v2 Extenders are now likely to show at retail after the new year, killing the “Holiday 2007” timeframe completely.  Great to have them unveiled at DigitalLife in October and then delayed into the next year after announcing that they would be available this year.  On the other side of things, Sage is expecting theirs to be ready to go in two weeks (12/10) just beating the holiday sales window.

It isn’t all good though.  Looking though the threads some people have some dislikes, albeit minor.  There appears to be no learning remote included, no CD/DVD drive option, local USB ports not active, no wireless option, and some other small things.  To me, the case isn’t that attractive (kinda cheap lookin) and that is something that most people seem to complain about that with other products.

With all that said, most major details haven’t really been released.  Brent Evans outlined the few confirmed features: HDMI (also S-Video, Composite and Component), SPDIF, 10/100 Mbps Ethernet, and 1080p output.  H.264 is also on the list, but other than that not much is known about file format or container support.

I have high hopes for container and file format support.  To me, Sage understands exactly what their customers are looking for in this device.  They have had a makeshift solution for a while with the MediaMVP, but to me they have no reason to put out a device that doesn’t do what their userbase is looking to do.  The same can’t be said Media Center Extenders in most cases.

A lot of these differences in understanding boil down to the perceived market.  Linksys/D-Link are making devices for “everyone”, not the Media Center enthusiast.  SageTV on the other hand is taking the smart route and is making the device for the enthusiast.  The “everyone’s” of the world reap the benefits.  You develop for enthusiasts in these products to a large extent, and it is my belief that Sage understands this and Microsoft (along with their partners) don’t.

SageTV has key support for some features that Media Center doesn’t, noticeably native QAM support for several tuners.  However, one thing that SageTV doesn’t have and likely will never is CableCARD support.  Evil DRM aside, I’ve been a proponent of CableCARD (and DIRECTV) support because it is needed for mass adoption into the home.  For anyone who doesn’t care about that angle of things and wants to live DRM free forever, I can’t help but suggest watching SageTV’s next move.  Oh, did I mention that SageTV also has their own version of Softsled (SageTV Placeshifter) and they also have a Windows Home Server support?

Microsoft and their partners need to take a long look at what SageTV is doing, much of it should have been part of Media Center for a while now.  Congratulations to SageTV on a job well done thus far, and we all are looking forward to see what is delivered in the final product.

Short Bits: D-Link Extender Delay, Not Getting a Mac

Word from a poster on The Green Button is that the D-Link DSM-750 Extender has been delayed.  From a D-Link CSR, “Hello ,and thank you for your inquiry.  The DSM-750 has been delayed, it is now expected to be released at the end of Dec/early Jan.”

Update: PCalchemy now reports December 7th as the expected date for their inventory for the Linksys Extenders.  Thanks gstone!

Update: Ed Bott confirms Linksys delayed too.

Also, I’ve been considering buying a Mac for a while now.  I’ve used OS X on several occupations and enjoy it, I hear about how great it is from my girlfriend who works in front of one all day, and now that they can run Windows XP/Vista it has been on the top of my list for when I upgrade my PC.

However, now I’ve run into a problem with that concept.  TigerDirect doesn’t sell Mac’s.  Why is this important?  Because I’ve got a $500 gift certificate for TigerDirect (yeah, not my first choice either but it was free).  That screws up me getting a Mac right now.  I just can’t pass up only needing to drop $100-$200 for a new PC.

I order my parts yesterday, an C2D E6750, 2GB RAM, GeForce 8500, and 500GB HDD which would all be covered under the gift certificate.  Motherboard choice is still up in the air, but will most likely be a Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L LGA.  I’m also going to pick up a semi-cheap Antec case to bring it all together.

Inteset Serves Quad CableCARD Quad-Core Systems for the MCX Platform

Hanover MA, November 20, 2007, Inteset, LLC has announced that its Denzel DTCD30-Si media server now supports four (4) internal CableCARD tuners. In addition, units sold with this configuration contain an Intel® Quad-Core processor needed to support simultaneous usage of the tuners.

The server can now record up to four high-definition premium cable broadcasts at once. In addition, the new unit responds to the needs of Inteset dealers that have requested interoperability with the HDMI, 1080p capable XBox 360 as well as the new 2nd generation Media Center Extender units (MCX) coming on the market this holiday season which include those by Linksys and D-Link. Up to five (5) additional MCX zones can be added. Four of those zones can access Live TV simultaneously. Protected recordings are stored on the server and can be streamed to any MCX box on the network. Furthermore, Inteset has enhanced its multi-zone music entertainment module to work with the MCX units generating more value add.

