That’s A Wrap

Media Center and Windows 7 enter a new era this Fall. The new version unshackles Media Center from it’s old draconian locked down model and suggests to users to integrate the Media Center lifestyle into their existing lives. Tonight’s press conference answered many questions/desires of those who already appreciate Media Center’s fine package.

  • Finally cable subscribers will be able to put premium channels into an existing PC setup. This is good news as users previously had to by a computer blessed by the manufacturer (ie way more expensive
  • Cable systems having been converting channels over to SDV delivery in order to save bandwidth. What this meant is that systems involving anything but standard cable boxes were losing the ability to tune these channels. As expected ATI will issue a firmware upgrade for their CableCARD tuners so existing customers can tune these channels
  • DRM previously restricted users to watching recorded shows only on their own Media Center systems. With the ensuing update customers will be able to move shows recorded on most channels over to their laptop for beach trips, to portable devices, and to other hardware.
  • Microsoft is allowing users to add many, many more tuners to their systems than ever before. In Vista, one could record/watch up to four channels at once. Windows 7 offers the ability to add many, many more. Kevin, one of the presenters, said that he is currently using 13 tuners and 6 extenders in his current Windows 7 setup.

While Microsoft answered many questions tonight, they left many unanswered:

  • What is the future for extenders? Do they really think that we are going to put XBox 360s in our kitchen?
  • What role does the ZuneHD play in the future of Media Center?
  • When and how are SDV integration going to occur.
  • Will there be a remote guide application?
  • Will there be Netflix integration into Windows 7?
  • Can users form Live Mesh pools to share recorded content?

Perhaps some of these and many more questions will be answered before the release of Windows 7 (Oct 22), or even sooner (like, when I read the press materials they just dumped in my lap!)

No celebs on hand, and the press conference was brief and hit simple high points, but it appears that Microsoft has made some excellent moves to get computer-centric television and media consumption closer to a reality for normal families.

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