Niveus Media and ADI Serve Up Premium Home Entertainment

Available through ADI,
the Niveus Media Server – Vail Edition provides a no-nonsense, high-performance
entertainment experience.

Milpitas, CA –
December 30, 2008
– Niveus Media has teamed up with ADI to distribute the
Niveus Media Server to custom electronics installers across the country. Now
available at ADI branch locations, the Niveus Media Server – Vail Edition is an
energy-efficient entertainment server designed to store, aggregate, and
distribute HD content throughout the home.

With support for movies, music, photos, and much more in its
slender frame, Vail is packed with advanced technologies to deliver stunning
in-home audio and video reproduction. A CES Innovations 2008 Design and
Engineering Awards recipient, Vail is based on Windows Vista® Home Premium
featuring Windows® Media Center. It is equipped with an optional Blu-ray Disc™
drive, 250GB of storage, and proprietary Niveus technologies including the new
Niveus Movie Library movie management interface!

Through Vail, digital photography and video collections are
securely stored and accessed throughout the home; CD collections are merged
with downloaded audio tracks to create a uniform and all-encompassing music
library; and Blu-ray Disc™, DVD, and digital movies from leading content
providers such as VideoGiants, are aggregated in the Niveus Movie Library, an
attractive and intuitive movie management interface.

As Niveus’ first energy-efficient media server, Vail Edition
offers remarkably low power consumption at less than 180W. Niveus engineers
were able to integrate the industry’s finest components into Niveus’ most
compact media server, at just over 2 inches in height and 17lbs in weight.

Suitable for rack mount installation or living room
placement, Vail is engineered with a silent active cooling design for cool and
quiet (less than 30db noise) performance. For seamless integration into the
home network, Vail is built with the proprietary Niveus ConvergencePanel™
high-performance audio and video ports.

All Vail Editions sold through ADI are bundled with an
exclusive HDGiants content package, including 1 HDNet film and credit towards
the purchase of MusicGiants downloads. Dealers will have the opportunity to
earn recurring revenue on all the content that a customer purchases.

“The ability to store, control and stream High Definition
content has become extremely important, and the Niveus Media Server – Vail
Edition provides an excellent solution to do so,” said RJ Hirshkind, Senior
Product Manager for A/V for ADI. “This technology will help dealers build
advanced home theaters that can manage HD video, music, photos and more.”

For more information, please visit

’08 Disappointments: TV Pack

The biggest disappointment of 2008 has to be Microsoft’s failure
to produce a follow-up release to the RTM release of Vista Media Center.  The TV Pack, which was previously codenamed
Fiji was delayed
well over a year
with no information give by Microsoft as to the reason
why.   Things finally settled down and
Fiji was
released as the TV Pack in August
at CEDIA in September

Of course the disappointments set in a few months early,
and H.264 being dropped
, and then the announcement that Microsoft planned
the TV Pack to be OEM-only.   Then came
some bugs, torrents getting leaked, all around poor communication from
Microsoft, broken third party and first party functionality, and I’m sure you
know the story by now.

Not only was the TV Pack a disappointment, it was nothing
short of a failure.  In my opinion it has
been the worst coordinated project to come out of Microsoft since I’ve had a
chance to cover the company.

Given the long delay and ultimate fate of what became the TV
Pack I wish Microsoft would have just waited or simply released a scaled down
Update Rollup in places like Japan where it added a bit more value.  Luckily the TV Pack functionality will be
rolled into Windows 7 which I’m sure the eHome team was working on concurrently
with the TV Pack anyway.  To those not
running the TV Pack, I’d just write it off and wait for Windows 7 to bring a
more stable and polished product.

The TV Pack has been a huge disappointment of 2008.

‘08 Disappointments: Xbox IPTV

2008 was going to be the year of IPTV, and while AT&T and
Verizon (actually QAM) have made great strides in the IPTV marketplace, Microsoft hasn’t done
much to push what was promised on their end (Note: Microsoft powers AT&Ts
IPTV DVRs).  Of course the prime example
here is the concept of using your Xbox
360 as an IPTV DVR

The concept had been thrown around online for some time, but
at CES 2008 Microsoft made it official and announced they were working with BT in
the UK to bring the functionality to life
That’s about the last time I heard anything on that subject.  I’m not sure if the service never launched
with BT, but to say the concept has been anything but a failure would be
pushing it.

