Category Archives: 2192

VidaBox Media Servers Now Provide HD DVD & Blu-ray Storage and Streaming Capabilities

WESTBURY, NY – March 5th – VidaBox LLC is proud to announce
new HD DVD & Blu-ray storage and streaming abilities on their line of
premium media center systems. Unencrypted titles can be copied onto a VidaBox
server, and then streamed to VidaBox extenders. These capabilities will be
debuted in Demo Alley Room 240A at the Electronic House Expo (EHX), running
from March 13th through the 15th in Orlando, Florida.

“We’re excited to include yet another ground-breaking feature
in our line of media center systems,” comments Steven Cheung, President of the
company. “With HD discs becoming more prevalent in movie collections, there is
a growing need to store, manage, and distribute HD DVD & Blu-ray content
throughout the house. Our VidaBox systems will be able to meet and exceed those
needs, allowing dealers and integrators to offer their customers something
truly unique.”

The addition of HD DVD & Blu-ray streaming compliments
the other integrator friendly features already available on VidaBox, such as
multi-zone audio streaming, RS-232 & TCP/IP control with vCommand™, and newer
additions like vAutomation™ – the custom home automation GUI software w.
mControl™ – which will also be debuting at EHX.

“With VidaBox, end users can now enjoy a solution that
covers the entire breadth of AV needs.” Cheung continues, “For example, a
RACK16™ server can be installed, and as the stored collection of music,
pictures, DVD, HD DVD, & Blu-ray grows, additional space can be purchased
at any time. Meanwhile, up to 10 additional ROOMCLIENT v2, RACKCLIENT™ or SLIM™
v2 extenders can be added throughout the home for 10 simultaneous AV streams.  Combined with our multizone audio & home
automation integration capabilities, VidaBox truly offers a complete, high definition
home solution.”

For more details and specifications on VidaBox™ & their
Blu-ray & HD DVD streaming capabilities, please visit their company website
at http://www.vidabox.com, or see a live demonstration
of their products in Demo Alley Room 240A at EHX Spring from March 13th through
the 15th.

About VidaBox LLC

VidaBox LLC is a systems integration company focused on
manufacturing premium Media Center systems. VidaBox is on a mission to create
user-friendly, and stable high-performance Media Center systems that work right
out of the box.

For more information, visit www.vidabox.com
or call 1-516-730-7500.

Short Bits: Xbox HD DVD, Stage6

Microsoft made it official that the Xbox
360 HD DVD drive is now dead
.  If you
wanted one, I hope you got it already. 
You will likely find stock marked down all over the place, some
retailers going as low as $50 now.

DivX Inc has pulled
the plug on their streaming service Stage6
mainly do to the high costs of
keeping it running.  This will impact
Media Center users that take advantage of Yougle to stream Stage6 content.  It also puts into question their DivX
Connected STB
concept that I’ve
questioned in the past.
  DivX does say “Products powered by DivX Connected, our new
initiative that lets users stream video, photos, music and Internet services
from the PC to the TV, are hitting retail outlets.”

Fact or Fiction: Microsoft and Blu-ray

I’ve gotten a fair amount
of
reaction
to the various articles I’ve posted on Microsoft and Blu-ray, and
it still seems the overall consensus on the web is that Microsoft will fall
head over heels for Blu-ray in their products.

I want to preface this post by saying that I’m not
advocating Microsoft not supporting Blu-ray. 
The fact is that Blu-ray won, while I think HD DVD had its clear
advantages those don’t matter anymore.  I
want Blu-ray support in any product that markets itself as part of a digital
home.

Fiction:
Microsoft should support Blu-ray on the Xbox 360

I truly don’t understand why Microsoft would add Blu-ray
support to the Xbox 360 at this point. 
When Microsoft added HD DVD support they did so by adding some four
million lines of code to the Dashboard and had Toshiba manufacturer and sell
the HD DVD drives at a loss.  How do I
know it was at a loss?  Just look at the
fact that the standard IDE drive was selling for far less than any other IDE HD DVD
drive on market.

Toshiba didn’t make any money on the 300,000 that were sold
and neither did Microsoft.  Microsoft
took the development time to add support simply to counter Sony including
Blu-ray in the PS3.  This was an
extremely poor counter, but it provided a fairly cheap way for a consumer to
add support for a next gen DVD format on their Xbox.

As that was the only real reason, what reason does Microsoft
have now to do the same for Blu-ray?  The
war is over, Blu-ray won.  Your not fighting that anymore. The Xbox 360
is nearly two years old with an approximate four year total turn-over time for
the next console.  Why add Blu-ray in any
form to the Xbox 360?

