VidaBox RoomClientHD Supports Blu-ray & DVD Streaming in Full 1080p

New VidaBox RoomClientHD™ supports Blu-ray & DVD streaming in full 1080p with HD audio support – all in a miniature, palm-sized package


Westbury, NY - September 29th - VidaBox is proud to announce the new RoomClientHD™, a 2″ tall, palm-sized media extender that provides Blu-ray & DVD streaming support for full 1080p and lossless audio codecs.  Designed to be easily hidden behind any HDTV, this breakthrough extender allows any room to get instant, on-demand access to any content stored on a VidaBox media server.


“We’re thrilled to finally offer an ultra-compact Blu-ray extender that dealers and customers alike have been asking for,” says Steven Cheung, President of VidaBox LLC.  “Current Blu-ray players & extenders are the size of typical DVD players or set-top boxes, and may have slight unpleasantries like fan noise that stopped many installers from putting the equipment directly in the viewing area.  By combining advanced hardware design and our in-depth experience with Blu-ray streaming, we’ve been able to create the RoomClientHD, answering the prayers of integrators and customers alike.


Blu-ray streaming starts with a VidaBox server, such as the new RACK24 system with up to 22.0TB of storage, where thousands of DVDs and hundreds of Blu-rays can be stored.  From here, extenders like the RoomClientHD can be installed to pull the content via standard CAT5e/6 cabling.  No complicated setup needs to be done, as the extenders are preconfigured to automatically detect the VidaBox server on the network, making multizone installs a plug-n-play process.


“With only a 6″ x 6″ footprint, installers can cleverly hide the 2″ tall RoomClientHD behind most HDTV panels,” exclaims Cheung.  “With hardware support for full 1080p and new HD audio codecs like DTS-HD and Dolby TrueHD, the RoomClientHD sets a new standard for high-end media extenders that provide a full set of features without any compromises in quality or experience.”


The RoomClientHD is available now, and comes with an option for a built-in Blu-ray disc drive for convenient local playback.  For more details and specifications on the RoomClientHD™ and VidaBox’s comprehensive line of media servers, extenders, and complete entertainment and control solutions, please visit the company website at http://www.vidabox.com, or see them at International CES in the North Tower Suite H22-121!


About VidaBox LLC


VidaBox LLC is a digital entertainment and controls solutions company focused on manufacturing premium media centers, integrated home control & automation solutions.  VidaBox is on a mission to create user-friendly, stable high-performance Media Center systems that work right out of the box and integrate seamlessly with multizone audio and smart home technologies.  For more information, visit www.vidabox.com or call 1-516-730-7500.

Niveus Brings Unified Search To Windows Media Center

Easily search through entire media catalogues and select Internet content utilizing the unified Niveus Search tool, now available for download.


Milpitas, CA – September 26, 2008 – Niveus Media, Inc. announces beta availability of the new unified Niveus Search, which enables easy retrieval of content accessible across the local network and Internet. The patent-pending Niveus Search offers Windows Vista ® Media Center users an easy-to-use, 10’ interface that provides an all encompassing scan of both the Media Center and Internet sources.


No longer do Media Center users have to scroll through lengthy catalogues trying to locate a certain movie, TV program, song, etc. Utilizing the unified Niveus Search yields visual results of the electronic program guide, recorded TV, music, photos, videos, and web-based content, from sources such as Netflix, Flickr, and Live365 Internet radio. Additionally, for the less decisive that aren’t sure what to watch or listen to, by entering keywords of interest, Search will return a number of related results from across its sources.


Accessing and using the Niveus Search tool is simple and can be easily accomplished with the use of only a remote control. By selecting “New Search” via the Search icon on the Windows Media Center strip, users can enter keywords with the remote control (T9) or the onscreen keypad. Search then reveals results in a compelling gallery, with cover art, movie posters, icons, pictures, or other supported visual formats. The user can then click play, slideshow, or schedule a recording based on the type of result(s) returned. Previous searches can be found through a Previous Searches icon on the Media Center menu.