AT&T is still the only [major] US provider using Microsoft’s
MediaRoom IPTV software, which means they are just about the only option for
this concept coming to life in the US.  I
don’t see the concept that appealing for IPTV providers (I
actually said it would flop in Nov ‘07
), but it will be interesting to see
if CES 2009 brings anything about Xbox and IPTV back into the spotlight.

Embedded Automation Updates mPanel, Adds RadioRA Support

Embedded Automation keeps adding significant value to their
mControl home automation software.  Just
this month just have added support for Lutron RadioRA
and HACS AB8SS Speaker Switch Box
, released a new mControl
driver for remote control of their mPanel in-wall touchscreen
, updated
their mPanel Software
which includes new digital media and digital control
capabilities, and showed mPanel
running other HA software applications

RadioRA is a big addition to mControl and might represent
things to come for Embedded Automation. 
Up until now mControl has mainly been limited to control of lower end
lighting control systems.  These systems
(Z-Wave, INSTEON, X-10) are fine for the DIYer, but RadioRA joins CentraLite, LiteTouch,
and UPB which were released a few months ago on the big higher end side of

Anyone using mControl with a higher end lighting control
system?  Is there an additional platform
you would like to see Embedded Automation support?

Short Bits: SideShow Remote, Big Screen Savings, Video Testimonial Program, More

Ricavision is officially dead now, but Phillips
is sort-of taking their place with the SRM7500 SideShow Remote

Hardly the eye candy that the Ricavision was, but at least it is shipping with
a much lower price tag.  Clear downside here is the screen which will
limit functionality.

The Holidays are here and that means deals for you on Media
Center plug-ins.  Up
until January 15 you can save up to 40% off on Big Screen applications.

Speaking of deals, how about getting a free DV cam? 
Microsoft has launched their Media Center
Consumer Video Testimonial Program at The Green Button
(you need to be logged into your TGB account to see this).  Microsoft
will send you a $140 Flip Camera (not sure about model, but my guess is this one)
for you to make a quick 2 minute video about your life using Media
Center.  You send them the video on CD/DVD along with the camera back, and
they send you a brand new Flip Camera for you to keep!

NCTA says there are officially 374,000 CableCARDs deployed
in third party devices (eg. TiVo, Media Center, HDTVs, etc).  You can
compare that to the 9.76 million CableCARDs deployed in the boxes leased by
Cable Providers.

Niveus Media And HDGIANTS Team Up To Deliver Premium Movie Collections

Niveus dealers and consumers can now purchase HDGIANTS’
movie collections for playback on any Niveus Media Server.

Milpitas, CA – December 22, 2008 – Niveus Media is teaming
up with HDGIANTS to bring collections of the industry’s best movies to Niveus
customers. HDGIANTS is committed to offering premium digital content that
maximizes the capabilities of the Niveus Media Server and new Niveus Storage
Server – Cargo Edition, to deliver an unparalleled entertainment experience.
The collections are available in packages of 50 or 100 titles and include
top-rated films from major movie studios.

“HDGIANTS gives customers easy access to large collections
of high-quality audio and video content which helps Niveus and its dealers
demonstrate the increasing flexibility and performance of the Niveus
Entertainment System,” states Tim Cutting, Niveus Media CEO and Co-founder.
“Through its relationships in the movie industry and its commitment to
maintaining the integrity of the original audio and video productions, HDGIANTS
has developed a niche in the market and has created an engaging and viable
solution for our customers.”


HDGIANTS acquires the highest quality masters from premier
studio partners in order to provide customers with supremely engaging in-home
video playback. When loaded onto a Niveus Media Server, HDGIANTS’ Collections
demonstrate the encompassing functionality of the Niveus Media Server and the
new Niveus Movie Library, a proprietary movie management interface which
aggregates and displays all movies complete with high-res cover art and
detailed metadata. HDGIANTS’ movies are integrated with the customer’s entire
movie collection and are accessible via the Niveus Media Server or connected
Media Center Extender, creating a seamless and unified, whole-home movie
management experience.