"We've given our dealers the flexibility they've been looking for," says David Hirsh, Director of Inteset Business Development. "Dealers can now offer the low cost but powerful MCX platform to their customers to distribute media, including protected premium HD cable content around the house. Individuals can continue to use Inteset's Vana media extender to stream DVD movies and watch live or recorded premium cable content locally," continues Hirsh.

For detailed specification and dealer pricing information, visit http://www.inteset.com. Or, contact Inteset sales at 781-826-1560 ext: 215.

About Inteset, LLC
Inteset, LLC has been creating high-end home entertainment products since 2003.  Inteset offers three categories of products based on the Windows Media Center platform: media servers, media extenders, and exclusive software for its systems. The near silent media servers come with up to 8TB of internal, protected storage with the ability to expand externally.  The advanced media extenders are independent systems as well as A/V distribution clients.  All systems are shipped with an enriched Windows Media Center interface that includes a movie management module and a multi-zone music module among other exclusive software offerings.  These systems appeal to A/V dealers and integrators for their high-integrity construction, reliability, ease-of-use, unique entertainment modules and services, price point, and interoperability with advanced control systems.

Microsoft's Media Center Vision Includes Softsled?

Study this image for about two seconds, and you should see something interesting.  This image was possibly made for (or by) John Eldridge, a LIVE Evangelist at Microsoft and shown as a part of a presentation titled “Creating Innovative Business Applications Using Microsoft Emerging Technologies” (late 2006, early 2007).

So, at least one person sees the “Media Center Vision” including Softsled.  Wonder what the hold up is with eHome understanding and addressing it?  LIVE doesn’t seem to have a huge problem with it, it is just too bad they don't make Media Center.

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Short Bits: Get a Mac, Zune, Russound, Omaura

Missing Remote has some good posts, Top Ten Things You Can Do With A Media Center PC and a preview of the case giveaway from Omaura.  Very nice.

Ian Dixon also has some good stuff, Video Show - Zune and Media Center Recorded TV and Russound on the Media Center Show.

This is probably the best Get a Mac ad yet.

Why Doesn’t Zune Support HD Recordings?

I was just reading one of the Zune threads over at The Green Button and a user commented that licensing might be the reason why the Zune doesn’t syncing HD recordings.  The idea being if they didn’t license a Dolby Digital decoder, then they couldn’t convert the audio.  My train of thought went….

Damn, probably right.  Another feature lost to licensing

Wait, doesn’t Vista Home Premium and Ultimate include Dolby Digital decoders?

Yeah, but then you would have to limit syncing of HD content to Home Premium and Ultimate.  Stupid footnotes no one ever reads.

Oh, but Media Center is only included in Home Premium and Ultimate.

Dang, why doesn’t Zune support syncing HD recordings then?

Short Bits: Zune Roundup

If you didn’t hear, the new Zunes were released yesterday along with updated firmware and software for v1 Zunes.  Ian Dixon posted his thoughts on the new Zune Software, along with his results on syncing recorded TV to the Zune.

Long Zheng posted the best advertisement that I have ever seen for the Zune.  If Microsoft is smart, this style of ad is what will help make the Zune.  The print ads also excite me and are very well done.  No doubt, these ads and concepts are much better then the first new one, which sucks at best. If Microsoft can keep this up, the Zune will be more of a iPod competitor.

Still some big issues with Zune though.  Doesn’t sync HD content (ATSC), of course doesn’t sync CableCARD content at all, no Smart Playlists (as the ratings changed), some album art issues, they removed the EQ apparently, and I’m sure there is more.  Big one for me, as I've been talking about Media Center integration is not really so when you compare it to other players.  Media Center integration just means that the Zune Software imports analog recordings.

Walt Mossberg says it is still no iPod.  CNET gave it a 8.3 out of 10.  More on Gizmodo and Engadget.

This Zune is what the first should have been, and I’m actually looking forward to the v3 Zune.

Upgraded Niveus Media Servers Deliver Audiophile Quality Sound

With Intel processing, Pro Audio and advanced functionality, Niveus’ 2008 product offers the highest fidelity entertainment experience.