Now available via the Niveus Software Labs webpage, Niveus Search is being released as beta for all Windows Vista Media Center users for an undetermined amount of time to gather feedback, field results, and suggestions. Niveus will continue to release improvements to Niveus Search beta via the Niveus Software Labs and intends to release a production version of Niveus Search to the Windows Media Center community when ready. Niveus Search will be supported by the user community in the new Niveus Software Labs Forum. A gallery of screenshots can be viewed through the Niveus Software Labs by selecting the screenshots tab.


For more information, please visit www.niveusmedia.com.


About Niveus Media


Founded in 2003, Silicon Valley based Niveus Media, Inc. manufactures award-winning media server hardware and software solutions, optimized to manage all HD entertainment in multi-zone applications. With the most advanced media servers, storage servers, proprietary software and service technologies, Niveus revolutionizes the aggregation, distribution, and enjoyment of today’s digital media.

Cannon PC Selling Standalone Internal/External Digital Cable Tuners

For the longest time SonyStyle.com was the only place that you would buy standalone Digital Cable Tuners.  However a month or so ago Sony pulled out of the market and only started selling refurbished tuners at a discount.  However, most of those refurbs didn’t ship with a power supply, adding additional cost and headaches for buyers trying to find someone at Sony who cared or knew what CableCARD was.


With Sony’s exit Cannon PC now aims to fill the void left by Sony by offering both internal and external Digital Cable Tuners online for $300 and $315 respectfully.  The usual disclaimers apply about them only working with CableCARD-ready PCs, but this should give HP and Dell owners a nice choice for purchasing extra tuners.

Microsoft Taking Media Center to Headless Appliances’

I’ve just gotten a tip from a very reliable source that Microsoft is looking to take Media Center off the desktop and turn it into a CE appliance.  The only information that I have is that it is planned to be a headless device of some sort.  Other details are very scarce at this point with no timeline to speak of, but I’ve been assured that Microsoft is actively working on such a project.


Is the Home Server “Media Center UI integration” that I just said wouldn’t happen the start of this project?  Does it even have anything to do with Windows Home Server?  Might Softsled be making an appearance in this all?  Maybe that technology they got from WebGuide?  I have no idea, because clearly such a product would go against everything I’ve ever said about Media Center.


So, I’m a bit shocked that Microsoft is looking to do anything like this.  For years I have been saying that such a device would fail in the market due to its un-doubtable high cost in comparison to other CE devices like TiVo’s and the $10/month cable/satellite DVR.


Media Center’s number one problem has been failing to define itself in the market.  Enthusiasts and power users want features not currently provided by Media Center, most of which Microsoft has shown little interest in actually implementing, and they want it at the smallest price possible.  The high-end custom install channel wants the same things, but are willing to pay as much as they need to in order to get the features.  Then the rest of the world doesn’t know that Media Center exists, and even if they did they want it at a price lower than what enthusiasts and power users are willing to spend.


Thoughts and opinions?  I’m not going to ask what you would pay for such a device, rather what do you think your Mom would pay?  I’ve established in the past that enthusiasts and power users want such a device and therefore might be willing to pay for it, but what about your Mom or other “average” users?  Keep in mind that if this is a headless device, you have to factor in Extenders for each room you actually want to watch content in.


Looking at this from the outside with no information on what it planned, I still say such a product would fail to reach the mass market.  Now for the enthusiasts, power user, and custom-install channel this could be a great move.  That brings up another question, is Microsoft shifting their focus for Media Center from developing for the “mass market” to developing for enthusiasts, power users, and the custom install channel (Remember their presence at CEDIA)?

Short Bits: Zune WTV Sync, WTV Documentation

Media Center users that own Zune’s can see several places where Microsoft forgot to think things through.  Those with the TV Pack installed have a few more, including the fact that Zune 2.0 software can’t do anything with WTV files.  That has now changed with Zune 3.0 software where WTV syncing officially work.


Speaking of WTV, Microsoft has finally published some documentation on the format.  The document covers handling WTV files with DirectShow (that includes transcoding). (Via The Green Button).

