My Interview with Microsoft’s Media Center Bloggers, The Final Episode

Part Four More on Upcoming Media Center Features:

In parts one, two and three of our interview with Microsoft’s Charlie Owen, Sean Alexander and Matt Goyer we focused on some of the basics of Microsoft’s Media Center Edition software, their partnerships and a tangent off on to what it is like to be a Microsoft employee and a personal blogger. Today we will explore more on the upcoming features that we might expect from future versions of Media Center.

Thomas Hawk (TH): As an early adopter of HDTV, I have to ask the question — and of course feel free to decline to answer or provide some kind of a cryptic response — when will we see cable or satellite support for HDTV in Media Center Edition? Most recently a lot of attention has been given to the CableCARD technology. In fact, the Sonoma Media Center XPC from Shuttle, which is scheduled for release later this year, has already been described as having both a CableCARD slot and HDTV capabilities. Is this something we might look forward to in the months ahead with regards to Media Center?

Charlie Owen (CO): Of course I can’t comment on rumors or unreleased products. That said, each release of Media Center has ‘raised the bar’ of features and functionality, and I expect this trend to continue.

Sean Alexander (SA): Same as Charlie of course, I can’t comment on future product development directions. But when we can, we’ll be blogging from the rooftops.

(TH): Ok, fair enough, of course we all know it’s only a matter of time. Let’s talk about “My Music” for a moment. Recently I read that you guys have had over 90 million downloads of Windows Media Player 10. Wow. Being on the bleeding edge with an obsessively compulsive music collecting habit I find your Windows Media Player 10 product to be simply amazing. Quite frankly I still can’t believe it’s free. What improvements should we expect from both Windows Media Player and in conjunction Media Center Edition’s “My Music” feature? And for the .001% of us who are running extremely large music libraries, what performance enhancements might we look forward to in the near future?

(SA): The music player development and optimal performance are very important to Microsoft. Believe it or not, I would argue that the “.001%” as you put it, are a very influential .001% with lots of friends whose perceptions will be shaped by their experiences.

What I can say is that I blogged early on asking enthusiasts with very large media libraries to provide their Media Player database file to me for performance testing when one of our dev’s asked for this internally.

(TH): Quite True.

(SA): We got better real-world databases from those outside the company than inside. Library performance is getting lots of attention right now for all kinds of data. Just look at the investments being made across Microsoft in search technology.

Matt Goyer (MG): Rest assured that some of those “.001%” work for Microsoft here on both Windows Media Player and Windows Media Center teams. We are all working very hard to address the performance of large music libraries.

(TH): Anything at all that you can talk about regarding Longhorn Premium / Media Center Edition? Sean you just got a big promotion to work with the next generation of windows. Any details?

(CO): I’m going to let Sean answer that one.

(SA): Stay tuned. All I can say is that I’ve been on the project for about two months now, and I’m more fired up than ever to be a part of this team.

(MG): It’ll be great.

(TH): Ok, Podcasting is all the rage these days, how about a daily podcast to synch to your portable device with Media Cener?

(CO): Podcasting and vblogging is all the rage and the hot and upcoming thing in the whole RSS space. You can already watch and listen to content via RSS feeds in Newsgator Media Center Edition. The plumbing is there from an extensibility perspective — just need to have some enterprising company or individual come along and put it all together.

(SA): I wrote a few Podcast Auto Playlists for Windows Media Player 10 in my free time that I released publicly for just this reason. It’s a start as one enthusiast to others.

(TH): Matt, recently I read on your blog that a guy created a Media Center for his car. What a fanatic! I love it. Any chance that we see more with Media Center in the automotive entertainment system of the future?

(MG): What’s most exciting about the guy who put a Media Center in his car, is that while he works at Microsoft, you don’t have to be to a Microsoft insider to build something like that. Any ambitious hobbyist could do so, or even a partner could go out and use our Media Center 2005 platform to build a mass market solution.

(TH): Guys you have been great and thanks for having put up with me and all my long winded questions. One final question, on a personal level, what are you proudest of having accomplished over the past few years in working with Media Center?

(CO): I’m proud to work on a product my entire family enjoys on a daily basis — that’s pretty rare.

(SO): The Windows Digital Entertainment Anywhere event in Los Angeles launching Media Center Edition 2005. I got to spend 50 minutes on-stage with Bill Gates, unveil some of the coolest devices, products, and services and at the end of the day, the AP ran a picture of my demo with my wife and son up on the HDTV and Bill and I smiling. Then my parents got to watch it all on-demand on their Windows XP PCs at home with Windows Media Player 10 – talk about bringing your work and home life together.

(MG): Since I have only been here a year yet you won’t see the cool things I’m working on until a future release. But I am certainly glad to see my blog being read by so many Media Center enthusiasts, and co-workers . And of course the coolest thing about working on Media Center is that I get to play with these toys not only at work, but at home. You can read more about my home setup here: http://blog.mattgoyer.com/categories/mediaCenter/2004/12/04.html#a3831.

(TH): Thanks a lot guys. Anything you’d like to add in closing?

(CO): I can’t think of a thing – you asked a bunch of great questions, Thomas.

(MG): You asked a lot of questions about our future plans and unfortunately we can’t comment on those just yet. You also ask a lot of questions about when we are going to do XYZ. While we can implement any number of features directly into the next version of MCE we have a platform that allows ANYONE to build feature XYZ today. Have a favorite content provider? Wish they were integrated into MCE? Talk to them and encourage them to develop a MCE version of their application. It’s one thing for someone on our team to request a partner to build a MCE application and quite another for a number of consumers to make the same request of that partner. <
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Or even better, do you have a great idea for combining photo sharing and MCE? Start coding, who knows, maybe your idea will one up pausing live TV as the killer app in the living room.

And thanks Thomas for taking the initiative to do this. It’s great to see someone as enthusiastic as you are about home media!