“HDGIANTS is committed to supporting our hardware partners
and their custom installers and we consistently work on creating content
packages that help drive sales and increase their profit margins,” says Scott
Bahneman, CEO of HDGIANTS. “The Niveus demo movie collections are a perfect
example of a tool that equips dealers with a successful way to showcase a
high-end entertainment solution and sell more home theater installations.

As Niveus continues to enhance movie integration with the
increasing functionality of the Niveus Movie Library movie management interface
and availability of HDGIANTS’ premium movie packages, it has become essential
to offer a robust storage solution that can house a user’s expansive HD movie
collection. The Niveus Storage Server – Cargo Edition, available with up to
16TB of scalable storage, enables secure storage of thousands of movies,
complete with expanded metadata and high-resolution cover art. HDGIANTS content
stored on the Cargo Edition can be accessed via the attached Niveus Media
Server or connected Media Center Extenders.

Additionally, with each movie collection purchased for use
on a Niveus Media Server, HDGIANTS will include a $75 music sampler including
audio tracks from today’s most renowned musicians, allowing the customer to
experience Niveus’ high-fidelity audio output and elegant music interface.

As an added bonus to dealers, HDGIANTS plans to
automatically enroll participating Niveus Authorized Dealers in its dealer
program, which promises recurring revenue on all content that a customer

Featuring hit films from the last 40 years, the HDGIANTS’ 50
and 100 movie packages are now available. For more information, please visit

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.


HDGIANTS delivers high definition entertainment directly
into the living room through its proprietary content delivery platform. Our HD
MediaStore™ is integrated into top media servers for convenient delivery of HD
movies, music and other digital media. HDGIANTS is the perfect companion for
home audio and video systems and anywhere else that high quality content
matters. For information on HDGIANTS, visit

Linksys: “No Plans for Models to Replace” DMA2100/DMA2200

Silly me, I figured the fire sale on Linksys
DMA2100 and DMA2200 Extenders
over the past two months might indicate them
getting ready to drop a new hardware revision on us, but sadly that doesn’t
appear to be the case.  Consumer Electronics
Daily is reporting that Cisco (eg. Linksys) “has no immediate plans” to replace
the two Extender SKUs.  Cisco did note
that a firmware update would likely be the next step.  When that update drops or what is included
remains to be seen.

The DMA2100 has sold for a low of $59 at a few week ago.  The average
price now is about $125, which is nothing to turn up your nose at (unless they
drop to $59 again).  Isn’t it amazing how
the drop to a reasonable price seems to get more people on board with Extenders (hint,
)?  How many of you purcahsed an
Extender because of the recent sales?

What issues does Linksys need to focus
on for their (hopefully) upcoming firmware update?

Okoro Media Unleashes Intel i7 Core Media Centers

Okoro Media Systems, manufacturer of digital entertainment systems for the high
end audio video market, is pleased to announce the availability of the Intel’s
new i7 Core processing technology to our high-end 2009 Digital Entertainment
Systems. Keeping with our mission of bringing the latest in cutting edge
technology, our i7 Core series machines will continue to bring unprecedented
3-D gaming performance and will provide better performance for streaming movies,
and music to multiple zones.
“Our customers expected us to push the envelope with systems that can provide
the greatest performance when they are playing the latest Blu-ray movies in
1080p with TrueHD audio, while recording multiple HD channels and extending
content to multiple zones. With the integration of Intel’s i7Core  technology in our  line of premier Digital Entertainment
Systems, we can provide our customers with unparalleled video performance.”
says Christopher Curry VP of Sales and Marketing.
The following systems are based on Intel i7Core technology:
The upcoming
RK200 & RK300

During this 2008 festive season, Okoro Media Systems wants to make your
holidays even brighter with some complimentary gifts to enhance your Digital
Experience. We want to help you with those “Stocking Stuffers”.
With every purchase of a BX series or system that is upgraded with a Blu-ray
player we will add the critically acclaimed box office smash hit – The Dark
Knight Blu-ray movie to your order, as a gift from us.
We want to continue the gift giving by adding an additional 5% promotional
reduction to the listed MSPR price of the following OMS Models: TH550, BX300,
BX100, GX300, GX100, and ZX100.

