Category Archives: 4296

Is Hulu Coming to Media Center?

I don’t
believe that Hulu
has a large interest in Media Center, but those very same
mockup’s that show Media Center’s “PCTV” marketing also show Hulu as a key
experience.  My guess is that the material
Microsoft provided to Lippincott said
Media Center provides an Internet TV experience, and the designers took that as
Media Center providing access to the most popular service for online TV shows.

I don’t believe that the content providers are interested in
seeing Hulu on the big screen as it would jeopardize traditional content
delivery.  Hulu’s entry into the 10-foot
UI marketplace is heavily designed around the desktop PC, and their TOS
makes that very clear.



Xbox Unveils Entertainment Experiences That Put Everyone Center Stage

Microsoft rewrites the rules on fun with controller-free
entertainment, Facebook for your TV, plus instant on 1080p HD streaming video.

LOS ANGELES — June 1, 2009 — The future of home
entertainment has a new name: Xbox 360. Today, Microsoft Corp. opened the
Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) with a historic Xbox 360 briefing that
rocked, tweeted, revved and awakened the world to a new era of fun and
entertainment. In addition to premiering 10 exclusive new games,
revolutionizing the way we watch TV, and making it easier than ever to connect
to friends, Xbox also welcomed visionary filmmaker Steven Spielberg to
introduce “Project Natal” and controller-free gaming.

“Today with cultural visionaries at our side and
controller-free gaming on our horizon, Xbox 360 authored a new page in home
entertainment history,” said Don Mattrick, senior vice president for the
Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft. “For us, this E3 is about
breaking down barriers — between generations, between games and entertainment,
and most important, between video game players and everyone else — in a way
that only Xbox 360 can.”

During its briefing, Microsoft showed why Xbox 360 continues
to defy industry sales trends. First: A lineup of blockbuster games to ignite
every passion, including “Forza Motorsport 3,” “Alan Wake,” “Halo 3: ODST” and
“The Beatles: Rock Band.” Next? A host of groundbreaking Xbox LIVE services,
from instant on 1080p HD streaming movies and television to Facebook and
Last.fm tailor-made for your TV. And rounding it all out, “Project Natal,” a
whole new way to play, no controller required.

“Project Natal”: No Strings (or Controllers) Attached

Unveiled for the first time to the public was “Project
Natal,” pronounced “nuh-tall” and a code name for a revolutionary new way to
play, no controller required. See a ball? Kick it, hit it, trap it or catch it.
If you know how to move your hands, shake your hips or speak, you and your
friends can jump into the fun. The only experience needed is life experience.

Compatible with any Xbox 360 system, the “Project Natal”
sensor is the world’s first to combine an RGB camera, depth sensor, multi-array
microphone and custom processor running proprietary software all in one device.
Unlike 2-D cameras and controllers, “Project Natal” tracks your full body
movement in 3-D, while responding to commands, directions and even a shift of
emotion in your voice.

In addition, unlike other devices, the “Project Natal”
sensor is not light-dependent. It can recognize you just by looking at your
face, and it doesn’t just react to key words but understands what you’re
saying. Call a play in a football game, and players will actually respond. Want
to log onto Xbox LIVE? Simply step in front of the sensor.

“The next step in interactive entertainment is to make the
controller disappear,” said Steven Spielberg, visionary director and producer.
“With ‘Project Natal,’ we’ll see games that bring everyone together through
technology that actually recognizes us.”

The Best of the Internet, Custom-Made for Your TV

Groove, party or connect with a friend. Xbox LIVE, the
world’s largest social network on TV, today announced that Facebook and Last.fm
would be tailor-made for your TV, only on Xbox 360. Microsoft also announced
Xbox LIVE Party for movies, which allows movie experiences to be shared — on
the couch or across the country over Xbox LIVE in supported movies.

“We are always asking ourselves how to make the TV more social,”
said John Schappert, corporate vice president of Interactive Entertainment
LIVE, Software and Studios at Microsoft. “By bringing Facebook, Last.fm and
Xbox LIVE Party for movies and TV shows to Xbox LIVE, we’re not only extending
the walls of your living room beyond your home to your friends in different
corners of the world, we’re creating the definitive social network, uniting
more than 200 million people to share status updates, pictures, thoughts on
music and the world’s best online gaming experience.”

The addition of Facebook to Xbox LIVE means friends are
always connected, anytime, anywhere — from virtually any couch. But updating
your status and sharing photos won’t be the only things you can do. Using
Facebook Connect, you can share your greatest moments in gaming by posting
updates and screenshots from supported games directly to Facebook. Don’t let
your moment of glory fade away — make sure everyone sees it with Facebook
Connect, starting with the future version of the premier EA SPORTS golf
franchise “Tiger Woods PGA TOUR®.”