Long Beach, CA – EHX Fall 2007 – November 6-9th – Niveus Media, the leader in high-end digital entertainment solutions for the connected home, introduces the 2008 line of Media Server products. Now boasting Pro Audio and powerful Intel processing, Niveus has optimized their Media Servers to provide pristine audio and video performance for superior home theater production and remarkable whole-home entertainment.

As part of the 2008 focus to develop the most refined devices for exceptional digital entertainment throughout the home, Niveus has beefed up their entire Media Server offering including the passively cooled Summit Series Rainier and Denali Editions and the Pro Series n4, n7, and n9 Editions. Advancements to all servers include new Seagate® DB35 Series™ hard drives for video streaming performance, acoustics & reliability and Nvidia’s GeForce Series 8 graphics featuring PureVideo™ HD technology for high quality video scaling up to and beyond 1080p.

One of the most distinguished upgrades sure to resonate loudly in the audiophile market is the addition of a “Pro Audio” chipset in the Pro Series n7 & n9 and the Summit Series Denali Edition and Denali Limited Edition. The dedicated sound card provides the cleanest and highest resolution audio from all channels (up to 7.1), and features digital-to-analog converters from Burr-Brown, chosen in top professional or consumer audio equipments around the world.

Niveus’ Pro Audio features an impressive signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of 118 db for both audio in and out and is able to deliver 118 db quality audio for 7.1 channel sound. Incorporating multiple technologies from Dolby and DTS (Dolby Digital Live, Dolby Virtual Speaker, DolbyPro Logic®IIx, DTS Interactive, and more!), Niveus’ Media Servers deliver outstanding, unmatched audio reproduction.

As part of their testament to providing rich audio and video production with powerful processing, the rack mountable Pro Series Media Servers, including the n7, n9, and the new n4, have all been upgraded to feature the Intel® Core™ 2 Quad processor, which provides four independent cores with dedicated threads, to efficiently off-load tasks and more readily serve up media including HD video to multiple rooms of the home.

All Niveus Media’s Windows Vista Ultimate-based Media Servers are capable of storing, managing, and playing TV, music, movies, and photos while offering the highest level of Media Center performance. Niveus’ 2008 line of product is available now.

For more information on Niveus Media, Inc., please visit www.niveusmedia.com.

Introducing The Niveus Media Extender – Edge

The first Windows Media Center Extender designed for the custom install channel, EDGE is ISF certified and available in time for the Holidays!

Long Beach, CA – EHX Fall 2007 – November 6-9th – Shortly after the unveiling at CEDIA Expo 2007, Niveus Media, the leader in high-end digital entertainment for the connected home, formally introduces the Niveus Media Extender – EDGE. A hardware device that gives users the ability to enjoy the Niveus Media Center experience throughout the whole home, EDGE has become the first Windows Media Center Extender to receive the prestigious Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) Video Quality Certification.

By connecting the Niveus Media Extender to any TV throughout the home, users are granted access to live and recorded TV, digital photos, digital music, home video, and exclusive online multi-media content, including downloadable music and local weather – all accessed through and stored on the Niveus Media Server. The Niveus Media Extender offers users a full fidelity experience, uncompromised 1080p video, digital audio, and the same amazing 3D user interface found on the award-winning Niveus Media Center.

In addition to the intuitive on-screen experience, the Niveus Media Extender features the proprietary Niveus Glacier™ Passive Cooling system for cool and quiet performance and a sleek and stylish A/V form-factor, designed to blend seamlessly into any zone of the home and flexible enough to be installed into a rack-mount solution application.

“We’re excited to formally introduce the Niveus Media Extender – EDGE,”states Tim Cutting, CEO, Niveus Media. “EDGE represents the final building block of the Niveus Entertainment Experience, a complete end-to-end server/client product architecture that allows high definition entertainment to be accessed from any room of the house. No other vendor can offer this complete solution based on the Microsoft Media Center platform. This, along with our recent ISF certification of EDGE, is a huge advantage over competing solutions.”

Through the introductions of EDGE and the robust storage and control solutions (Niveus Storage Server and Niveus Control Server/Niveus Companion), Niveus now offers a supremely sophisticated Media Center eco-system, properly dubbed The Niveus Entertainment Experience.

