Musings of a PC

Thoughts about Windows, TV and technology in general

My wish list for Windows Media Center

Freeview HD

There was an announcement last year that Microsoft was working with a company to develop a DVB-T2 tuner for compatibility with Freeview HD. Given that Ofcom have now allowed the BBC to encrypt the EPG data, I suspect that there will need to be some development work to get WMC to support this …

Freesat/Freeview certification

I don’t know how much work this would entail, but I think it would be great if Microsoft could continue to develop the features and functionality of WMC so that full certification for the Freesat and Freeview (HD) logos could be achieved. From my perspective, Microsoft want their customers to see Windows Media Center as a primary entertainment hub and I think that the best/simplest way for that to be achieved is if WMC can be used as a complete replacement for other Freeview/Freesat receivers, which I don’t think it can at the moment.

Project Canvas

I don’t know what Microsoft’s thoughts are here but, as with the above suggestion, if Microsoft can implement the appropriate pieces in order to allow WMC to be classed as a Canvas device, that would make it an additional selling point and further reduce the need for an additional device in the home.

BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD, Five on Demand

Currently, WMC has two video on demand sources – Sky Player and MSN Player. I’ll be writing more about these in future postings. However, I do feel that to have properly implemented Media Center versions of these other TV catch-up services would really help to flesh out the features and functionality of WMC, heading in the direction of what could be the best media entertainment system out there.

Radio

Currently, the Radio option in  WMC requires FM tuner hardware. This needs to be more flexible, and extended to support DVB radio channels and Internet radio stations.

Signal strength/quality

Occasionally, I’m seeing breakups in recordings I make in WMC and this is probably being caused by the signal strength not being quite what the tuners want. I can adjust this on the aerial signal amplifier I’m using but it would be trial and error without a live signal strength & quality meter. This is something that pretty much any STB has and I also know that WMC does have this information, but it is buried deep inside some of the channel information and it isn’t live.

Extenders

The ability to watch the content of a WMC system somewhere other than the TV that WMC is connected to has been a feature for quite some time, using extenders. However, the extender market is pretty much non-existent. The only device you can currently buy that qualifies as an extender is the Xbox 360 but I’m not going to buy a games system just to watch WMC content in the bedroom or the kitchen. The Wife Acceptance Factor for that idea would be zero.

Windows 7 introduced a level of support for DLNA – Digital Living Network Alliance – but it is essentially the Play To functionality which means that even if I had a DLNA-equipped TV in, say, the kitchen, I would have to go into the living room and instruct WMC to play content to the TV in the kitchen. I’m not sure if that would then mean I wouldn’t be able to play something (else) on the living room TV at the same time, which you can do with extenders.

So we need something that is the equivalent of a Media Center extender that is cheap to build/buy and can connect to TVs. Something like an appropriate application for Windows Phone 7 perhaps?

http://www.brickfish.com/Pages/Blogs/BlogView.aspx?bid=39939&scid=538

Or, failing that, why not provide details on the protocol used or release the oft-rumoured SoftSled – software that would in effect turn a computer into an extender?

It is very important that whatever technology is used is capable of not just accessing music, photos and video from a Media Center system but, ideally, also able to support WMC additional functionality in some way. For example, if I’m in the kitchen, it would be great to be able to access Sky Player or MSN Player without disrupting what the main Media Center PC is doing.

Synchronised content

Currently, if you sync content to an external device, it gets recoded and often to a very poor level of quality. This is an area that needs to be improved, particularly if Windows Phone 7 is going to form part of the “3 screens” ecosystem.

Remote record functionality

This is something that used to exist – in the US anyway – via MSN. You would go to an MSN web page, browse through the EPG data, select something to record and a message would be sent to your Media Center system to record that programme in the future.

There is a third party application that provides somewhat similar functionality. My main concern or request is that the system needs to work with the computer sleeping when it isn’t being used, just like a Sky+ box does.

What do you think?

Do you use Windows Media Center? What do you think of the above wish list? Do you have any wishes of your own? Let me know in comments or by Twitter (@pcolmer).

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