A first for TV, Last.fm,1 part of the CBS
Interactive Music Group, will give Xbox LIVE subscribers access to millions of
songs streaming through Xbox 360 to the best speakers in the house. Xbox LIVE
subscribers will be able to create their own free, personalized radio stations
and listen to them with friends in the living room or across the country.

Xbox 360 also solidified its place as one of the leading
social entertainment networks by announcing Xbox LIVE Party for movies. Go to
the cinema with your friends whether you are sitting on the same couch or in
living rooms across the country. Starting this year, you can share a virtual
theater, see your avatar (a virtual you) on the screen, all while you listen to
each other laugh and cry at the movie through voice chat on Xbox LIVE. With
movie parties, the only thing you can’t share is the popcorn.

Read
Full Press Release

Microsoft Connects the Dots with Zune HD, Zune Marketplace, and Xbox

This week Microsoft took the wraps off the next Zune, dubbed
Zune HD
.  It seems to be your basic next-generation touch screen only
media player with the common additions of WiFi and an web browser (IE based). 
There are some other interesting parts such as a HD Radio tuner, an OLED
screen, multitouch, and even HD output at 720p via a dock.

The most interesting part of the announcement is not the
device, but rather the service.  The Zune Marketplace will now integrate
with the Xbox LIVE Marketplace, finally drawing a realistic picture of
Microsoft’s “3 screen” vision of the future. Getting the most press is the HD Radio tuner, the non-HD
resolution of the OLED screen, and the concept of Microsoft competing with the
iPod touch.

HD Radio tuner doesn’t do much for me, it will give people a
chance to explore something they likely have never heard of before, and
apparently the FM radio tuner has been a big selling point among existing Zune
buyers.  The resolution on the OLED screen is only 480×272, which many
have noted is not even close to HD.  I’m not really sure why people think
they need 1080p on a portable player, the lower resolution screen likely
benefits the majority of people who put low-bitrate and resolution content on
the device in the first place.  If you have HD content, the dock now
outputs 720p over HDMI.  The big question
in terms of resolution is actually what codec’s and resolutions it supports
syncing.  If it supports all popular
codecs and HD resolutions, that means I can sync without transcoding.

I have never seen the Zune as a good competitor to the iPod,
I don’t feel much different about this one.  Microsoft is still playing
catch-up here by connecting their services.  This is something Apple has
mostly had for years.  Within the next 2-3 years I can finally see the
landscape start to change a bit, but Microsoft is going to have a very hard
time going after Apple when you compare numbers.

Lacking is any mention of Media Center, which wasn’t a shock
to me personally.  I firmly believe Microsoft has moved on from what most
reading this wanted Media Center to be, and of course for years I’ve said the
Xbox was the real competition to Media Center (this will become much clearer as
we go on).  Connecting the Xbox, Zune, and Windows finally makes all of
the products marketable.  Microsoft also
just announced that Xbox
360 has sold 30 million units and has 20 million on Xbox LIVE
.

A few have noted that all the details have not been released
and that Media Center integration could still be there.  I don’t
anticipate it, but would welcome it.  I doubt we will see this act as a
Media Center Extender as many have wanted.  If Microsoft could of improved
anywhere in the Zune-Media Center connection I hope it was with syncing
content, mainly TV.  The Zune does support syncing TV, but it doesn’t
support anything copy protected (CableCARD, likely any future premium Cable/Sat
services), and also doesn’t support syncing content with Dolby Digital audio. 
If this stays true just about the only TV content the Zune can sync (in the US)
will be analog cable/satellite captures.  Even OTA content will be purely
Dolby Digital next months, so even your favorite local channels will not sync
unless Microsoft decides to change.

The Story Behind Netflix for Windows Media Center

Today Microsoft released their native
Netflix application for Windows Media Center
to much fanfare.  The release comes with a catch, but let’s
back up a bit before we get to that.

I’ve talked about the need for Microsoft to get Netflix
within the Media Center ecosystem, and ever since Reed Hastings joined
Microsoft’s board I
knew it was coming
.  A year ago
Microsoft announced Netflix would be coming to the Xbox 360 Dashboard and that
rekindled my thoughts about the Xbox
360 being Media Center biggest enemy in the marketplace
.  Today those thoughts are confirmed once again
by the Netflix application for Media Center not supporting Media Center
Extenders.