Niveus Media’s whole-home entertainment system enables independent content control which makes it possible for a person in a Niveus Media Extender zone to access one digital entertainment feature while someone at the Media Server or separate Extender zone accesses another. Niveus currently offers Extender support for up to five zones.

The Niveus Media Extender – EDGE will be available in December 2007. Niveus Media’s 2008 line of Windows Vista Ultimate-based media centers including the Summit Series Rainier and Denali Editions, and Pro Series n4, n7 and n9, are capable of storing, managing, and playing TV, music, movies, and photos while offering the highest level of media center performance.

For more information on Niveus Media, Inc., please visit www.niveusmedia.com.

Top Request List for Windows 7 Leaks; Media Center Features Look Good

Looks like a few proposed features and top user request for Windows 7 has been compiled by Microsoft, and now has been leaked.  These are supposed to apply to Windows 7, the follow-up to Windows Vista.

Looking at stuff Media Center related, it sure looks like Microsoft is starting to listen.  I don’t see DVD streaming on the list, but here are some notable Media Center features that are said to be “top requests.”

  • Media Center Television Programming Builder
  • PIP Functionality to Media Center
  • MCE and Screensaver/Monitor shutdown settings
  • Provide more extensive sound mixer in Media Center
  • Media Center – Start recording from Live TV Buffer
  • Allow Windows PCs to act as Media Center Extenders
  • Built-in Codec Manger
  • Media Center Extenders should be able to play DivX and Xvid files
  • Rapid RW and FWD cases TV playback to lose frames

Of course, new Extenders already support DivX and Xvid, but other than that this list is a great start for stuff the Media Center team should be looking at. Not sure what Media Center Television Programming Builder is, but something everyone would love to see is that Softsled has officially made it on a list within Microsoft.

I'm also sure this is not a comprehensive list, nor is it likely that all of them will make it all the way to Windows 7.  So, I wouldn’t get too excited, and also note that Windows 7 isn’t expected by most until ~2010 (and I think we all hope after Vista that Microsoft doesn't rush it).

Posted by chrisl | 6 comment(s)

New Zune Players Available Tomorrow; Device Customization via New Zune Originals Store

Microsoft partners with 18 renowned artists to fuse high style with portable entertainment.

REDMOND, Wash. — Nov. 12, 2007 — Tomorrow, consumers ready for a richer, more connected and more personal entertainment experience will have the first opportunity to get their hands on sleek new Zune players, redesigned Zune software, and new online services including the Zune Marketplace and Zune Social, an online music community. The players — along with dozens of accessories — will be available at retailers across the United States, while the new Zune software will be available for free download at http://www.zune.net.

For the first time, consumers also will have the option to customize their Zune player with laser-engraved designs and personal text through a new Web store called Zune Originals. Customers will be able to purchase a Zune player directly from Microsoft at http://www.zuneoriginals.net and choose from a collection of laser-engraved artwork designed exclusively for Zune by 18 internationally recognized artists.

“We’re bringing the entire category to the next level by empowering consumers to play a role in redefining the digital music experience,” said J Allard, corporate vice president for Zune. “Zune brings music discovery and acquisition into one simple, end-to-end solution, and the addition of unique customization options puts the originality back into portable entertainment.”

Zune Originals Gives Consumers a New Canvas

Consumers no longer need to settle for the same portable media player as everybody else. The new Zune Originals online store will let people make a unique statement by customizing their Zune with laser-engraved art or personal text. Zune worked with 18 accomplished artists from all over the world to create a collection of 27 different designs, called the Artist Series, which will be available exclusively through Zune Originals. In addition to the Artist Series, a separate Tattoo Series will feature 20 graphics that consumers can have laser-engraved on their Zune with up to three lines of text. Alternatively, people can choose to engrave up to five lines of text in place of a design. On the Zune Originals Web site, customers can choose their Zune (Zune 80GB, Zune 8GB or Zune 4GB), pick a color and then select a design and their desired text.

The Zune Originals Artist Series will launch with designs from artists Colletivo Studios, Catalina Estrada, Laurent Fetis, Sam Flores, Klaus Haapaniemi, Pierre Marie, Kenzo Minami, Parskid, Mike Perry, Phunk Studios, Chisato Shinya, Skwak, Iosefatu Sua, Tado, Nobumasa Takahashi, Ramiro Torres, Darvin Vida and Steve Wilson.

