Musings of a PC

Thoughts about Windows, TV and technology in general

Category Archives: Windows Media Center

Converting Blu-Rays to high quality MP4s

Those of you who have followed my occasional blog postings will know that I have a home theatre setup with a Hush PC running Windows 7 with Media Center and a Synology NAS to store full rips of DVDs and Blu-Rays. I use Media Browser as the front-end to all of my stored videos.

Recently, however, two factors have led me to become increasingly frustrated with this configuration:

  1. ArcSoft’s Total Media Theatre does not play well in conjunction with Media Browser. The more recent versions of MB have improved the situation but TMT 5 just doesn’t play well. I don’t know if it is the fact that my hardware is now getting a bit old or because TMT 5 just isn’t a good bit of software.
  2. Some of the Blu-Rays recently purchased are protected by Cinavia. If you haven’t come across this before, it is an audio watermark designed in such a way that if you play a copy of the content rather than an original source, playback is supposed to stop after a period of time with an error. Now, the version of TMT 5 I was using had not had Cinavia support added but the Blu-Rays wouldn’t play properly, if at all, so I was left wondering if there was a change in the way the discs were being created that my version of TMT 5 was choking on. Upgrading TMT to the most recent version would introduce Cinavia support, which would then totally prevent me from using ripped copies.

So I’ve been researching the various options available to me, focussing mostly on HandBrake. This is a great, free piece of software that does a fantastic job of taking various source material (DVD, Blu-Ray and others) and converting to MP4. It does one job and it does it really well. It does not include any capability for defeating copy protection but I use AnyDVD HD for that.

Now I know that converting Blu-Rays to a different compressed format – both audio and video – is going to lose me some fidelity, and I know that I’ll lose functionality as well, such as the ability to dynamically turn subtitles on and off, or select different audio streams, etc. There are ways to solve this, such as using different containers such as MKV, but Windows 7 doesn’t support MKV natively and I didn’t want to install any more software onto the media PC. According to reports I’ve read, it is possible that the Cinavia watermark survives the transcoding but Windows 7 doesn’t provide any support for Cinavia :-).

Here are the settings I ultimately ended up with:

  • Normal preset
  • Video tab: select Fast Decode. I found this necessary to stop the media PC occasionally choking on the playback.
  • Audio tab: add an audio track of your choice with the codec set to AAC (faac) and mixdown set to 5.1 Channels.
  • Subtitles tab: if your Blu-Ray has any foreign language in it (e.g. Avatar, Star Wars I, Salt, etc), you can choose to have the English subtitles for those sections burned into the video image. This requires a copy of the nightly build of HandBrake and not the stable build at this time (0.9.8 doesn’t support this feature). Just add Foreign Audio Scan, select Forced Only and Burn In. It should be noted that enabling this feature will result in longer processing time as HB then has to scan through the video to see where the subtitles get turned on and off in order to determine if there are any foreign language subtitles to select.

That’s it. I found the resulting video and audio to be of very high quality.

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Google buys SageTV – does this mean anything for Windows Media Centre?

The recent acquisition of SageTV by Google ordinarily might have been something that just passed me by as I’d probably be the first to admit that I generally don’t use Google products :-).

But then I started thinking about what attention Microsoft might pay to the acquisition.

I’ll be honest – I’ve been a bit nervous about my use of Windows Media Centre lately. Microsoft bought the web site The Green Button and has recently “merged” that into its Windows Experts community, much to the dismay of many TGB members. Since WMC became an embedded part of Windows, it has meant that it only gets updates as part of the OS timeline. It isn’t treated like Windows Live or even Office, where both of those families have development timelines separate to the OS.

There was a leaked slide deck several months ago that suggested some of the areas that Microsoft might be thinking about taking WMC but WMC is one of those bits of Windows that, oddly enough, really doesn’t get much of a mention. If you look at all of the talk going on about Windows 8 at the moment, there isn’t anything being said about WMC. Indeed, at CES this year, it almost looked as if the only roadmap for WMC was as part of Windows Embedded.