The simple fact is that it’s not in Microsoft’s best
interest to provide Blu-ray support in the Xbox 360.  The drives are going to be too expensive as
there is no reason to sell them at a loss anymore.  Pair that with the development time for BD+
and BD-J, two technologies that Microsoft didn’t agree with in the
first place and you have a recipe for no Blu-ray on the Xbox 360.

As for internal drives, that’s even worse.  Going back to the drawing board, yet again
losing money for an integrated drive that can only be used for movie
playback.  Remember, developers can’t use
Blu-ray Disc’s as that you limit your market by some 18 million current Xbox
360’s (Microsoft also wouldn’t allow it either).

I strongly disagree that Microsoft already has some of these
things planned and working as Derek
Flickinger suggested on CE Pro yesterday
. 
I don’t believe the Xbox 360 will ever have Blu-ray Disc support.  As for the Xbox 720 or whatever you want to
call it, I think it is too soon to say it won’t but I don’t think you can say
it will either.

Fact: Microsoft
should support Blu-ray playback on the PC

There is no doubt that Microsoft should support Blu-ray
playback on the PC, but as I’ve
talked about several times this comes with a major technical concerns
.

For native Blu-ray playback to happen in Microsoft
applications they will need to update Vista’s Protected Media Path to support
BD+.  This is a pretty significant change
to the system that already supports AACS, the only protection that was needed
for HD DVD.

It has always surprised me that BD+ never got the bad press
that any other DRM/content protection system does.  It runs code in a virtual machine within the
player, if that’s not something for the DRM opposed to get upset about I don’t
know what is.

The need for BD+ and the equal need for Java-based BD-J
interactivity support instead of the Microsoft developed XML-based iHD leaves a
huge shadow of doubt about what Microsoft is going to do.  No doubt Windows Media Player and Windows
Media Center users will suffer from having to use PowerDVD or alike to playback
their Blu-ray Disc’s.

This also leaves Media Center and the connected Extender ecosystem
in doubt.  Managed Copy in the still unfinished
AACS specs will give Blu-ray the ability to offer streaming too, but BD+ is
still an issue.  Microsoft might get
burned by the PS3 again as there is a good chance it will be the first product
to take advantage of such features.

Fiction:
Microsoft should wait for digital downloads

Digital downloads are exactly what Microsoft wants.  Why? 
Because from VC-1 to WMDRM to Silverlight to Windows Server to Windows
Vista they can push their products from point A to point B and collect on them
all.

The clear problem with this is the lack of bandwidth in the
US.  Streaming and downloading of large
files just isn’t an option for most US broadband users, and no matter how efficient
VC-1 is as a video codec.  The fact of
the matter is US ISPs are holding up streaming being a viable mass market
solution.

The best way to explain this is with a graphic from Vudu, another
streaming hopeful (via Dave
Zatz
).  As you can see from the
graphic, those with broadband connections less then 2Mbps have up to a four
hour delayed wait before they can start enjoying an HD download.  It should also be noted that the audio/video
quality provided in these sorts of streams just can’t match what Blu-ray has
been delivering for the past year.  Highly
quality means higher bitrates with means larger file size which means longer
download times.

image

Those ISPs that do have the bandwidth (>10Mbps) charge a
pretty penny when compared to a basic lower bitrate DSL connection.  Are customers willing to both pay high dollar
for an Internet connection and then pay high dollar for an HD download that it
many cases has to be watched within 24 hours? 
There is still a lot of work that has to be done before digital
downloads can replace physical media for good.

Of course, itshould be noted that digital downloads already exist using Microsoft technologies.  The Xbox 360 has downloads via the Xbox Marketplace and the same basic concepts from above apply in terms of download times and bitrates.  Many are waiting for Microsoft to extend the reach of the Marketplace downloads to Windows Media Center (and thus Media Center Extenders) as well portable devices like the Zune.

Related:

More
Ramblings About Blu-ray & Xbox 360

Short Bits: Media Center Show, On10, PowerDVD, more

Ian Dixon had Microsoft’s Steve
Lindsay on the Media Center Show today
talking about various including Windows
Home Server, Extenders, Home automation and his new blog.

Some other stuff that I have not talked about, On10 has
videos with S1Digital,
Inteset,
and Niveus
Media
.  The Windows Mobile team is
looking for feedback from users
with Zune’s and Windows Mobile devices
which is always good to see.

Missing Remote has some tips
on integrating PowerDVD Ultra with Media Center
for a better Blu-ray/HD DVD
playback experience.

Lastly, Jeff Atwood has an interesting article on Tivoization and
the GPL
.

