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.