Microsoft’s connected Living Room experience
One central console to control content, media and entertainment at home: That has been what the Windows Media Centre along with the Windows Embedded Standard 7 OS is out to deliver to the markets.
Windows Media Centre allows turning TV tuner-equipped PCs into versatile DVRs (digital video recorders) with online program guides, burns some content to DVD, syncs media with various portable devices, and streams recorded content to the Xbox 360 and other Media Extender devices, among other features. That in effect defines the Connected Living Room experience. Inspite of the richness of Windows Media centre, HTPCs (home theater PCs) have been complex, appealing only to hardcore hobbyists. They’ve also been too expensive for service providers to consider supplying them to their customers.
Microsoft has also been lining up its set of partners for the delivery of Connected Living Room experience: Acer (Gateway), Evolve, Haier, Prime Time, and Reycom.
Stating a company release:
These devices work with Microsoft technology such as Windows Phone 7 and Windows Home Server to create a media experience that delivers more than the sum of its parts. By using connected media devices built on Microsoft products together, consumers will be able to merge multimedia content from various sources and locations such as the Internet and broadcast TV, social media portals, and personal libraries of photos, music and videos. All of this content comes together in a centralized entertainment hub that’s accessible by other Windows powered devices throughout the networked home.
The good part of this story is that the experience delivery at this time depends upon the ability of the hardware and the software to do specific things and do them the way they are designed to do. Microsoft has been making embedded software for a long time and they are good at it. Microsoft ported its Media Center software to the latest embedded version of Windows and is giving hardware partners the chance to build a DVR without spending all the big bucks on developing software. The bad news is that embedded also means restrictions, and while some are sure to hack their way to more functionality, it won’t be as easy. The inability to install one’s favorite codec isn’t out of the realm of possibilities, and installing software to automatically skip commercials is almost certainly a no go.
The other good news for Microsoft and this arrangement is that content owners such as Netflix, VUDU, Blockbuster, cable video-on-demand have all been available to embedded devices for some time.
It is an age of embedded devices with Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verzion and DirecTV showing their content capabilities across a range of embedded connected devices. So embedded devices and the eco-system that is backing it up doesn’t just mean stability and affordability, it can also mean content.
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