Blu-ray on Xbox 360 Not Going to Happen

Some websites are reporting “rumors” of Microsoft getting
ready to add Blu-ray support to the Xbox 360. 
I’m not going to link to the main website in question, because nothing
on that site has ever been true (unless there is an Xbox 360 with HD DVD intergated out there, it was said to be true by this website on at least three different occasions.  There are several other false stories out of this site too).

Jason
Unger of CE Pro does
have the basic rundown
of the issue, but don’t believe that Blu-ray is on
the way to the Xbox 360.

Among the reasons behind this are outlined
in a previous post I wrote about support in Media Center
.  All of these issues apply for the Xbox 360 as
well.

Quickly…

  • Blu-ray support means adding a Java-based BD-J interactivity
    layer to the Xbox 360.  Highly doubtful
    to ever happen
  • The video/audio codecs are not really in question here, both
    HD DVD and Blu-ray use the same basic codecs.
  • Blu-ray has extra DRM in BD+.  The Xbox 360 can already do AACS, but they
    are not going to add BD+ support. 
    Microsoft has been opposed to it from the start.

I really wish more respected sites like Engadget would stop
linking to well known false stories and publishers.

Related:

Fact or
Fiction: Microsoft and Blu-ray

More
Ramblings About Blu-ray & Xbox 360

Blu-ray Now Available on Niveus Media Servers

Customer demand and
format war influences Niveus to add support for Blu-ray Disc playback and to
cease production of HD DVD-based servers.

Milpitas, CA –
February 15, 2008
– Niveus Media, the leading manufacturer of
high-performing digital entertainment solutions for the connected home,
announces support for Blu-ray Disc playback on Niveus Media Servers.
Additionally, Niveus announces that new production of HD DVD-based servers will
be phased out in the next 30 days.

“Incorporating Blu-ray into our offering has always been part of
the plan but the demand from our customers, market trends, and recent
announcements expedited our decision to come to market with Blu-ray support
sooner rather than later,” states Tim Cutting, CEO and Co-Founder, Niveus
Media. “While we have stood behind HD DVD as a viable high-definition platform,
Niveus engineers have been running Blu-ray in our testing facilities and are
very impressed with the performance and integration with our servers.”

Blu-ray is available now on Niveus Media’s 2008 line of
Windows Vista Ultimate-based Media Servers including the Summit Series Sierra,
Rainier, and Denali Editions, and Pro Series models. Customers who have been
shipped an HD DVD-based Niveus Media Server within the past 90 days are
eligible for upgrade to a free Blu-ray drive (other fees may apply). Further
details, upgrade plans, and pricing will be available to Niveus Authorized
Dealers next week.

For more information on Niveus Media, Inc., please visit www.niveusmedia.com.

Short Bits: Hulu Invites, Netflix BD, USB Card Reader

I’ve got five (5) Hulu
invites that I’m giving out.  If you want
one, reply to this post saying that you would like an invite and put your
e-mail address as your URL
.  I will
randomly select five people tonight and send you an invite.

It look like Netflix is dropping
HD DVD and going with Blu-ray only
.  It’s amazing how things can turn in just a
matter of weeks.  Once again, HD DVD
support in Media Center would be pretty pointless at this stage and native
Blu-ray in Media Center is far away
.

I’m looking to buy an internal
(front panel) USB card reader
for my desktop, but just based on reviews
there isn’t nessarcly such thing as a good one. 
I’m looking for one with a black faceplate, LEDs that don’t stay on
24/7, and that can accept Compact Flash and SD cards.  Based on reviews at Newegg there are also
problems with read/write speed with a lot of them (deal breaker).  Does anyone have an opinion on a good front
panel USB 2.0 card reader?

Update: Invites will be sent out today to the winners. 

Short Bits: HD/BD, Inteset, More

I’ve been busy as of late, but have some really interesting
articles lined up as soon as I can finish them up.

If you didn’t hear, Vista
SP1 is officially coming in March
.

Derek Flickinger has a great article up on CE
Pro about those pesky interactivity layers in HD DVD and Blu-ray
.  Much like
some of my thoughts
, Derek goes though why Blu-ray might not be supported
by Microsoft in the future (Derek also sent me bits of his article a few weeks
ago).

High end Media Center PC maker Inteset
has a video up on Microsoft’s On10
(Via Ian Dixon).

Missing Remote also has an article on playing
back High Definition DVDs on your PC
.

CyberLink Patent Included in HD DVD Essential Patent Portfolio

Taipei, Taiwan—-Jan. 31st, 2008—-CyberLink Corp. (5203.TW), today
announced it is participating in the formation of a joint HD DVD patent license
based on its ownership of a patent determined to be essential to the HD DVD
standard.

