While I was up in Redmond at Microsoft for the Pro Photography Summit a few weeks back (see blog post and photos here), I was able to take some time during the lunch break on the second day of the conference to visit with Microsoft’s Media Center Team.
I’ve been a big fan of Microsoft’s Media Center platform for a while (a photo of my Media Center set up was actually my first photo I ever posted to Flickr) and especially its most recent iteration with Windows Vista. I think Microsoft’s Media Center Platform represents the very best home entertainment system available on the market today and sits head and shoulders above AppleTV, TiVo and other home media platforms.
Charlie Owen gave me a tour of their offices and I got to meet some new people from the team that I hadn’t met before.
I couldn’t take pictures of lots of stuff on white boards and the walls because development on Media Center is ongoing and much of the stuff about future features is confidential, but I got a few shots of the offices and some of the team members I met. You can see them in my Microsoft Media Center team set here.
So what were some of the surprises that I saw when visiting the Media Center Team?
First I was surprised what a relaxed environment they all work in. For some reason I’d always pictured people working for Microsoft wearing business casual polo shirts and Levi’s Dockers behind desks that all looked pretty much the same. Each person on the team had their own workspace and each had it pretty much set up however they wanted. Couches, futons, very cool music space set ups that looked more like a DJ stand than corporate offices. And while I didn’t see any dogs or Foosball tables, the set up reminded me a lot more of a Silicon Valley start up than the corporate behemoth that is Microsoft. Some people were actually using Macs. People walked around in t-shirts, shorts and sandals, etc. A very relaxed working environment.
Charlie Owen and Noah Spitzer-Williams showed me a pretty cool room where the team tests how things sound (see photo above). Music is obviously a big part of Media Center and we spent some time in what was pretty much a dream home theater room completely sound proofed for testing out different music file formats, bit rates, etc. It would definitely be the place to take your date on a Saturday night to impress her with the latest release of some cool DVD. I was also pleased to see the team working with large music libraries. Steve Moreland who works on music for the Media Center team had a music library of over 130,000 mp3s.
In their offices they had a design board with a bunch of interesting things pinned to it. Charlie told me that this was a board where people on the team post interestingly designed stuff for everyone to see. The designs didn’t necessarily have to have anything to do with Media Center, more just a place to post interesting stuff to inspire creativity.
Anyways, thanks to the team for taking a few minutes to show me what they were up to and sharing some of their time and space with me.