The complimentary Blu-ray movie Batman- The Dark Knight and the 5% discount
will be valid until Sunday, January 11th, 2009.

For more information, please contact Okoro Media Systems at 877-539-4788 or

Can DISH Network One-Up DIRECTV?

Now that we are fairly certain that DIRECTV
will not ship with Windows 7
, the big question remains to be will DISH
Network?  Around the time the TV Pack
started beta testing, I did
hear that some testers had been contacted about testing DISH Network Tuners
and that talk has popped back up in the past few weeks.

Going under my theory that Microsoft has all the plumbing
in-place for DIRECTV support, there is no reason that same framework can’t work
for DISH Network.  If DISH Network wants
to make a Media Center tuner, they can using this framework, and they might have already.

Looking around, their are some other hints about the possible DISH Network Tuner.  Ben’s photos of the eHome Lab show Windows 7
running with a branded Start Menu saying “TV with DISH Network.”  In addition to that, several people, including
Dave Zatz
have brought up the possibility that the unmarked white box in the photo below is a DISH Network tuner. 
Of course, the tuner being in Microsoft’s Lab means nothing as Microsoft as
evidenced by the suspended DIRECTV HDPC-20 tuners also present.

(Photos via Engadget

Back to the framework which I believe is complete to ship
with Windows 7, here is something Microsoft showed at WinHEC.  That is premium Pay-Per-View TV being ordered via Media
Center.  We know that’s not from
a CableCARD as tru2way tuners don’t have any specs from CableLabs yet.  It chould be DIRECTV, but considering that Channel
510 happens to fall in the range of DISH Networks PPV
and most PPV content
on DISH Network happens to be $4.99, there is a good possibility you are looking
at working PPV via a native DISH Network Tuner.


So, should you jump and switch to DISH Network because of
this?  I wouldn’t suggest it.  Should you keep checking back to see when we
get more details?  I’d suggest it.  I’m a DIRECTV customer, so even if this DISH
Network tuner is real I likely wouldn’t be testing it.  That said, I’m looking forward to see what
happen with this.  Given DISH Networks TurboHD package for
has every channel I’d ever watch, and the fact I can get ATSC HD
using an antenna in Media Center saving me from having to add HD Locals to the
package, DISH Network does look like a good deal if I could get a native Media
Center tuner.

DIRECTV and Microsoft: What Went Wrong

Now that DIRECTV has suspended development on their HDPC-20
Tuner where does that leave us?  There
are a lot of differing opinions going around about why DIRECTV canned the
tuner, whose fault it is, and where do we go from here.  Most people are pointing the finger at
Microsoft, and with their history of releases how could you not?  This doesn’t mean however that Microsoft is
totally at fault, but let’s look at the whole situation to see how we got


– Microsoft and DIRECTV announce partnership to “develop new ways to expand the reach of
digital music, television and movies throughout the home and to portable
  Nothing is said
specifically by either party about a Media Center tuner.

– Microsoft employee Sean Alexander says “In the future (timing wasn’t discussed), you’ll be able to have an
installer come out and install a DirecTV tuner into your Media Center PC and
get your local channels complete with DVR.”
This however, was not an official Microsoft statement.

– We really start asking for information about the assumed DIRECTV
Tuner. does Q&A with
DIRECTV at CES, DIRECTV says “Still in
progress, internal beta testing”
when asked about HTPC Tuner cards.  Confirmation that a tuner card is in the

– Microsoft states in an online job posting that they are “working with newly developed dual satellite
for the next Media Center release.

