The evolution of Windows Media Center

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What does WebTV and Windows Media Center have in common? It’s all part of Microsoft’s plan to take over the world converge the PC with television, according to a recent history lesson published on Microsoft Videos. The 2-minute video revisits some “interesting” interfaces from WebTV and briefly shows off WMC in Windows 7 (nothing new if you’ve been keeping up with the leaks). How far we’ve come.

28 insightful thoughts

  1. Kidding, right??! Media Center (in UK and Ireland anyway) is garbage. It’s never worked properly, produces appalling picture quality for TV channels, has never had decent internet channels, and doesn’t interface correctly with the Xbox 360 (which in any case is far too loud). Microsoft should be ashamed at themselves…

  2. We don’t get internet channels in Australia either but my Windows Media Center is awesome. I use a HDTV tuner card to watch all the over-the-air TV channels in pure 1080p goodness.

  3. I use Media Centre in the UK and love it – got it set up in the living room, have a 360 acting as an extender in the bedroom (over wifi) – couldn’t ask for more.

    Works perfectly for me.

    Can’t wait to upgrade them to Windows 7 Media Centre…..

  4. Media Center kicks some serious butt – and that’s coming from an Apple fan (Apple TV is great too, but MCE is just everything in one and no where near as limited)

    This is actually the only Microsoft product (if you can call it) that I still actively love using. Picture is great (especially with 1080p as Long mentioned), flexibility is fantastic and it looks appealing too.

    Looking forward to stable 7 so I can upgrade my MCE box too (360 Extender as trev mentioned is also fantastic)

  5. VMC is the best thing about vista, TV pack was a bad joke we all got way to excited about it MS should be ashamed of themselves. I’m really looking forward to Windows7 I’m even holding off buying a new laptop because of it.

    I have to agree though about the PQ of SD freeview it sucks but i use my TV tuner for live TV. Recorded TV is better though which i can’t understand and have never really had the time to Investigate.

  6. I love the media center, their is just one big problem with it today, that I think Windows 7 isn’t going to fix. Countries in Europe, like the Nehterlands have like no online tv at all. We can watch some repeats from 1 channel with a very unstable system they made, but thats it.

    I watch my DVD’s with it, or some video files on my computer, but I also want to be able to watch all my favorite channels in the Netherlands with digital or even HD quality.

    Right now you see those TV providers comming with digital devices for on your tv, and work like crap. In the past three years, they’ve been adding things, that berally work, that Microsoft added to their media center by default. The number of problems we have, the number of functions that we don’t have are just to many.

    Looking at how WMC or media room works in the US (from the videos) I’m very jelous and just hope everyday that Microsoft will do something about that anytime soon. They need to take Europe more serious.

  7. “Fiji” TV Pack? Don’t get me started…
    Everything else is quite nice about it, I like it too for watching TV but I wish they could develop a little bit faster. Some features need to be polished and extended, like the Movie gallery (searching, grouping, stuff like that)… I don’t really use this section but a friend of mine has many movies where the browsing experience gets a bit lame…

  8. There is a EU media centre team (based in Ireland) set up about 1-2 years ago I think and they have been working on improving support but its no easy feat given the large number of variation of broadcasters in Europe (just because they are all running some form of DVB-T/S/C doesn’t make things auto-magically compatible).

    The lack of an equivalent cablecard and use of digital set top boxes with CAM’s/smartcards all using various encryption which cannot be used with media centre means media centre doesn’t quite have the same appeal as it does in the USA.

    Still its a very nice system and I’ve always liked it, plus the Xbox extender will finally become useful as with Win7 the extra codecs MPEG-4 ASP/AVC (think XviD/x264) now work in the Xbox extender mode. I was testing beta 1 and was able to play H.264/AAC in MP4, AAC in M4A, XviD in AVI and even H.264/AC3 in M2TS so good job at MS.

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  10. I love Windows Media Center too. It’s just one of those things you can say Microsoft has done very well with. It beats the heck out of Apple TV. The swift interface, the ease in connecting it, and it’s just great for an HDTV. Maybe one day, networks will allow their channels/content to be available on WMC with special unique features for WMC, and I won’t need to pay for cable/satellite subscriptions again.

    They could also get rid of the old MSNTV units, and sell an extender with WMC built-in (is that possible) and compete head-on with the AppleTV unit.

    Does anyone know if there’s some way you can change the menu’s color scheme? Blue is nice, but I’d like a more range of colors. I don’t know if there’s anything you can download, but it’d be helpful.

    I wonder if WMC will have BluRay support, and maybe a web browser…

  11. Uh, sorry to nitpick Long, Ten-HD is 1080i and the rest are 720p with SBS being a ‘wtf that’s not HD’ 576p.

  12. @Long: Enjoy it while you can – Ten’s new 24-hour sports channel will be all the HD content you’ll be getting from them soon. They don’t have the bandwidth to provide two HD channels.

  13. I’ve been using Media Center for years and still waiting for Microsoft Australia to actually add local content. It’s borderline rediculous that we still don’t have even a TV guide working through it.

    I can’t help but wonder that Microsoft and online video providers are slow to bring content to Australians because of our very limiting broadband caps.

    This is increasingly frustrating for those who spend the money and get decent plans. Let’s hope this changes.. and soon.

    Windows Media Center in Windows 7 is a slight upgrade on Vista’s. The new interface is also pushed to Windows Media Extenders like the Xbox 360.

  14. @Long Zheng: Haha, yeah, only 1080i – and it’s really dodgy at that unfortunately. Seven only ever seems to put a matrixed surround sound out (but with good picture) and Nine always does discrete (true 5.1 channel) (but with normally bad picture). You can see the compression artifacts. That said, it’s pretty darn good – it’s free after all! And still a big step up from SD! I love my Media Centre (and 360 extender!!!) too!

  15. I love Media Center UI too and the ability to extend a centralized UI around the home. However, I have to slam Microsoft for not releasing a extender client in Windows 7 that allows users to stream Live TV to other Windows 7 PCs. Originally, I thought that would be a perfect Windows Ultimate add-on that would give consumers a reason to upgrade to that sku. Now, with Intel and Adobe working to bring Flash to all TV’s. I think this is a bigger threat to Microsoft’s Media Extender platform then they might realize. They should also work with Intel in bringing Silverlight to those same TV sets. And in parralel to that effort, develop an Extender client using SilverLight.

  16. +1 for Windows Media Center. Hoping to see componetized/incremental releases after Windows 7… I’d pay to see this particular functionality get better and better between releases.

  17. I use Windows Media Center on Vista Ultimate with an ATI TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner and I love it. I would just like to see the capability of searching the DVS-MR record by any and all its field as opposed to the six or sever ways WMC allows. Who has done this and/or who can make this happen?

    thanks

  18. I was never a big fan of either Windows Media Center, or Apple TV. My machines are mostly Apple, with some Linux and a new Vista laptop I bought recently.
    I started playing with media center about 3 weeks ago, and I actually am finding that I like it (much to my surprise). I hooked it up to my 360 rather out of a “what the heck” mentality, and my wife just loved it.

    I haven’t really played with many of the features yet, but I definitely like it better than the Apple TV.

  19. For those in UK that want live internet TV use a great piece of freeware from milliesoft.co.uk called TunerFreeMCE. Cannot recommend enough and makes WMC useable in UK as Microsoft have obviously devoted their resource to US centric product.

  20. Media center is the worst version, released by Microsoft. Windows media center version was the best flop of Microsoft. But, media center included in windows 7 is far better than the previous one.

    But, still requires a lot of modification for being a perfect media center.

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