Will the acquisition of SageTV by Google change that? I don’t know. All I can hope is that (a) it shows that Google want to improve their own TV offering and that (b) this leads Microsoft to revitalise their efforts to deliver a really good Media Centre product – and preferably one that is still part of the mainstream Windows Client OS.

I know that WMC has been and still remains a pretty niche product. Part of the difficulty is the cost. You can buy Freeview recorders for a lot less than it costs to buy a pretty good PC with TV tuner hardware and windows. But I love WMC for the fact that it does so much more than a single-minded bit of hardware. I love the fact that I’ve been able to transfer all of my DVDs and Blu-Rays onto hard discs and I can now browse my movie library – including the films I’ve recorded off TV – and effortlessly pick a film to watch from that collection.

I just hope that Microsoft don’t leave me in a cul-de-sac, wondering what I can use instead of WMC if they make a decision that means I can’t continue to use it the way I’m used to.

 

Looking for a quiet NAS box

… and when I say quiet, I mean as quiet as possible.
I have been careful with the choices I’ve made when putting together my Windows 7 HTPC in that both the computer and the external storage unit are fanless. Unfortunately, because the motherboard on the HTPC doesn’t support multiple drives on the eSATA port, I am using the expansion card that came with the storage system. This works well, by and large, but – and it is a big but – the computer does not always “see” the card when it resumes from sleep mode, forcing a reboot to correct it.
I am therefore thinking of moving the external content to a NAS unit. Since it will be located in the living room next to the rest of the AV equipment, it needs to be as quiet as possible for when nobody is watching anything.
I’m not too worried about capacity as I could add more units to the network but if the NAS is capable of multiple drives, all the better.
I have been looking at the Synology products, particularly the new unit they’ve announced but I am concerned about the potential fan noise levels.
Any thoughts or suggestions? Please leave a comment if you do.
Posted from WordPress for Windows Phone

Long-standing issue with Windows Media Center now resolved!

Ever since I had the media PC hooked up in the living room, I’ve had an issue where the right-hand side of the screen could show a very thin vertical strip of garbage pixels. My workaround to date has been to select the high contrast colour scheme (so that the background is black instead of blue), set something playing and then back out to the top level of WMC’s user interface (at which point the screen redraws and clears the garbage away) then go back to “Now playing” to see the content I’d chosen.

Not ideal.

Thankfully, Microsoft have now released a hotfix for the problem. I’ve installed it on my PC and some quick testing of recorded TV programmes, a DVD, music, photos and videos all show that the problem does indeed seem to have been fixed.

You can read more about the problem and the resolution for Windows 7 and Vista at KB 974324. The hotfix can be requested electronically and you’ll receive an email with further details. Please note that the hotfix has not been fully tested and so if this causes you concern, you may want to wait for Service Pack 1 to be released as this will contain the fix as well.

My thanks to DMS_Freeview on The Green Button for originally posting the information in a discussion thread there. I only wish I’d found the thread last year when it was posted!

New Sky Player offer

Sky have just announced that from tomorrow (17th July 2010), Sports Pack customers can watch all Sky Sports channels live on Sky Player for free until the end of the year.

Sports Pack customers can also use their Sky iD to watch Sky Sports with Sky Mobile TV live on their iPhone or iPad, also free until the end of the year, but that isn’t as interesting because it doesn’t involve Windows Media Center!

Live channels on Sky Player normally require Sky Broadband Unlimited or Sky Multiroom for free access, or a £10 per month fee.

Using Sky Player with Windows Media Center

I recently wrote an introductory blog about the availability of Sky Player as an add-on for Windows Media Center. In this blog, I’m going to talk about what Sky Player offers in more detail and the user experience of it.

