Yes, The Green Button is Having Issues

Microsoft appeared to have fixed one of the issues I was having on the backend, but that fix has caused the entire site to come to its knees with wonderful message like “Value cannot be null. Parameter name: relativeUrl” when attempting to make a new post or reply.  Unfortunantly, since I don’t have direct access to the server there is nothing I can personally do about it.


Sadly since you can’t make a new post or reply, The Green Button will effectively be down until Microsoft can fix the issue.  Ian’s forums on The Digital Lifestyle might be a good overflow forum until Microsoft fixes The Green Button.


Update: Looks like some are having luck posting (I’m not one of them).  Try signing out and then back in.

Microsoft Focuses Media Center Marketing, Platform to Follow

The first sign of a business in trouble is when you must reinvent yourself to stay alive.  Microsoft might not actually be reinventing Media Center, mostly becasue you can’t reinvent something that you never actually defined a market for in the first place, but they are finally attempting to delineate where they see Media Center competing in such a growing marketplace (and that’s not a good thing for most reading this).


Media Center started as a method to watch TV on the PC.  Essentially it was marketed to college students to cut down the number of devices in their dorm.  Then it grew up and Microsoft focused on getting Media Center off the PC and onto the big screen.  Media Center 2004-2005 and Extenders helped drive this concept.  Media Center was the star of CES keynotes of the past focusing on the next-generation home.  Much of this is outlined in the Evolution of Windows Media Center that Microsoft just finished.


The video might have a few hidden messages that are hard to catch, but I think they define Media Center’s future and show that Microsoft has finally attempted to focus on a specific market.


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(Microsoft presented this image at WinHEC)

 “TV on your PC” is Microsoft’s new marketing talk for what Media Center is and does (hear it from Media Center marketing PM Ben Reed here ~30 seconds in) .  Not whole home connected entertainment, not Media Center in your living room, not Extenders, not high-end theaters, but “TV on your PC.”  In other words, the days of Media Center being billed as the do-it-all center of your home are over (except for the custom market).


For the first time, Media Center officially has a market, and while that is good news that Microsoft has finally defined who they are developing for, it is bad news for most reading this post as you can now be sure Media Center will never be the platform you have dreamed of.


Thinking about it, the signs have been developing over the past months.  The lack of Media Center at CES keynote makes perfect sense if it is being billed as just a way to watch TV on your PC.  No need to make a big deal about that.  Microsoft touting touch screen support in Windows 7 half has to do with them putting way to much emphasis on touch in Windows 7 in general, but also helps them show off using a kitchen PC for watching TV on.  Why exactly do I need this in a product that is meant to be controlled with a remote?  This was recently questioned on The Green Button and Engadget HD’s most recent podcast.  Mouse clickable seekbar in Windows 7, yet again a sign of Media Center moving onto the desktop and away from the TV.


I think Microsoft will continue to focus on the CEDIA channel as well, which most likely means my fears of Microsoft developing new cool features that are only available to OEMs is going to come true.  Niveus Media and Exceptional Innovation (Life|ware) will likely see the majority of the attention.  Smaller Media Center OEMs will start to fade away after being ignored by Microsoft who hasn’t grasped the concept that all of the smaller OEMs serve the exact same high-end customers as Niveus and Life|ware (examples include support for 10 Extenders, 8 CableCARD tuners for only Niveus/Life|ware).  I think we will see Microsoft heavily market an appliances-like device to these OEMs (unclear if the functionality will be avaiable to the masses, but I don’t see it marketed to them).


If there is a plus side (hard to think of it as that) to this it would be in the form of much lower expectations.   Hopefully I’m wrong, but this change could end Media Center as we know (or think we know) it today.

Microsoft Loses the Online Content Fight

I shouldn’t actually call it a fight because that implies one actually gave effort, but CES 2009 has shown that Microsoft is effectively out of the race to provide a platform for streaming and downloadable content via the PC.  I say via the PC because the Xbox is still alive and actually putting up somewhat of a fight.


With every major display company now pushing integrated online content embedded or easily attachable to their displays the PC is now becoming irrelevant.  No longer is the concept PC-to-TV, it is Web-to-TV and Microsoft fails to offer compelling products that work under this infrastructure.


Media Center had strong potential to rule the online world.  In 2002 when Microsoft introduced Media Center the Online Spotlight provided a mechanism for content providers to offer 10-foot versions of their streaming services.  As time went on however Microsoft had a difficult time keeping content providers interested with big names like MTV Network pulling content for reasons unknown to anyone but Microsoft.  In late 2007 Microsoft offered up their Internet TV plug-in which scrapped content from their MSN properties.  Then in early 2008 Internet TV got an upgrade that introduced interactive ads, a feature that I thought would give Microsoft a leg up in streaming   Alas, Microsoft has failed to secure any additional web content.  Even Netflix, which is on the Xbox 360 didn’t get ported to Media Center (while unofficial plug-ins fill the gap for users).  Windows 7 hits hard on integration of broadcast and broadband, but that only goes as far as the content you have to offer.