CyberLink’s patent relates to the
specifications for interactive content over a network for prerecorded HD-DVD
Discs, for playback according to the DVD Specifications for High Definition
VIDEO (HD DVD-Video).

“Innovation is the key to
CyberLink delivering leading products to our customers as well as sustaining
long-term business success,” said Alice H. Chang, CEO of CyberLink. “We’re
extremely proud be a part of a group of essential HD DVD patent owners who have
come together voluntarily for the purpose of forming a joint license, as this
is testament to the strength of our core technology.”

Essential HD DVD patent owners
that include CyberLink participate in an effort to form a joint patent license
facilitated by MPEG LA LLC.

More information about CyberLink’s
support for the HD DVD format, and the complete range of CyberLink software, is
available at http://www.cyberlink.com/.

About CyberLink

CyberLink Corp is the
leader and pioneer in enabling digital multimedia on PCs and CEs. Backed by a
group of high-caliber software engineers, CyberLink owns its core codec and a
number of patented technologies. Today, CyberLink has built a solid reputation
for delivering high-quality, interoperable, and fast time-to-market solutions
that keep our OEM partners on the leading edge. Our business partners include
leaders in the PC industry: drive manufacturers, graphics-card makers, and
top-5 desktop and notebook brands. Today, CyberLink Software Solutions include:
complete applications for Blu-ray Discs and HD DVDs, Digital Home
entertainment, Mobile TV and eHRD solutions. With customers spanning from
multi-national corporations to small/medium-sized businesses, and from power
users to home users, CyberLink has enjoyed rapid and consistent growth leading
to a record breaking IPO in 2000 on the Taiwan Over The Counter Exchange (OTC:
5203). Currently, CyberLink is listed on the Taiwan Stock Exchange (ticker
symbol: 5203.TW). CyberLink’s worldwide headquarters is in Taipei. To keep up
with market demands, CyberLink has operations in North America, Europe and the
Asia Pacific region, including Japan. For more information, please visit
CyberLink’s website at http://www.cyberlink.com/

More Thoughts on Native Blu-ray/HD DVD

Ben
at Engadget HD picked up my post
about the lack of
native HD DVD/Blu-ray in Media Center today
.  I’ve been reading some of the comments the
post is getting and wanted to add a few thoughts.

First, I’m talking about native
support
.  This means that it works
without launching an external application, just like playing a DVD or any other video within Media Center. 
PowerDVD and ArcSoft TotalMedia currently launch external applications
for playback, so you don’t have native support for either HD DVD or Blu-ray at
this point.  Media Foundation would be used to do this, much like DirectShow has been used for native DVD playback in Media Center since the start.

Microsoft had planned for native HD DVD support in Windows
Vista, but they dropped that and left it to third parties.  It was my guess
that native HD DVD support would finally ship in Fiji
, but given the downfall of HD
DVD since you can see why I’d question that. 
Even if native HD DVD playback shipped in Fiji, it could very well be
pointless if HD DVD continues its demise.

For native Blu-ray playback within Media Center, a Java
based interactivity layer (called BD-J) would have to be added.  Microsoft hates Java with a passion as many
of us know, so it is unlikely that they would spend time developing native
Blu-ray playback when Java is a requirement.  I’m not saying it can’t be done from a
technical standpoint.  Instead, I’m saying that it is unlikely that
Microsoft will be the one to do it.

There is also additional DRM that would need to be present
in BD+.  HD DVD only needs AACS, which
can technically be supported using Protected Media Path (PMP) that is already present
in Vista.  Yet another thing Microsoft
would have to add that they didn’t plan for and that they don’t agree with in the first place.

Lastly, I think Microsoft had put a ton of thought into HD
DVD remoting to Extenders.  HD DVD uses
HDi (iHD) for interactivity, which Microsoft co-developed with things like
Extenders in mind.  With Blu-ray you would need
Java running remotely in an Extender session is much different from HDi which they had already planned for.

When Microsoft decided to support HD DVD, they did so
because of what it offers the consumer as well as their existing technologies.  The industry move to Blu-ray changes all of that.

I think we will be more dependent of third parties doing the
work, and even then I’m not sure they could get native Blu-ray within Media
Center because of BD+ and BD-J.  PMP doesn’t do BD+, this is key as PMP basically has to be used to provide native playback.  There is much more to native playback support then being able to decode certain video codecs, the content protection and interactvity aspects are huge with both of these formats.

Related:

More
Ramblings About Blu-ray & Xbox 360