“I’m always interested in the way art can merge with technology to create a new dialogue,” Estrada said. “My work has been shown in different venues all over the world, but Zune represents a brand-new canvas for me to display my ideas.”

Read Full Press Release

Posted by chrisl | with no comments

Microsoft Intends to Acquire Musiwave

Acquisition of Musiwave would build on Microsoft’s commitment to deliver Connected Entertainment vision to consumers.

REDMOND, Wash. — Nov. 12, 2007 — Microsoft Corp. today announced it has entered into an exclusivity agreement around its intention to acquire Musiwave SA, an Openwave company and a leading provider of mobile music entertainment services to operators and media companies. The acquisition would bring Musiwave’s relationships with music labels, device makers and mobile operators that deliver digital entertainment to consumers, together with Microsoft’s Connected Entertainment technologies and services, including Windows Mobile, Zune, MSN and Windows Live. Should the transaction proceed, Musiwave would continue to operate out of its current headquarters in Paris.

“Microsoft and Musiwave share the same philosophy in working with hardware and mobile operator partners to deliver great experiences for mobile device users,” said Pieter Knook, senior vice president of the Mobile Communications Business at Microsoft. “Bringing Musiwave on board would provide an opportunity for Microsoft to explore new areas in the mobile space previously untapped, and to showcase the power of software plus services. This contemplated acquisition reflects Microsoft’s recognition of the software and technology expertise in Europe.”

“Musiwave would bring key assets to us as we continue to bring our vision of Connected Entertainment to life,” said J Allard, corporate vice president in charge of music at Microsoft. “Its software expertise and extensive relationships with operators and music companies would help us take our products and services to the next level, giving people access to whatever entertainment content they want, whenever and however they want it.”

Today, Microsoft mobile technology runs on a variety of mobile platforms, featured on more than 140 mobile phones made by 50 handset-makers, sold by more than 160 mobile operators around the world.

Demand for Mobile Music Services Drives Innovation

Today, the mobile music device market is growing at a rapid rate. According to technology research firm Ovum, 1,106 million mobile music phones will be shipped worldwide in 2010. Mobile operators are continually looking for ways to deliver digital entertainment to their customers, and have looked to companies such as Musiwave to deliver music services that help provide the necessary infrastructure. As a provider of white-label music solutions to mobile operators in Europe, Musiwave has helped to bring a rich selection of millions of ringtones, full-track downloads and music videos to consumers.

Musiwave also has a rich history of working with a wide variety of device-makers, across a diverse group of software platforms that produce music and data-capable mobile devices. Today, software developed by Musiwave can be found on most handsets available in Europe.

About Musiwave

Musiwave, an Openwave company (Openwave Systems Inc. NASDAQ: OPWV), is a leading provider of mobile music entertainment solutions, including software, marketing and content management, to operators and media companies worldwide. For more information, please visit www.musiwave.net.

Posted by chrisl | with no comments

Short Bits: Zune Ratings, Extender Release Date, Buy Music

In another case of Microsoft not understanding how to integrate products, it seems the Zune’s will use a brand new rating system outside of what Windows Media Player/Media Center use.  The new system doesn’t even work on a 5-star principle, instead a like it-don’t like it system will be used.  I don’t understand what is so hard to get about your products working together.  Thanks Matthew!

 CostCentral is apparently expecting their stock of the Linksys DMA2200 Extender on 11/14.  I don’t know about other retailers, but I would expect retailers getting theirs in very soon.  Thanks Michael!

Update: PCAlchemy has them listed now.  Linksys DMA 2200 at $319 expected Thursday 15 and Linksys DMA 2100 at $269 also expected on the 15th.

Every Media Center beta I bug the fact that the stupid Buy Music link has never gone to a Media Center formatted website.  Whoever suggested that Buy Music should be there and linked to a 2-foot view of MSN Music should be fired.  Oh well, I just noticed that the webpage that was there has now been replaced by an odd black and green image.  It just screams “Buy Music”, doesn’t it?

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Short Bits: Netflix, Plug-ins, Xbox 360 DivX

Netflix posted a survey online for a few customers, and from the looks of the questions Netflix might be considering bring downloads to the Xbox 360.  Might be in addition to the rumored Netflix STB or this might be there main goal, or none of the above.  Bring Netflix streaming to an Xbox 360, TiVo, Media Center, etc would be a much better option in my mind then trying to market a different STB.