Zune Brings Powerful New Entertainment Features to Every Zune Portable Media Player With Software Release

Internet access provider Wayport enables wireless music downloads for Zune customers in Wi-Fi hot spots at more than 9,800 McDonald’s restaurants.


REDMOND, Wash. — Sept. 16, 2008 — Zune, Microsoft Corp.’s end-to-end music and entertainment service, today released its much anticipated free software update that will bring new features to every Zune portable media player. Revealed last week, the new software will allow Zune users to wirelessly stream and download music from the Zune Marketplace store on the go; tag and purchase songs directly from the built-in FM radio; and tap into new, personalized music recommendations and programming. To allow customers to take full advantage of the new wireless functionality, Zune today announced that it is working with high-speed Internet access provider Wayport Inc. to deliver Zune users free, wireless access to the Zune Marketplace from more than 9,800 participating McDonald’s®restaurants across the U.S.


“Wayport is pleased to be working with Microsoft to make it easier for Zune users to access music on the go,” said Dan Lowden, vice president of business development and marketing for Wayport. “Our ability to enable and manage applications and devices over converged networks creates exciting new opportunities for our clients to attract new customers whose digital lifestyle extends beyond their home and office.”


More Colors and Custom Designs


Zune Originals, the online store designed to let consumers customize their Zune player with laser-engraved art and personal text, now also offers exclusive color combinations. In addition to the recently announced Zune 16 and Zune 120 available in black at retailers nationwide, Zune Originals (http://www.zuneoriginals.net) also will offer the Zune 16 in blue, red, pink and green as an online exclusive. In addition, Zune Originals is refreshing its collection of custom artwork with 14 eye-catching new designs from artists such as Rolito, MWM (Matt W. Moore), Ippei Gyoubu and Aya Kato to give consumers more options to personalize their Zune experience.


The Digital Content Consumers Want


In addition to launching Zune Channels, which push new music to subscribers’ collections each week, and personalized music recommendations, Zune Marketplace also offers editorial features such as the Zune School Music Masters Program and the Xbox Gamer Central pages, as well as Instant Collections playlists to help consumers explore specific themes and genres. Zune Marketplace now offers more than 4 million songs, 80 percent of which are available as digital rights management (DRM)-free MP3s; 8,500 music videos; 3,000 episodes of popular TV shows; and more than 6,000 audio and video podcasts.


Zune customers have a choice in how they acquire music — they can pay per track or choose a Zune Pass subscription. Zune Pass subscribers can download or stream music from their Zune or computer interchangeably, all for a flat rate of $14.99 (U.S.) per month. To give people a chance to experience Zune Pass subscription, Zune is offering a free, 14-day trial to all new customers. More information is available at http://www.zune.net/setup.


Zune also now supports audiobook content from leading distributors including Audible Inc. Zune users can now explore more than 50,000 books, magazines and newspapers from more than 600 publishers and content providers at audible.com and sync it to their Zune. To commemorate the addition of audiobooks, Audible is offering all new and existing Zune owners a free copy of “Black River” by bestselling writer Dean Koontz.


New Software and Firmware


The Zune PC software is a free download that provides rich discovery and media management capabilities to help consumers make the most of their existing music collections in addition to providing access to the Zune Social and Zune Marketplace so they can add to it. To experience new features such as Buy from FM, wireless music downloads, Zune Channels, Picks personal recommendations, games and more, the new Zune PC software and device firmware are available for free download at http://www.zune.net.


Estimated retail pricing for the Zune device is as follows:


  • 120 GB: $249.99 (U.S.)
  • 80 GB: $229.99 (U.S.)1
  • 16 GB: $199.00 (U.S.)
  • 8 GB: $149.99 (U.S.)
  • 4 GB: $129.99 (U.S.)1

More information on Zune and related images is available at http://www.zune.net/press.


About Zune


Zune is Microsoft’s music and entertainment brand that provides an integrated digital entertainment experience. The Zune platform includes a line of portable digital media players, elegant software, the Zune Marketplace online store, the Zune Social online music community created to help people discover music, and the ZuneOriginals.net online media player customization store. Zune is part of Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices Division and supports the company’s software-based services vision to help drive innovation in the digital entertainment space. More information can be found online at http://www.zune.net/en-us/press.