I’ve been testing the Netflix application for a few weeks
now.  Upon downloading the first beta I
read  the release notes which talked
about Extender’s not being supported.  I
figured this was something that would change. 
Sadly, it didn’t and was planned at all. 
I didn’t think I’d get to post this part because it was told to me under
NDA, but TechFlash
actually posted it so I’m in the clear. 
Part of the reason Extender’s are not supported is because Microsoft
wants to make sure they don’t compete with the Xbox 360 Dashboard.

 Leaving the technical
aspects of getting Silverlight to an Extender aside, this represents a huge
problem and once again confirms to me that Microsoft will continue to push and
promote the Xbox 360 Dashboard over that of the Extender platform.

Fellow MVP Richard Miller asked if
I would rather Microsoft have not released the Netflix application
, and it
isn’t so much that I think Microsoft shouldn’t have released, but what I really
want is Microsoft to define who Media Center is for (do I sound like a broken
record yet?) and the future of some basic items like Extenders (I’ll have
another post on this later, but Microsoft keeps assuring me Extender’s are not “dead”).

A few months ago I
suggested that Microsoft was changing directions with Media Center
to the
more customer friendly “TV on your PC” concept. 
I took a bit of flack from Microsoft on the post who suggested that
wasn’t the case.  Maybe is it and maybe
it isn’t.  Correct or not, I’ll stick to
my story because it seems like everything that comes out confirms my
suspicions.

Back to the Netflix application, the delivery of this is the
future of Media Center.  Just like
Internet TV, the Netflix application was automatically pushed to Media Center
without any initial user interaction.  If
they can just improve the installation it will be much more beneficial to end
users.  While the interface is very
intuitive I don’t have my Media Center connected to a TV.  Given this, I find Netflix’s website more
convenient.  Moving forward, if the whole
“TV on your PC” thing catches on this will be a huge issue of mine.  Media Center was designed as a 10-foot
interface, using it as a 2-foot interface is kind of tricky and it’s not as intuitive
as it could be.  This has improved with Windows 7, but I
would still rather use a website to find such basic content and leave the
10-foot UI where it belongs.

Microsoft and Netflix Enhance Movie and TV Watching on the PC

Latest content addition offers more than 12,000 choices
of movies and TV episodes that can be watched instantly on a PC with Windows.

REDMOND, Wash. — May
19, 2009 —
Microsoft Corp. today announced that more than 12,000 movies and
TV episodes from Netflix Inc., the world’s largest online movie rental service,
are now available to watch instantly on the PC using Windows Media Center on
PCs with Windows Vista Home Premium or Ultimate. This newest content addition
builds on Microsoft’s goal to create a consistent experience on the PC for
consumers to easily enjoy the entertainment of greatest interest to them.

With Windows Media Center, consumers no longer need to jump
from Web site to Web site to find the TV shows, movies, sports and news they
want to watch. Windows Vista customers who are also Netflix members can simply
start Windows Media Center on their PC and then select the new Netflix tile
under TV+Movies to begin streaming movies and TV episodes instantly. People can
also search the entire Netflix library, manage both their instant and DVD
Queues, and even filter searches by titles that are available to watch
instantly. Windows Media Center takes advantage of the Netflix recommended
category lists to make it even easier to quickly find the movies and TV shows
that consumers want to watch. Conveniently, Netflix in Windows Media Center is
also designed to work with any Windows Media Center-compatible remote control.

The availability of Netflix in Windows Media Center marks
the second recent content milestone for Windows, following the March 2009
launch of the Sports Channel, which offers a variety of interactive sports
content from CBSSports.com, FOX Sports, MSNBC.com and more.

“Netflix is excited that the majority of the Windows Vista
users in the U.S. can now access a vast array of movies and TV episodes from
Netflix through Windows Media Center,” said Steve Swasey, vice president of
corporate communications. “There’s no better way to enjoy movies than with
Netflix, and this latest offering is another milestone that gives Windows Media
Center customers a great experience using the Netflix service.”

The Netflix instant watching in Windows Media Center is
powered by Microsoft Silverlight, one of the industry’s most comprehensive and
powerful solutions for the creation and delivery of applications and media
experiences. The use of Silverlight means that customers will have more
accessible, more discoverable and more secure experiences. Windows Media Center
is available on Windows Vista Home Premium and Windows Vista Ultimate.

In addition to Windows Media Center users, Xbox 360 system
owners already have access to watch movies and TV episodes instantly from
Netflix via an Xbox LIVE Gold Membership. The offerings through both platforms
allow customers to enjoy more than 12,000 movies and TV episodes.