Davis Freeberg noticed that the Xbox 360 might be getting DivX (MPEG-4 ASP, Xvid is also MPEG-4 ASP) support based on a conference call where JP Morgan analyst Paul Coster asked about DivX on the Xbox 360. “Yes! that, uh, we’re in discussions with Microsoft on that at this point in time, so I can’t go into any great detail on that” was the reply from DivX.

Looks good, I’m not surprised that Microsoft would bring MPEG-4 ASP to the Xbox 360.  The big question is, if it comes is it only to the Dashboard or is Microsoft planning to bring it to the Xbox 360 Extender too?

I’ve been trying to get to this but keep forgetting.  My TVServer Client is a plug-in for Media Center that is meant to replace Stream Buffer Engine and instead use Media Portal’s TV Server that supports DVB-S, DVB-T, DVB-C, etc.  Might be good to check out, but from the screenshots I don’t think I’d want to use it on a daily basis as the integration into Media Center seems minimal.  If anyone has checked it out, let me know how it really works.  Thanks Davieboy!

Looking for a way to manage recorded TV in Vista?  Check out the TVCollection Manager and the More TV threads at The Green Button for loads of cool stuff if you haven’t seen them before.

Other stuff

Windows Home Server - Media Sharing PDF

The Media Center Show #130 - Squirrel Stash

Would You Really Buy a Media Center Server?

You know, the concept of a standalone Media Center Server is interesting.  It is exactly what many enthusiasts want, and it would be logical to only have a single device instead of attempting to make the sale of a Windows Home Server and powerful Media Center PC (either desktop or standalone).  I’ve seen dozens of people bring them up at the Owen Threads , but I’m still not sure I buy it.

What is the principle problem people have with Media Center right now outside of the lack of integration?  Price.  I’ve talked about it being important dozens of times, but when you factor price into the Media Center Server equation it just doesn’t equal out.  Others have started questioning it to, and are finally starting to realize that the price of such a machine wouldn’t make it marketable or profitable (something I’ve been saying for years, minus Viiv which Intel didn't follow-up on) despite the fact that it is seen as the holy grail to many.

Instead of buying an expensive desktop PC, you want to buy a server which is actually going to be more expensive?  Media Center has become more demanding on the hardware side, it really isn’t the application you can run on your extra PC that was just gathering dust in the closet.  Even when you take video playback out of the equation, you still have streaming to Extenders to factor into the picture, you still have recording from multiple tuners, you still have transcoding and ripping audio/video, and let’s not forget you also have mission critical backup and file serving to deal with assuming you are integrated the Home Server functions.

When I have posted about CableCARD PCs over the past year a common reply is where is the option without the “expensive” HDCP-HDMI graphics card.  It is also a common argument for the Media Center Server side of things.  Take out the expensive graphics card are replace it with integrated since the server has no local playback abilities.  Makes sense, until you realize that all the PC really needs is a $60-$150 graphics card at this point.  It is no longer the great expensive it used to be.

A Media Center Server, while a great concept, is something that I just don’t see as a good move for Microsoft at this point.  I’m not trying to say there is no market for a Media Center Server, but I don’t think it should be the key platform for Microsoft to concentrate on.  Media Center is hard enough to sell, no doubt some marketing would help with that, but trying to market an expensive server isn’t going to help the cause.

I find it much easier to sell a Windows Vista desktop PC and an Xbox 360 or Extender to someone then to sell then a Media Center Server and an Xbox 360 or Extender.  That Vista PC is really the only thing that people can use to justify the cost of Media Center.  The fact that you get the PC is very important and shouldn’t be overlooked.  Without the PC aspect, I wouldn’t be a Media Center user still.

It also should be noted that we look at the high end and speciality guy’s releasing new systems monthly that are basically Media Center Servers without the Windows Home Server aspect involved.  All I ever see people do is comment about how expensive and how they would never spend such an amount for Media Center.  Needless to say, I’m a tad confused about what people really hope to get out of a Media Center Server.

What price point would you see these targeted at by Microsoft and OEMs?  Above $1,800 seems like most are out of the market based on what I’ve been reading from everyone on CableCARD PCs, but I wouldn’t see a Media Center Server launching for less than that (most likely significantly more).