About Microsoft


Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.


1 A limited number of 80GB and 4GB devices remain in the channel, and those remaining will be available at this price.

About that DIRECTV Tuner

Small bits of “news” keep flowing out about the DIRECTV Tuner for Media Center.  The ever optimistic DIRECTV CSRs are promising that the tuner is good to go for a November launch, sadly that isn’t going to happen so don’t get your hopes up.


Once again this is going to be a case of a feature noting getting in your hands until the next Media Center feature release.  The bad news?  That just happens to be Windows 7.  The good news?  PDC is only a month away and I’d expect Windows 7 betas to start making appearances out before the end of the year (note there are several Media Center sessions at PDC).


Possibly a silver lining to the whole subject, Microsoft actually made a comment to someone about the tuner!  CED is reporting that DIRECTV and Microsoft “continue to look at ways” to make the tuner happen and that news will be announced at “the appropriate time.”  The title of the article was “DirecTV, Microsoft Continue Work on Media Center Product.”  DIRECTV weren’t available for comment.

Windows Home Server v2 Media Center Integration? Not So Fast

Long Zheng spotted a good one last week, finding a job posting that implies several things about Windows Home Server v2 including “Time Machine compete UI for backup and restore, Windows Media Center integration UI, Live Mesh integration UI etc..”


Windows Media Center integration UI is clearly the part of it that I’m going to focus on, however I think this might end up being the opposite of what most people think (and want) it to be.  Mainly, “Windows Media Center integration UI” doesn’t have to mean “Windows Media Center UI integration.”  The placement of UI in the sentence makes a huge different.


For example “Windows Media Center integration UI” sounds like a wizard from within Home Server to integrate sharing and backup of Media Center content such as Recorded TV.  “Windows Media Center UI integration” on the other hand would imply Media Center functionality being built into Home Server.


The wording used by Microsoft is “Windows Media Center integration UI” leading me to believe that Microsoft’s focus is not on integrating Media Center directly into Home Server.


I’ve (poorly) argued in the past that while an integrated Home Server+Media Center would be the killer scenario for hardcore Media Center users and geeks, it would do nothing to give Media Center the push it needs in the marketplace.  I also question the backup functionality of Home Server when more and more roles keep getting delegated to it.  Put Media Center functionality in and mix it with backup and remote access and it is almost time for a Home Server to backup my Home Server.


I’m I overanalyzing the “Windows Media Center integration UI” wording?  You still holding out for your Home Sever with Media Center/Extender functionality?

Short Bits: Debug Menus, TV Pack OEMs, Hurricane

I survived Ike without any damage here in Katy, sadly that can’t be said for the rest of the Houston and Galveston areas.


Ever wonder which of your dozen TV tuners is being used to tune the program you are watching?  If you have the TV Pack there is a bit of a hack that you can do in order to find out.  First spotted by Dave at The Green Button, type 411 and then press More Info in order to access Microsoft’s debug menu.


image

A lot of people have been asking about the TV Pack on CableCARD PCs from Dell and HP.  While I have no inside information on the subject, I have doubts that either will be shipping the TV Pack at all.  Media Center is not HP or Dells business, and as it involves creating a new image for their machines I fall to understand why either would bother.  I might be wrong, but I wouldn’t hold out for a Dell or HP with the TV Pack.  If a TV Pack machine is what you are after, you are most likely going to want one of these OEMs.

Media Center SideShow Gadgets RC Gets Extender Support

Early this year it was confirmed that the Media Center SideShow gadgets would support control of Extenders.  However when the first public beta for the gadgets came out Extender support was missing (along with good SideShow devices).  We still really don’t have any good SideShow devices, but Extender support has been made official (hat tip Stuart) for the first time in the Media Center Gadgets for SideShow Release Candidate (RC).


The lack of true Media Center Gadgets is likely the reason Ricavision has slipped shipping their SideShow remote.  Summer 2008 has been noted as their intended release date for months, so it looks like whenever Microsoft finishes the Gadgets then Ricavision will ship.