Read all about the new Media Center TV features you can’t have

Ben Drawbaugh at EngadgetHD has a short but information-rich hands-on look at the Vista Media Center TV Pack (aka “Fiji”). The new features are ideal for someone like me, with multiple CableCARD tuners and multiple over-the-air ATSC digital tuners.


Two much-anticipated features are missing, according to Ben’s report: DirecTV support and H.264 file compatibility. Here’s a partial list of what is included:

  • Native support for clear QAM signals
  • Less stringent DRM, which should allow you to move or copy recorded files from unprotected (non-premium) channels delivered via CableCARD
  • The ability to assign and prioritize individual tuners on a per-channel basis
  • Per-user favorite lists
  • Access to digital subchannels
  • Custom channel numbering

Only trouble is, you and I can’t get the updates, which are currently available only to beta testers in time-bombed versions that will expire this fall. [Update, thanks to Joe in the comments: Mary Jo Foley says the version handed to beta testers will not be time-bombed.] That’s when OEMs will get the new bits to include in Vista Home Premium and Ultimate systems. As far as anyone can tell, the new features will not be available as an upgrade, only with new systems. It’s highly unlikely that it will be available as a System Builder package for do-it-yourselfers, given that CableCARD support is currently available only with new systems from OEMs like Dell and HP.

From a support point of view, this decision makes a lot of sense. From an enthusiast’s point of view, it’s a colossal disappointment.

13 thoughts on “Read all about the new Media Center TV features you can’t have

  1. Very disappointing that this is not available for enthusiast use. And I really want that DirecTV support with the usb dual tuner. Its the only thing I will consider replacing my old DirecTivo box with. I sure don’t want one of those craptastic DirecTV receivers. I’m really hoping they get back together with Tivo and put out a new HD box.

  2. It is a drag that we can’t get them. At least so far. Then I started to read through the comments on that EngadgetHD post. Interesting stuff in there.

  3. I have my fingers crossed on DirectTV for Vista MCE in the next couple years.

    Also, it’d be nice if they could strip out some of the features and provide them as an update. Favorites and a couple other things in that list would be really nice.

  4. This is the same mistake Microsoft made with Media Center in XP.
    Microsoft is screwing over the early adopters of Vista. We should start a petition to fix this horror.

  5. Don’t start a petition – use Apple TV! In a competitive market you don’t get anything by whining with the vendor. You get something by going with the competitor.

  6. Uh, Hubert? What would you like me to do with Apple TV? It lacks 80% of the features that I use Media Center for. So, to punish Microsoft for not giving its customers early access to new features they’ve developed, I should punish myself by cutting off access to features I use and enjoy every day?

    Smart thinking!

  7. I wonder if this update includes a fix for the mcupdate scheduled task that wakes up my computer at 7:00 am each morning. I disable the task and it becomes re-enabled. I change the time and it reverts back to 7:00 am. I’ve unchecked “Wake computer to run this task” and in a few days, it seems to be able to wake up my computer.

    That said, I like the new features in this new version of VMC. I really hope that MS rolls this out as an update to all Vista users.

  8. @Nick B:

    Due to a hardware failure and an Offer I Couldn’t Refuse, this year I ended up replacing my two DirecTivos with DirecTV-branded DVRs. I was really reluctant to do so after seeing all the bodies of bloodied pioneers–but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Many of the early problems are gone. It’s not as slick as Tivo, but it has some real advantages (don’t have to reprogram the 30-second skip after every power hiccup or software update, can schedule recordings from anywhere via web, etc.) and, IMO, only a few disadvantages (chiefly, the inability to easily toggle between tuners).

    And to bring this back on topic…I’m nonetheless really disappointed to hear that the long-rumored DirecTV support has been dropped from Fiji. Although I’m content with the DirecTV box, Media Center would be a nice alternative.

  9. I think you’re missing the point here, Ed. Microsoft has already made it clear that they’d rather serve the interests of the cable industry rather than those of their customers. What you’re writing about today is simply another sad chapter in the behavior of a typical monopolist.
    You don’t change a monopolist by pleading. You change them by giving them competition.

  10. No, I’m not missing the point, Hubert. You’re asking me to give up 80% of the functionality I enjoy today to “send a message” to Microsoft. Sorry, not interested.

    Anyway, this is not about kowtowing to the cable industry, it’s all about the OEMs, who want something that can help them sell hardware and also don’t want the increased burden of support that would come with distributing this update to everyone who owns a VMC-compatible PC, which is probably well over 100 million customers.

  11. 100 million customers who should have the option of getting the update. Microsoft can ship it like they did the XP Powertoys; unsupported and unadvertised. It would at least make the customers who want it happy.

  12. Damit! I thought it was me! I’ve been pulling my hair out trying to get the tam thing to work with my tunner for hours. I never should have upgraded to an alpha release. FCK X(

Comments are closed.