Also note that I’m leaving out the build your own scenario.  With CableCARD and likely DIRECTV being OEM only, Microsoft should not be concentrating on two visions (this is the problem in the first place with the E&D division).  Unlike CableLabs changes their mind on how CableCARD on the PC is administrated, there is no reason for Microsoft to put development time toward a solution that wouldn’t work for HD.

So, what price point would you see these targeted at by Microsoft and OEMs?

Update: Based on current comments, I'm not sure if I'm getting my point across.

  • What price would you spend for a "Media Center Server"?
  • If that price is as much or more as current CableCARD PCs (which are basically servers with data backup), then do you have a problem with the price of current CableCARD/High End Media Center PCs?  I know most of my readers have problems with the price.
  • Why would you jump on a product called a Media Center Server when you will not jump on a higher priced Media Center PC from a speciality company or that includes CableCARD?

It just doesn't make sence to me why you would spend money for a product called a "Media Center Server," when current Media Center PCs and CableCARD PCs are really "servers" to begin with, and yet we all complain about the high price of these PCs.  Why?

Update 2: So, I realized I probably shouldn’t of titled this “would you buy…” considering the first thing I said in the post was that enthusiasts want it.  My point, that I didn’t get across at all (one day I’ll realize that I’m the worst writer in the history of the world) is that I don’t believe a standalone server will sell to anyone but enthusiasts simply because no average person is going to run out and purchased a dedicated box that doesn’t function as a regular PC.

I was surprised that the few people that put on price tag in their post would pay so much considering how most complain about the price of CableCARD and speciality Media Center's.  On the price subject, I don't think many people understood my point about specs and OEM Media Center Servers.  Just because you can build a low end machine and it works for your four tuners, doesn't mean an OEM can do the same.  Both Microsoft and OEMs put a lot of work into figuring out what is needed, and for a high end server that is going to be at the center of a home you can skimp on anything if you are an OEM and Microsoft.  You can on your home built stuff, but this isn't the same.

A few commented that part of the idea for the server concept would be stablity.  My counter to this is that Media Center needs to be stable no matter what it is running on, and Microsoft should be looking at the concept of running Media Center in a sandbox (or rather, keeping settings and codecs in a sandbox to stop other programs from screwing them up).

I also feel that a lot of comments came back to things that are not in Media Center, mainly Softsled (a software Extender).  This is key to Media Center's future, be it on a standalone server or desktop PC. 

Thanks to all that have commented! Great feedback.

Posted by chrisl | 46 comment(s)

Microsoft Announces Winner of Windows Media Center Ultimate Install Contest

Microsoft selects Imperium Smart Systems of Herriman, Utah, as the winner of the Ultimate Install Contest for its unique deployment of Windows Media Center in a custom home installation.

LONG BEACH, Calif. — Nov. 7, 2007 — Microsoft Corp. today named the winner of its Windows Media Center Ultimate Install Contest. The announcement was made at a Microsoft-sponsored luncheon at the Electronic House Expo in Long Beach. The winning entry, submitted by Tyler Jennings of Imperium Smart Systems LLC, was for a family that was looking for a solution to integrate all their pictures, music, home videos, TV and DVDs into one simple interface. Based in Herriman, Utah, Imperium Smart Systems is a custom electronics design and installation firm specializing in whole-home services and solutions.

“We are honored to be named the winner in this contest,” said Tyler Jennings, president of Imperium Smart Systems. “Windows Media Center is a terrific platform for custom installations, and we worked hard to create a unique, functional and successful deployment to provide our customer with a whole-house entertainment solution that benefits their life.”

A unique opportunity for custom installers, this design contest sought to find the residential custom electronics systems installation business that best utilized Windows Media Center in a custom installation solution. The contest was announced at CEDIA EXPO 2007 to challenge industry professionals to present their most unique and creative installations using media center technology.

Each entry submitted to the contest was judged based on the following criteria:

  • Use of Windows Media Center as primary user interface (UI) for media consumption in room or system (depending on scope of install)
  • Use of Windows Media Center experiences (for example, television, music, video, pictures and DVD library)
  • Integration with other, non-PC consumer electronics devices
  • Ability to create a seamless user experience
  • Creativity and originality

Judged by a panel of Microsoft Media Center experts, the winning entry best captured each of the five criteria. With 12 distributed audio zones and multiple entertainment access points ranging from in-wall touch panels, Xbox360 consoles, televisions and even an Ultra-Mobile PC, the project featured Windows Media Center at the heart of the installation. The homeowner’s experiences embraced numerous categories including management of family’s music, pictures, recorded programming and DVD movie library. In addition, Life|ware home automation software, an add-on to Windows Media Center, enabled the installation to go beyond entertainment to include the family’s management of all of their home systems including lighting, security and surveillance, heating and cooling.

