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Vista SideShow Remotes Announced For Sale

It looks like we are definitely getting some cool Windows Vista SideShow remote controls coming next year, and will be shown off in two weeks at CES. Some should be available for sale around April or so.


Interlink announced their Slidelink remote, which will let users “select songs, schedule recordings, navigate video clips and photographs, display TV program guides and even browse recorded TV shows–all right on the remote”. Interlink makes many other Bluetooth devices, so it is assumed that this remote will be one as well.


Ricavision is announcing this remote at CES, which features both Bluetooth and IR for functioning in a 100-meter operating radius. It sports a sweet 2.5-inch QVGA LCD and all sorts of cool Sideshow functions, including email, calendaring and RSS feeds, besides the regular Media Center controls. It’ll be available in April 2007 for $200.


Philips has announced a slew of new Vista remotes, most of which are standard Media Center remotes, just for the new UI, and one SideShow remote (the one with the screen). The Sideshow remote supports basic Sideshow functionality, and runs on a 2.4GHz IR frequency for one-way Media Center control and two-way music control. The better remotes work off IR (that’s what the included dongle is for) which means you can use them to control your music from all over the house (and, if the Sideshow is implemented correctly, check your email and calendar).

Microsoft has made a deal with Elctronic Program Guide provider Tribune Media Services, which provides the TV guide for Media Center, to allow the program guide to be shown on SideShow devices with no problems.

Also worth noting: Lagotek has announced it is doing some SideShow Gadgets to control home automation. The Gadgets will have to be loaded on SideShow devices, but you might be able to use your Vista SideShow remote to control things like lights, the thermostat, irrigation status. It also runs on a Windows Mobile 5.0 PDA with wifi.

December 25th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Windows, Media Center, Vista | no comments

MSBlog Confirms, Pulls Post Re: Windows Server “Home” and Windows Live Drive

* - Update at the end of the post, clarifying the accuracy of this source - *

Zack Whittaker, Microsoft contract employee, wrote a post at MSBlog regarding rumors and hints being passed around regarding Windows Live Drive and Windows Server “Home”. To catch everyone up: The guide to CES contains this promo:

It reads:


All together now.

Announcing a new way to share, protect, and store what matters most.

January 2007

The speculation goes in two directions, that this is either Windows Live Drive, a free online storage solution designed to unify all user content among the Windows Live services and open up new possibilities with all that free space, including online-document storage; or (sorry about the mouthful), it was about Windows Server Home, an “open secret” version of Windows Server designed for home networks, one designed for sharing media content.

MSBlog wrote a post about the speculation. That blog post has vanished, but former Microsoftie Robert Scoble grabbed it in his link blog, with I subscribe to and republishes all posts, and here it is:

This has got some bloggers and some hopeful’s rather confused. A few people have asked me “what does this mean?” and I’m here to explain. Kip from LiveSide wrote this, Long Zheng from wrote this (with some interesting theories), Robert McLaws from Windows-Now wrote this, and good ol’ Josh from Windows Connected wrote this. Unfortunately, rumours on the Internet are just as bad as the rumours about the most popular girl in school making out with someone behind the bikesheds after school… Let’s clear this up shall we?

There is going to be a home server product along the Windows Server System operating systems. Sources have confirmed but refuse to comment further on the product. However Windows Server “Home” is not the final product name, but it certainly gets the message across that it’s for home users. What I have managed to dig around and find out, is that it’ll have certain sharing features. Media will be a big thing, it always has and always will be. I was working with someone in the Microsoft London office in August and we both came up with - porn, gaming and media are the big things on the web. We can’t do porn, we can do gaming (and since Xbox Live rocketed) and now media.

We may be seeing a shared Media Center - we may be seeing integration directly with Windows Live Drive from the operating system. What’s clear is that this new server operating system will most likely look and behave like Windows Vista, but with a few server things thrown in for the novice user (wizards to guide users through server operations) as well as the more advanced things for advanced home users. it’ll have gaming facilities to play online using Xbox 360 consoles, it’ll have the Windows Live Media Center in with it (if both schedules finish on time), and it should have all the features that Windows Vista Home Premium has.

It is not yet clear whether Windows Server “Home” will be announced at the CES 2007 conference or not. We just simply don’t know. It might… but maybe not.

Windows Live Drive will not be released either in beta, public beta or at all at the CES 2007 conference in January 2007 in Las Vegas. It’s simply not ready yet! Since the re-organisation of Live internally (and yes, it’s still going through the teething processes), there’s nothing been happening really with Windows Live Drive for a couple of months now according to sources.

