An inside look at Media Center TV Pack

I’ve been working on this story for about a month and finally finished it today for weekend reading at ZDNet. If you’re a Media Center enthusiast, you’ll definitely want to read this one. Here’s a quick preview:

Of all the features included with Windows Vista, Media Center is unique. The Media Center application is built into the Home Premium and Ultimate editions of Vista, which means it’s on at least three out of every four PCs sold at retail today. Its predecessor, Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, was the default installation for most consumer PCs for more than two years as well. Together, that means Media Center is installed on as many as 200 million PCs worldwide.

But the Media Center feature set runs deep, offering high-end capabilities that appeal strongly to digital media enthusiasts. That enthusiasm has inspired some passionate communities, the largest of which is The Green Button, a community site with more than 112,000 registered members. (The Green Button was recently acquired by Microsoft, but its management and independent character have remained unchanged.) Down Under, the Australian Media Center Community boasts more than 11,000 members, and other large Media Center communities exist in Europe and Asia.

You can identify TV Pack by this updated version number, 6.1.1000.18273With all those passionate users, you’d think that a trip to The Green Button and other community sites would be a Media Center lovefest. Guess again. These days, the community is spending much of its energy complaining, loudly, that Microsoft is ignoring its wishes and moving too slowly with Media Center development. The volume kicked up to 11 after Microsoft announced the release to manufacturing of its Windows Media Center TV Pack (formerly code-named “Fiji”) and acknowledged that it would be officially available only on new systems sold through OEMs.

I’ve been digging into that story for the past month or so, including some hands-on tests of the TV Pack running in Windows Vista. In the gallery that accompanies this post, I have an in-depth look at the TV Pack in operation. In this post, I want to focus on the disconnect between the Media Center development team and its community.

Go read the rest: TV Pack headaches reveal Microsoft’s Media Center dilemma

There’s an image gallery, too:

Inside the Windows Media Center TV Pack

I’ll have more details on the hardware in this system, hopefully tomorrow.

4 thoughts on “An inside look at Media Center TV Pack

  1. In New Zealand it’s impossible to watch digital TV with MCE as the NZ standard “Freeview” uses H.264.

  2. If only Microsoft would fix some bugs in their public SDK so that third party plugins like DVRmsToolbox, webguide, and Lifextender could get updated to support the TV Pack and .wtv extension.


  3. Having been a WMC enthusiast since the beginning, I’m over it now – the TV pack fiasco as a result of the arogance of MS’ senior people was the last straw.

    MS need to wake up and see the HUGE development going on by their competitors, not just linux platforms either, but when XBMC for Windows takes hold and will no doubt provide liveTV functionailty one day – VMCs days will be over – and that’s crazy since they were the first and best for so long – what a screw up!

    BTW Ed, the aussie media center site has 60,000 members noy 11,000

  4. I disagree with the main premise of this story. Although I agree that there’s been a communication breakdown I don’t think this is the main problem with the TV Pack.

    As you note, Microsoft claim that the TVP2008 was largely designed to add long-overdue features for non-US users. I live in the UK and VMC is currently missing basic DVB-T features that are available on a £30 STB. However, MS’s decision to only release to OEMs completely undermines the whole point of this release. Apart from the fact that they’re not getting the fixes and new features out to existing users did you see a single OEM that has a presence outside the US touting TVP2008 at CEDIA? No. Once again, the US-centric nature of the eHome team has let down the people that this release was intended for.

    In terms of communication, MS certainly gave the impression that Fiji would be publicly available by constantly referring to it in the forums at the Green Button over the last year or so. If they made the decision to restrict it to OEMs early on they should have made that clear from the outset. Also, as you note only a small number of specialist OEMs have mentioned that they’ll release TVP2008. Therefore, as the number of users who will ever get this legally is miniscule (and restricted to the US) you have to wonder why MS even bothered telling people about it.

    IMO, MS should have committed to non-OEM only updates once Media Center went mainstream with the release of Vista. What’s the point of getting it out to users and then telling them that they can’t have the features that it is lacking. Also, your point about the large install base is moot considering that the software is probably only used by a small number of enthusiasts anyway. After all, Wordpad ships on every version of Windows but I doubt anyone would miss it if it was scrapped in Windows 7.

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