Jennings said, “The homeowners love the technology and love how easy it is to use. The husband has always loved technology, but this is the first time the wife actually feels confident in controlling the technology in her home — thanks to Media Center.”

“We’re extremely pleased to recognize and celebrate the winner of our first annual Windows Media Center Ultimate Install Contest,” said Scott Evans, group manager in the Entertainment and Devices eHome Division at Microsoft. “Imperium Smart Systems’ incredible result serves as a great example of how the creativity and integration capability of professional installers combines with the platform power of Windows Media Center to create the ultimate connected home experience. We’re excited to enable superior home system designers like Imperium to implement and achieve their customers’ visions.”

As the contest winner, Imperium Smart Systems will receive a full photo shoot of the project and both Jennings and his winning installation will be featured on the Resources for Consumer Electronics Installers Microsoft home page, http://www.microsoft.com/ceinstaller. In addition, Microsoft will provide Jennings and a guest with a trip to Microsoft Studios and a weekend vacation package in or near the Seattle area.

First BOCR Details Emerge from Ceton Corp

Bidirectional OpenCable Receiver (BOCR) appears to really be picking up some speed.  I posted a few days ago about Ceton Corp new card that looked to me like a BOCR, and immediately sent off an e-mail trying to get more details.  Unfortunately for me, I haven’t received a reply.  Fortunately for everyone including me, reader Mike did get a reply a few weeks ago and sent me an e-mail with the details!  So, everyone can thank Mike for these details, not me.

On known side of things, this tuner will indeed have M-Card support.  This means you will just need a single tuner and CableCARD in order to tune two channels at once, finally a break when it comes to the overall price of CableCARD PCs!  Bidirectional support has also been confirmed based on the e-mail, so access to On Demand content, PPV, and SDV content shouldn’t be as much of an issue now although for On Demand/PPV we really need to wait for the BOCR specs to see if it will actually be supported within Media Center. 

Update: Ceton will have two tuners.  The first to be released will be an MOCUR or M-Card OCUR.  This adds "multi-tuner" abilities by using M-Card to tune two (or more) channels at once.  Then, they will also have a BOCR as described in the rest of this post.  MOCURs are not bidirectional.

On to the stuff that was not known, OCAP/OpenCable is going to be there.  In other words, the Ceton card will be a true BOCR!

If you have been reading me other post you know that the BOCR specs have not been finalized or really even announced publically by CableLabs at this point.  Because of this, exact features and details of the card are likely to change based on those specs that come out of CableLabs.

In regards to OCAP/OpenCable, one of the most interesting bits of Ceton reply is that their “hardware does support downloadable EPGs; most of which will come in the form of an OCAP application or a plug-in to Microsoft Vista.”  This is where I have the least information, as OCAP is really the pickle in all third party CableCARD devices like Media Center and TiVo.

BOCRs are likely to use a split version of OCAP with part of it running on the BCOR and part running within Windows Media Center.  Because of this, it is going to be very interesting to see how this will impact the platform.  Microsoft submitted .NET to CableLabs a few years ago with the idea that it could be used in-place of Java/GEM for developing OCAP applications.  I don’t know any other details about that side of things or what happened with the proposal, but I’m going to assume that is where OCAP support is going to come from within Windows Media Center.

Everything else with BOCR is likely to work the same way as current OCURs.  You will still need HDMI-HDCP for digital connections to your display; content will still be protected with either WMDRM or Helix DRM which is part of the specs put out of CableLabs; tuners will still be limited to OEM machines unless CableLabs does a complete 180 in the finalized BOCR specs. For OCUR details, see my Vista CableCARD FAQ.

Ceton didn’t provide any details on the release date, but since we now know it is a true BOCR that release will be dictated by CableLabs.  And since CableLabs has not publically announced BOCR or even released revision 0.1 of the specs, I wouldn’t expect to see this tuner anytime soon.  On the plus side (maybe), CableLabs might have something else in store to help bridge the gap.  I’ll have more on this next week.

Very special thanks to Mike!

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