Windows Live Drive, however, will be making an appearance at the CES 2007 conference in January 2007 in Las Vegas. Just because it’s not ready to be released doesn’t mean that Microsoft can’t shower all you techno geeks with a little bit of sunshine It’ll be mentioned, it’ll be talked about, prepare to be killed by numerous PowerPoint shows and you may even be lucky enough to see a demonstration of Windows Live Drive if they’ve managed to put it together in time. It’ll be formely announced, but nothing much more.

Windows Live Drive is scheduled for 2007. No quarters, no halves, just in 2007. There’s a huge backend operation going on - huge server farms being built, huge servers being installed. Windows Live Drive was one of the first Live services, but because it’s so big and complex, the software wasn’t even starting to be written until early this year.

Okay, to sum, up, this is what we call, a huge leak. The post, if it doesn’t come back, Zack has accidentally blown one of the reveals of Bill Gates’ CES keynote, that Windows Live Drive will be revealed, but not released, at CES. He also confirms that Live Drive will ship next year, and that they don’t know when, since the back-end involves so much work.

Zack has also confirmed Windows Server Home, while saying that it may or may not be revealed at CES (probably depending on time of the presentation and how close the product is to shipping). Server Home, or whatever it ends up being called, looks like a huge product, one that will make it possible to have an out-of-the-box centralized server experience in the home.

Home Server will ship with a version of Windows with all the features of Vista, designed to be a “low-cost/low-profile server”, with central storage for media and documents, handling patches, firewall, antivirus, spam filtering, easy to expand hard drive space, TV tuners and video streaming, and take away that home server market from older dummy Linux boxes.

In theory, Microsoft could sell this at a low cost, making it in such a way that it promotes the sale of multiple Vista PCs (and only work with Vista, thus preventing it from being used to power a Linux network). In that case, the box would only need large hard drives, processors capable of transcoding fast but not optimized for applications, no advanced graphics capabilities, and the such.

I want to have a dream Media Center setup, recording TV and enjoying my Windows DVR, but running Media Center on the same PC I do work from is a pain on performance. i would buy a $500 Home Server, as long as I knew my only problem was adding storage and tuner cards. Microsoft could make the home media experience perfect with a cheap Home Server, Vista Premium PCs, Media Center Extenders and the Xbox 360. Picture it, run through the options, and you’ll see it is virtually a dream come true for home entertainment.

Here’s the blog post as caught by Bloglines. I’ll update if he restores it, but it looks like it was pulled since it spilled the beans:


UPDATE: As requested by Zack in the comments below, some clarification: Zack is a contract employee, meaning he works with Microsoft, not for Microsoft. He works with Windows Live, and says the post was pulled for inaccuracies, so there could be things in there he was wrong about (and a lot of what he said was based on what was written around the web, not from inside knowledge). Anything not written in the quote above was written by me, and is my opinion, speculation, or analysis, and has nothing to do with him.

Hope that clears things up. I still think he let slip a few things that weren’t supposed to get out, and that we at least now have an interesting thing to look at while anticipating Bill Gates’ keynote at CES.

December 20th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Windows, Media Center, Vista, Live | 4 comments

Version 2 Media Center Extenders: Vista-Only

Chris Lanier reports that the new versions of Windows Media Center Extenders (V2) will only work with Windows Vista Media Center. This stinks, because the new Extenders are likely to have a bunch of great features that some hardcore Windows XP Media Center users want, like CableCard support, as well as HDTVs that have Extender technology built-in to them. On the other hand, MCE users tend to spend more on accessories than regular Windows users (like extra tuner cards), so maybe the $159 upgrade won’t be that big a deal.

December 13th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Windows, Media Center, Vista, XP | no comments

Microsoft Files DVR Advertising Patent

Microsoft has filed for a patent involving ads on Digital Video Recorders. Now, don’t worry, they won’t be inserting ads over your shows; rather, this patent involves ensuring the ads you see are relevant when you see them. The patent applies to shows watched on a DVR days, weeks and even months later, where the ads recorded may be for sales that have passed and movies that have left theatres, with the system replacing the expired ads with newer ads.

Frankly, its a brilliant patent, and could represent the long tail of network TV advertising finally having a means of existing. Because television always has been a broadcast medium, ads are always seen by the entire audience, making ads during highly-watched programming enormously expensive, and inaccessible to smaller companies and ad budgets. With this system, all the ads can be server locally, by the DVR, letting the entire audience see different ads, and thus let advertisers bid on a portion of the audience.

Even live programming could use this patent, replacing the regular ads with bidded, targeted, long-tail ads. Early adopters could see ads for internet startups that would normally never buy TV ads; kids would see ads for toys and junk food; soccer moms would see ads for food and clothing sales; lawyer dad could see ads for suits; teenage boy would see ads for video games. Split up the audience, and you could save TV advertising.