My advice to Microsoft, buy boxee and integrate it into Media Center, Xbox 360, and Zune.  Unless you have some big partnerships in the works (CES would have been a good place to unveil those), your platform is effectively dead for online content delivery (broadcast isn’t looking that hot either).

Media Center Gets Blu-ray, Just Not From Microsoft

I’ve talk about Microsoft and Blu-ray more times than I can count and it never fails I end up saying they will not be the ones to build Blu-ray support in Windows.  My thoughts have officially come true with yesterday’s announcement that Microsoft is outsourcing Blu-ray support in Windows 7 to Cyberlink.


According to the press release, PowerDVD “automatically integrate with Windows Media Center to enable full Blu-ray playback capability on PC equipped with the appropriate hardware.”  The extent of that integration remains to be seen, but I’m hoping for full integration using Media Foundation and PVP (aka real integration).  That’s a lot of wishful thinking on my part, what we will likely end up with is Media Center launching PowerDVD in a Play Movie-esk way.


I guess this is a good start and I’m interested to see what the product will look like but I’m not getting my hopes up too high just yet for it being the perfect solution.

Ceton Gets Official with Industry First MOCUR

Microsoft might not have hit on it in their Media Center-less keynote, but there is one big change getting ready to happen.  Well over a year after it was first spotted, Ceton is out with the news that they will be shipping an MOCUR in 2009 (Via Media Center Blog).


There are a few things that are unique to the Ceton MOCUR over the current ATI OCUR.  The first and most noticeable is the ability to use a single M-Card and tune at up 6 channels.  While most people know that M-Cards can offer multiple streams, not many know they actually can be well above two.  Using a single M-Card and a Ceton MCOUR with add-on tuners you will be able to record up to six shows at once.


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While you will still need a CableCARD Ready PC (sorry, no home built) this tuner will be a welcome change from ATIs.  Ceton will hopefully stay a-top their firmware releases and ship the tuners with that relaxed DRM support that ATI hasn’t bothered to get around to yet.


Sadly, this isn’t a BOCR (tru2way).  CableLabs has still not finished the specs for two-way CableCARD tuners for the PC.  While not noted in the press release, Ceton will hopefully be providing support for SDV Adaptors which CableLabs has said will work with OCURs but that a timeline for support has not been made public.  If SDV support isnt planned on, this tuner will be dead in the water.  I’ve got to believe that Ceton wouldn’t release the tuner at this stage without ensuring SDV support.


Big hat tip to the Media Center Blog

Ceton Announces Development of Next-Generation Cable TV Card for PCs Running Windows Media Center

(Via Media Center Blog)  LAS VEGAS, NV — 01/08/09 – Ceton Corp., a Seattle-area technology company, today announced the development of the next-generation Ceton cable TV card for Windows Media Center-enabled PCs. PCs incorporating the Ceton Multi-Channel Cable TV Card will be able to natively support high-definition pay TV including premium cable TV channels, without the need for a separate cable set-top box, including playing or recording up to six simultaneous high-definition TV channels using a single multi-stream CableCARD(TM) and single RF connection.


The Ceton solution also enables standard- and high-definition cable programming to be securely distributed from a Media Center PC to multiple TVs throughout the home via Media Center Extenders while preserving the encryption and digital rights of the content. The Ceton Multi-Channel Cable TV Card was developed using Microsoft Corp.’s broadcast TV platform capabilities in Windows Media Center and conforms to the CableLabs® OpenCable(TM) OCUR and DRI specifications.


“PCs running Windows Media Center are a great platform for enabling a wide variety of really useful whole-home entertainment options,” said Gary Hammer, president and CEO of Ceton Corp. “The Ceton Multi-Channel Cable TV Card for Windows Media Center-enabled PCs not only brings pay TV functionality of the set-top box inside the PC in an easy-to-set-up and very cost-effective way but it also enables unique capabilities such as whole-home distribution of premium HD TV content with up to six tuner support with a single multi-stream CableCARD.”


“Microsoft is pleased to see Ceton deliver this new hardware solution built on the robust capabilities of Windows Media Center and its broadcast TV platform,” said Geoff Robertson, General Manager of Windows Media Center for Microsoft. “Ceton’s digital cable tuner will bring multi-stream pay TV services to Windows Media Center-enabled PCs and multiple connected Media Center Extenders.”


The Ceton Multi-Channel Cable TV Card for Windows Media Center-enabled PCs is expected to be available bundled with Windows Media Center-enabled PCs from leading manufacturers in 2009.