“We’re continuing to work with the top content providers
today to make watching TV on the PC a mainstream experience for the future,”
said Craig Eisler corporate vice president of entertainment client software for
the TV, Video and Music Business Group at Microsoft. “Consumers understand that
content is the driving force when it comes to experiences, and with Netflix,
we’re underscoring our broader commitment to deliver a rich experience with
Windows Media Center.”

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.

Short Bits: DivX, Links, News

You might have noticed I’ve been quiet for the past month, sadly
that might continue for another month but I’ll be sure to try and fill the gaps
(meanwhile tons of other Media Center blogs covering everything new out there).

I’m not sure yet when it will be posted, but in a few weeks
several of us in the Media Center community will have a big surprise that
everyone will be interested in.  You’re
going to want to watch here for that.

On a completely separate side note, if anyone involved with Yahoo’s Connected TV Widgets please
let me know via e-mail.
  I’ve got several questions on the technology
and signing up online hasn’t yielded any results.

One of the best articles I’ve read in the past month is Davis
Freeberg’s analysis of DivX’s downfall
. 
If you have a few minutes it is a really good read.  As DivX is based off of MPEG-4 ASP I’ve
always told people that even if the device doesn’t have a DivX logo on it doesn’t
means it will not play DivX (likewise with Xvid).  Davis is right that as soon as the DivX brand
loses value they are in huge trouble (eg. for
this exact reason
).

Some other interesting links and post.

How
to automatically download and import HD to Windows Media Center [Engadget HD]

Big
Screen EPG : PVR Ratings (Some Initial Results) [Mobilewares]

How Ben
Drawbaugh uses Windows Media Center [Ben Drawbaugh]

Interview
with Doug Berrett on Webguide [New England Digital Media]
via Entertainment 2.0

Unlikely That Hulu is Holding Out for Microsoft

Julie
Jacobson at CE Pro speculates that Hulu
(who has been all over the
news
for killing third party apps) is holding out for Windows 7 Media
Center support.

As great as this would be, don’t get your hopes up.  Hulu has very few reasons to even look at
Microsoft here.  All Microsoft really
brings to the table is a very small number of users (none of which are really going to add new pageviews that Hulu isn’t already getting).  Microsoft internal numbers are actually
quoting a good amount of users, but I’m not really convinced that the numbers
represent the whole picture.

Bottom line here is that Hulu isn’t looking to target any
third party application (yet).  Jury is
still out on if Hulu has any interest in being more than a browser based
application.  I think the market is there
in several different forms, but yet again this could come down to NBCU, Fox, et
al fighting to keep the web from replacing traditional broadcast TV.

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
).

Random Notes from Microsoft’s CES Keynote

Media Center

  • 10 million Media Center users a month
  • Average Media Center session time is ~90 minutes

Xbox 360

  • Xbox LIVE membership that has grown to 17 million active
    members.
  • Xbox 360 has sold 28 million consoles sold to date
  • More than $1 billion spent on Xbox LIVE since the launch of
    the Xbox 360
  • Xbox 360 has largest game attach rate
  • Xbox LIVE Primetime channel brings together the best of TV and
    gaming in an interactive way.
  • Primetime will create scheduled programming, offer interactive and social features.
  • Average Halo player playing 150 hours on Xbox LIVE
  • Two new Halo titles this year.  Feb 28th release for Halo Wars.  Halo 3 ODST in 2009.
  • Since NXE launch, downloads of video content up 60%
  • Over 45 movie/TV studios providing content on Xbox LIVE
  • Over 60 millions song downloads on Lips and other music games.

Mediaroom

  • Mediaroom platform has reached nearly 2.5 million subscriber
    homes worldwide (250% growth over last year)
  • Mediaroom Anytime lets you watch previously aired content
  • Mediaroom adds interactive third-party application support (BBC Top Gear as an example)

Windows Mobile

  • Windows Mobile is getting new Internet Explorer with Adobe Flash support
  • Lots of new phones shown
  • Microsoft/Netflix will offer software that enables Windows Mobile
    customers to update and view their Netflix movie queue.

Windows 7

  • Windows 7 is up on MSDN/TechNet.  Public beta on Microsoft.com on Jan. 9

Other

  • Ford Sync will get updated with TellMe support
  • Zune Social is up to 2 million users

Windows Mobile Gets Netflix Queue Updating Software

Developing…

“This month, Microsoft and Netflix, the world’s largest online movie
rental service, will offer software that enables Windows Mobile
customers to update and view their Netflix movie queue. Changes will
appear instantly on Netflix on Xbox LIVE, extending the existing
service that launched in November. Xbox 360 is the only game system
that lets people instantly watch thousands of movies and TV episodes
streamed from Netflix, many in HD.”