– CES comes around again and gets a flyer from the CES
floor for the HDPC-20.  This is the first
official confirmation that the tuner exists. 
CES attendees hear information about the public unveiling of the tuner
to be scheduled later at CES.  This
didn’t happen however, leaving several people confused.  No one from Microsoft or DIRECTV is talking
now.  DIRECTV had the flyers to give out
at the show, so something happened that caused either Microsoft or DIRECTV to
back out of the public announcement.

– Top Media Center OEM Niveus Media now lists “HD Satellite” tuner option on their website with “TBD  (To be determined)” availability.

– Microsoft started sending out e-mails for the Fiji (codename for
TV Pack) beta program.  Several leaks
happened around this time including an e-mail asking select beta participates
for information about their DIRECTV account.

– Fiji beta testers leak more information including DIRECTV and
H.264 support being pulled from the release. 
It is suggested
by some in the beta
that they never received tuners from DIRECTV.

– It is reported that Microsoft will be releasing a second Media
Center update in 2008 with nothing to backup the statement.  The proposed purpose of the second update was
to add H.264 and DIERCTV support.  This
didn’t happen.

– Subscription news service Consumer Electronics Daily (CED)
reports that Microsoft “continues to
look at ways
” to make the tuner happen and that news will be announced
at “the appropriate time.” 
DIRECTV made no comment in the article.

November 2008 – Ed Bott finds
a driver for the HDPC-20 in the PDC build of Windows 7.

– Microsoft invites several bloggers and journalists to tour the
eHome Labs (no, I wasn’t invited).  Ben
Drawbaugh scores pictures of the DIRECTV HDPC-20 working in Microsoft’s Labs.

– DIRECTV e-mails several in the community to tell us that DIRECTV
has “suspended the development of the
HDPC-20 tuner…after assessing the impact of missing the August 2008 release of
Windows Media Center update [Fiji, TV Pack] and considering timing of the next

Talking a Step Back

The big question now is what does all of this mean and who
is at fault.  Let’s explore a few things

Microsoft is a software company; they don’t make hardware
(generally speaking).  Microsoft’s main
goal is to produce various software frameworks so that other companies can come
in and produce hardware to work with their platform.  I’d actually say that this is the reason
Microsoft has been successful as a company, but it is also their largest fault.

Anyway, Microsoft makes software and third parties make
hardware (and most of the time drivers to go with this hardware).  Seeing as Microsoft is going to produce the
software aspect of this DIRECTV Tuner, it means they want to produce a common
framework to allow third parties to integrate a number of different things into
their Media Center platform.  I’ve gone
over this time and time again, but to refresh I’m talking about things like
H.264, Pay-per-view order, content protection, etc.  DIRECTV on the hand has to make the hardware
(or contract it out) to pair with Microsoft’s software framework.

DIRECTV has suggested that they are suspending develop of
their hardware because of the impact of H.264/DIRECTV support not shipping in
the TV Pack and the wait until the next release. (Windows 7, highly publicized to
have a 2009 ship date)

DIRECTV-less TV Pack,
whose fault?

This is a bit hard to answer because outside of DIRECTV and
Microsoft no one really knows.  What we
do know (or rather, think we know) is that Microsoft had plans of shipping
DIRECTV support in the TV Pack as evidenced by the beta e-mails.  We also know (or think we know), that neither
Microsoft nor DIRECTV shipped tuner to beta testers.  Microsoft then cut H.264 and “subscription-based
satellite TV support” before the TV Pack ship date.  Notice they never said they cut DIRECTV

The main thing we don’t know here is why beta testers
reportedly didn’t get tuners.  Hundreds
of options here, but here are three main ones.

  • Possibility that DIRECTV
    didn’t have stable hardware/drivers
  • Possibility that Microsoft
    had issues with H.264 support in the TV Pack
  • Possibility that Microsoft
    had issues with other software aspects in the TV Pack
  • Possibility that Microsoft
    and DIRECTV are fighting like kids about something

There are various possibilities about why beta testers might
not have been shipped tuners and why support was cut from the release.  I don’t think you can make a clear judgment
about who was at fault knowing what we do.