About Ceton Corporation


Ceton Corporation is a Seattle-area technology company that is developing the next-generation of in-home digital entertainment and communication solutions. Combining stellar hardware and software engineering capabilities with market-making, patent-pending technology, Ceton aims to help unlock the potential of the digital home to unleash a new generation of in-home connected entertainment and communication services for PC and device makers, software developers and consumers. More information about Ceton and its solutions is available at http://www.cetoncorp.com.

CyberLink to Demonstrate PowerDVD with Microsoft at CES 2009

TAIPEI, Taiwan – CyberLink Corporation is pleased to announce that PowerDVD will be utilized by Microsoft Corp. in a demonstration of their newest version of Windows Media Center, for Windows 7. This demo will be shown in the Microsoft booth (7144), in the Central Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Additional demonstrations of the forthcoming version of PowerDVD will be available to PC and Consumer Electronic manufacturers and members of the press by appointment, in CyberLink’s private suite in the Hilton Hotel.


CyberLink has been working closely with Microsoft to support many of the advanced capabilities of Windows 7. PowerDVD Cinema mode has been designed to automatically integrate with Windows Media Center to enable full Blu-ray playback capability on PC equipped with the appropriate hardware. PowerDVD Cinema mode integrates seamlessly with the advanced user experience that Windows Media Center provides and allows consumers to be able to use a remote control to select and watch Blu-ray titles from the comfort of their couch. PowerDVD also provide a great user experience when launched directly from Windows, with new and exciting ways for everyone to browse and enjoy movies and video files on any Windows desktop or laptop PC.


TrueTheater™ HD, one of the new video technology CyberLink will demonstrate in PowerDVD, provides the capability to up-sample videos and transform standard definition video files, or DVD titles into high-definition quality. This would allow users to enjoy DVDs today in high definition quality.


“We are proud that PowerDVD is Microsoft’s choice to support Blu-ray Disc playback for Windows 7,” said Alice H. Chang, CEO of CyberLink. “PowerDVD is the leading DVD, Blu-ray Disc and AVCHD movie player software application, chosen by top-brand PCs and optical disc drives purchased by consumers and businesses around the world. We are excited to demonstrate the smooth integration and the incredible sights and sounds of Blu-ray disc movies for Windows 7 at the coming CES.”

VidaBox Unveils new Products at CES 2009

VidaBox Releases New vPad8, an Enhanced Ultra-Mobile Tablet Designed for Automation


VidaBox LLC, a manufacturer of digital entertainment and control solutions, is proud to present the vPad8™, a thin and light ultra-mobile tablet PC.  Running on Windows XP embedded, it features a full-color touch screen with 800×600 resolution and comes standard with WiFi connectivity, making it an ideal control interface device.


“We’re excited to release the new vPad8™ panel,” exclaims Steven Cheung, President of VidaBox. “This is a smaller, less bulky version of our original vPad10™.  We’ve also added some improvements like a brighter screen for easier legibility in direct light, and optional protective rubber bumpers, making it extremely durable.”


Read Full Press Release


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New VidaBox Touch3.6 Touch Pad Provides Truly Customizable Controls


VidaBox, a manufacturer of digital entertainment and control solutions, is proud to debut the Touch3.6™, a full-color touchpad capable of presenting an interactive, fully-customizable interface.  This 320×234 resolution screen will allow control of any device via RS-232, TCP/IP, IR, and other control protocols through the vAutomation™ platform.


“We’re absolutely thrilled to offer our dealers the new Touch3.6 panel,” exclaims Steven Cheung, President of VidaBox LLC. “Integrators can finally install a double-gang sized panel to control anything in the house – lighting, security, climate, shades, whole house AV, and more.  This is all possible because of vAutomation’s support for customizable interfaces.”


Read Full Press Release


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VidaBox Now Offers Pre-packaged Whole House Audio Solutions with Multi-room Distribution Systems


VidaBox LLC, a manufacturer of digital entertainment and control solutions, is proud to offer complete whole house audio packages.  Based on the VidaBox line of multiroom audio servers, these packages include NuVo® multiroom distribution and amplification equipment.


“These new packages are a natural progression of delivering new features and better value for our dealer base,” states Steven Cheung, President of VidaBox LLC. “Most of our integrators are already using NuVo® and Russound® in their multiroom audio installs.  However, many of them shy away from adding a VidaBox audio server into the mix because of the learning curve, even if it means having new features like internet radio, sleep/wake functions, or whole house audio control from a single TouchClient™ or vPad™ touch panel.  By marrying the two as a complete solution, dealers can get a single package that eliminates setup and installation headaches, since VidaBox takes care of all of the configuration work at the factory.”


Read Full Press Release


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VidaBox Releases new TouchClient8 In-wall PC Touch Panel


VidaBox LLC, a manufacturer of digital entertainment and control solutions, is excited to announce the availability of the TouchClient8™, a full-color, 8.4″ in-wall touch panel with an XP embedded computer.