Why do users skip TV ads? Because most of them are useless, broadcast to everybody and reaching nobody! I don’t like car commercials (unless they have cool music), or yeast infection cream, or Tickle Me Elmo, or makeup; and every time I see those ads I want to skip commercials entirely. If I knew that Microsoft was serving me ads, and that those ads would be targeted to me every damn time, I’d want to see what was going on.

Broadcast ads used to work, but the audience is getting more savvy and technology is skipping ahead. Fix the ad system, or the $60 billion+ industry will dissapear. Google is working hard to solve this problem, but Microsoft already has the technology and infrastructure to roll this out to Media Center users. Get the system running and successful, get the networks on board, and you can expand it to the other companies.

The money is in the platform. Use Media Center for testing, but own the ad platform on your competitors as well. Nail this one down, and Microsoft will finally be going somewhere in the ad world.
(via SEW)

December 12th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Windows, Media Center | 4 comments

Buy Vista Premium Right Now For Just $109

Okay, this is a cool deal: Buy Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 right now from Newegg, and you’ll get with it a free upgrade to Windows Vista Home Premium. That means that if you have a computer without Windows, you can get a copy of Vista Home Premium for it with just $109, a savings of $130. If you already have XP, you will still save $50 off the upgrade, and can give the copy of Media Center to a friend (or sell it on eBay). Try to tell me that isn’t a great deal!

November 1st, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Windows, Media Center, Vista, XP | 6 comments

Happy Fourth Birthday, Media Center

Chris Lanier noted that Sunday was the fourth anniversary of Windows Media Center, arguably one of the finest software products Microsoft has ever shipped. Unlike typical Microsoft products, Media Center is on its fourth major revision in four year, Vista Media Center, in order to rapidly improve the product, and it remains a model we wish the rest of the Windows group would follow.

Here’s Chris’s screenshot history of MCE, with the version names added:

Windows Media Center history

Hard to believe its been four years. Eventually, when Apple starts pushing Front Row as a big deal, Media Center has a shot at being how Microsoft proves itself and wins back a lot of people.

Also worth noting: A second theme was developed for Media Center called Royale Noir, and it has just hit the internets. XP MCE ships with Royale Blue, which many people say is the best-looking Windows XP theme, but the product team considered a second theme, a dark version, that they ultimately never shipped. If you’re curious, you can now download Royale Noir, see if you like it. Really cool find.

Here’s Firefox 2.0 in Royale Noir:

October 31st, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Windows, Media Center, Vista, XP | 2 comments

How Much Does Vista Home Basic Blow?

Yes, Windows Vista Home Basic is not the world’s greatest operating system. Unlike XP Home, the cheapest version of Vista is actually missing a lot of things Windows enthusiasts will consider necessities. It’s so bad, Acer is calling it a price hike, saying that Home Basic will be completely rejected and Home Premium is the real cheapest version.

Is that fair?

The features most prominently missing (and most likely to make you sad) in Home Basic are Windows Vista Media Center, the all-in-one interface for recording TV, enjoying music and video, and streaming media throughout your home; and Windows Aero, the slick-looking UI update with live previews, transparency and better performance on the latest 3D hardware.

While the more technically inclined look at Home Basic as not being the “real” Vista, a regular user won’t notice anything missing at all. The geeks already know to buy Windows XP Media Center Edition, and Vista Home Premium is about the same price. If Home Basic was eliminated, the more “basic” users would lose out on a chance to save a few bucks (and keep commodity PC prices low), and gain little from the better versions of Vista. Plus, Home Basic can become Home Premium by merely entering your credit card number; no difficult work involved.

I think Home Basic is awful, but only for me. I’d never run it. But I know plenty of people who would go for it, and don’t see why they should pay extra for frosted glass borders.

October 31st, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Windows, Media Center, Vista, XP | one comment

Media Center Vs. Everybody Else

Ed Bott has done a great chart and review comparing Windows Media Center (Vista and XP seperately) against all the other server-to-TV media solutions, including cable company-supplied DVRs, multiple DirecTV DVRs, Myth TV, TiVo Series 2 and 3, Beyond TV, Sage TV, and Apple’s iTV. The categories are big ones, including types of TV broadcasts that can be streamed, support for multiple tuners, music playback, photo viewing and expandable storage.

Media Center gets check marks across the chart, but that isn’t the end of the story. You’ll have to read parts 2 & 3 to find out why.

October 25th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Windows, Media Center, Apple, Vista, XP | no comments