On the Road to
Windows 7

Given on how Microsoft operates, we knew that the next
chance for DIRECTV support was in Windows 7. 
Microsoft doesn’t push out Media Center updates to add functionality
months after a major release.  Things were
now looking good for Windows 7 DIRECTV support, at least from the outside.  CED published reports saying DIRECTV and
Microsoft are still working together, and Windows 7’s projected release date
keep moving up.

Ed Bott finds the drivers in the Windows 7 build, and then
Ben gets pictures of the tuners in the lab. 
We are all thinking that Windows 7 with DIRECTV is a-go.  DIRECTV then says they are “suspended development” of the tuner and
points to the conflicts with the TV Pack as a prime reason along with the “timing of the next [Media Center] release.”


Lets say Microsoft and
DIRECTV missed the TV Pack ship date, again we really don’t know why.  In the e-mail statement DIRECTV is basically
implying that they are done with their part and just waiting on Microsoft.  Is this really the case?  I fully believe that Microsoft had 90% of the
software framework in-place to ship with the TV Pack.  In fact, if you look in your RTM TV Pack
registry you can find some DIRECTV bits hiding pretty well.

If DIRECTV was ready and willing to release their tuners,
why cut the project after all your initial expensive and development?  The tuners seem to be real, and if it was
Microsoft who screwed up the TV Pack you would think that DIRECTV is sitting on
a near finished product waiting for Microsoft. 
DIRECTVs enginners can jump back on a new project and leave their
efforts intack for Microsoft to start Windows 7 beta testing (which is
basically 6 months after the TV Pack release).

I’m thinking that DIRECTV might not be a clean in this whole
ordeal as some might think.

DRM, Doubtful to

Whenever there is a hold-up on a product like this the first
thing in peoeple’s mind is that Microsoft is DRMing it up and thus causing
massive delays.  Considering CableLabs
approved Windows Vista with their very strict content protection guidelines I
think it would be a huge stretch to think that Microsoft was holding up the
project in this way.  Their system
already works, and has been for two years (mostly, DRM might actually be too
protective given the bugs).

It has been suggested to me that DRM might be to blame
because DIRECTV offers service outside of the US.  I was personally expecting to see the DIRECTV
Tuner be US-only, but if it was international this would be a contract issue
between DIRECTV and their content providers.

Who needs who?

Media Center is hardly the platform it should be, and
DIRECTV might have misevaluated the commercial need of such a tuner.  It is also possible that their DIRECT2PC,
TiVo partnership, and their own Multi-room Viewing features could be playing
into things (along with the economy).

Microsoft has no leverage here.  They have a platform that hasn’t lived up to
expectations of any market and they have to be pleading with broadcaster
providers to help them save their platform.

Maybe DIRECTV has come to the conclusion that there focus
should be elsewhere.  Of course, if it
turns out that DIRECTV was not prepared to ship with the TV Pack this is a
godsend for us users.  I want a stable
platform, and with DIRECTV in charge of hardware/drivers for this they need to
have their heart in the game before I want to play.

argues that DIRECTV
only released a statement because they want to downplay
expectations about the tuner.  I don’t
follow the concept because DIRECTV has no visible reason to do any sort of
damage control.  This is where Microsoft
should have stepped in, but alas has failed to do.  When/if Microsoft makes a statement (which
they need to), it will likely be very simple and there is a good chance it will
not mention DIRECTV by name.

As far as I know, Microsoft’s framework is done for third
parties to integrate DVB-S tuners into Media Center.  What third parties (eg. DIRECTV) do at that
point is largely up to them.  The only
thing I’ve been told by Microsoft is that when two companies are involved they
can’t say anything.  NDAs are play there
just as they would be in any business partnership.

Bottom Line

I firmly believe both companies at a fault, but Microsoft
will always take the most abuse because they can’t seem to conjure up a good
Media Center release.  This is not
DIRECTVs platform falling apart before our eyes, it is Microsoft’s.

Given that I think the framework is there, we might see
other providers step up to the plate and offer solutions.  I strongly suspect others have like projects
in development, but then again so does did DIRECTV, so I guess we have to wait
for an official word at this point.