“From the first day of offering the TouchClient12™, we kept getting asked, ‘Do you have a smaller version?'” says Steven Cheung, President of VidaBox LLC. “As always, we listen intently to our integrators, and created this new, smaller version called TouchClient8™.  It has the same great features & connectivity options of the original design without any sacrifices, just with a smaller, 800×600 native resolution touch screen.”


Like its larger cousin, the TouchClient8™ runs on XP embedded, and has stereo speakers, dual USB, dual Ethernet, and dual RS-232 ports – allowing the possibility of local automation directly from the TouchClient8™.  It only requires a 12V power source & a network connection, or a WiFi network using its built-in 802.11b/g wireless card.  There are no moving parts like fans or hard drives, allowing every TouchClient8™ to enjoy long life and high-reliability.


Read Full Press Release


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VidaBox Releases new TouchClient8 In-wall PC Touch Panel‏

Las Vegas, NV – CES 2009 – January 9-11 – Hilton Suite H22-121 - VidaBox LLC, a manufacturer of digital entertainment and control solutions, is excited to announce the availability of the TouchClient8™, a full-color, 8.4″ in-wall touch panel with an XP embedded computer.


“From the first day of offering the TouchClient12™, we kept getting asked, ‘Do you have a smaller version?'” says Steven Cheung, President of VidaBox LLC. “As always, we listen intently to our integrators, and created this new, smaller version called TouchClient8™.  It has the same great features & connectivity options of the original design without any sacrifices, just with a smaller, 800×600 native resolution touch screen.”


Like its larger cousin, the TouchClient8™ runs on XP embedded, and has stereo speakers, dual USB, dual Ethernet, and dual RS-232 ports – allowing the possibility of local automation directly from the TouchClient8™.  It only requires a 12V power source & a network connection, or a WiFi network using its built-in 802.11b/g wireless card.  There are no moving parts like fans or hard drives, allowing every TouchClient8™ to enjoy long life and high-reliability.


“Installing the TouchClient8™ is quite simple,” continues Cheung, “Every TouchClient8™ comes with its own pre-assembled rough-in box that installs into the wall.  From here, the screen assembly mounts in magnetically, allowing complete installations to take minutes, not hours.”


Another feature carried over from the original design is write-protection of the entire operating system.  When enabled, the solid state drive on the TouchClient becomes impervious to viruses, spyware, and other malware.  Any program installed is automatically wiped upon a restart.  Protection can be disabled by an installer looking to add additional software or tweak the panel’s configuration. Once complete, it can be re-enabled for full protection.


The TouchClient8™ in-wall panels are available now.  For more details and specifications on the entire touch panel line from VidaBox™ and other digital 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.

VidaBox Now Offers Pre-packaged Whole House Audio Solutions with Multi-room Distribution Systems‏

VidaBox now offers pre-packaged whole house audio solutions complete with multi-room distribution systems


Las Vegas, NV – CES 2009 – January 9-11 – Hilton Suite H22-121 – VidaBox LLC, a manufacturer of digital entertainment and control solutions, is proud to offer complete whole house audio packages.  Based on the VidaBox line of multiroom audio servers, these packages include NuVo® multiroom distribution and amplification equipment.


“These new packages are a natural progression of delivering new features and better value for our dealer base,” states Steven Cheung, President of VidaBox LLC. “Most of our integrators are already using NuVo® and Russound® in their multiroom audio installs.  However, many of them shy away from adding a VidaBox audio server into the mix because of the learning curve, even if it means having new features like internet radio, sleep/wake functions, or whole house audio control from a single TouchClient™ or vPad™ touch panel.  By marrying the two as a complete solution, dealers can get a single package that eliminates setup and installation headaches, since VidaBox takes care of all of the configuration work at the factory.”


A typical package consists of a pre-configured RoomClient™ or SLIM™ VidaBox audio server, and a NuVo® Grand Concerto® with six keypads.  Options for touch panel controls, additional keypads, dual AM/FM/XM tuners, or using an Essentia® or Simplese® in place of the Concerto® are available as well.  Working with an integrator, VidaBox can custom design a complete audio package based on the number of sources, zones, and the type of controls desired.


“By ordering everything from VidaBox,” continues Cheung, “dealers enjoy a significant savings in time and effort, leading to higher profit.  To make things even easier, we’ll also configure, group, and add in the names of zones appropriately, as requested by the dealer.  With the entire configuration and proper pre-wire done ahead of time, everything from the first touch panel to the last keypad is ready to go – out-of-the-box.  Complete installations with a VidaBox solution take a fraction of the time, plus all of the added features and benefits not available elsewhere.”


Complete VidaBox audio packages are available now.  For more details and specifications on their audio server solutions and other digital 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.