Sky Player has two entry points within the Media Center menu structure – the first is under TV, the second under Movies. The latter takes you straight into the Sky Movies section of on-demand and live viewing, whilst the first takes you into the top level of the system where you have more navigation options:

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The top level options are:

  • Sky Movies
  • Sports
  • Entertainment
  • Lifestyle & Culture
  • News
  • Documentaries
  • Kids

Picking any of these takes you to the next level:

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where you are offered a list of channels, plus the other navigation options of Highlights, Watch Live, Categories and A-Z.

If you pick a channel, the content is further sub-divided into Latest, Most Popular, Categories and Watch Live:

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The range of channels and content that Sky has to offer can make navigation a little bit cumbersome, particularly if you aren’t entirely sure which category Sky might have placed a channel under. If you know which channel you want, it can be simpler to navigate to the top row of options and choose either Live TV or On Demand, where you then get a list of all of the channels:

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For Live TV, this is also integrated into the guide (more on this later) and, as you navigate across the channels, the screen shows you the current programme being shown. It does not, however, show when that programme finishes or what the next programme is.

Watching live is a reasonable experience although I think the user interface needs a bit of cleaning up. For example, here is a screenshot from watching a live film:

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Part of the problem is that this interface has not entirely been designed with the remote control user in mind. For example, the double-pointer to the right of the channel name displays a list of channels when clicked on but there isn’t a remote button that correlates to that. Pressing up and down on the remote control correlates to the single up & down icons that are slightly further right of the channel name. These allow you to look at what other channels are broadcasting without actually changing channel:

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However, I could not find a remote control button that mapped onto the Watch Now clickable area and so wasn’t a particularly useful bit of functionality. Pressing channel up/down on the remote did change Sky Player channels so that was functionality well implemented.

I really don’t understand why there are volume options in the interface, though. I would have expected – and preferred – for all of this to be handled centrally by Media Center’s volume management.

Another example of where the user interface has been designed around the desktop is when you display programme info:

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The info pane will automatically close after a while, so what is the X doing there? Yes, it will close it but that is a desktop operation and not a remote control function.

It isn’t possible to pause a live stream in Sky Player. This is a shame as it would have been a nice bit of added functionality. As it stands, all you can do is press Stop. You don’t appear to then even be able to press Play to resume the stream! I suspect that this is a bug and there needs to be a bit more work here …

The remaining significant functionality of watching Live TV is the ability to adjust the quality being viewed by pressing the green button. There are three levels – high, medium and low:

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The difference in quality isn’t easily noticeable when the playback is small but is most certainly visible when WMC is running full screen and on a 50” screen! The quality of playback under “High” is acceptable but not, I would say, brilliant. I don’t have any figures such as resolution or bandwidth, but I felt that even the High quality playback was actually slightly lower than Standard Definition.

The guide for Live TV is well implemented, looking almost identical to the TV Guide:

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You cannot record programmes from Sky Player which is, I think, a serious deficiency. The desktop version of Sky Player allows you to download On Demand content and play it back offline. There isn’t the equivalent functionality in the Windows Media Center version and this would be a welcome addition to a future version.

Sky Player is also integrated into the main TV Guide:

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but there isn’t much level of detail here beyond the channel names against each category and the option to watch live TV, although that function didn’t seem to work properly for me. Another bug uncovered, perhaps?

Watching On Demand is a relatively straightforward process although, as noted above, navigation is cumbersome. There is, however, quite a flexible search interface and I’ll cover this below.

Once you’ve picked a channel and category, you are then presented with a sideways scrolling list of programmes or movies … which can be quite long depending on what you’ve picked.

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Picking an item displays the synopsis and any purchase information:

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You can then play the item if you have free access or if you are willing to pay for it.

The controls for On Demand viewing are simpler than those for Live TV:

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You can immediately see that you can pause and resume playback. Again, there are volume options which are unnecessary. There isn’t an option to change the quality of playback, which I don’t have an issue with but, as noted with Live TV, it would be nice to have the capability to download/record the item to hard disc for offline viewing. Sky clearly have this technology within the desktop application and it would be great to see this migrated.

There is also a progress bar to show how far you are into the programme. As with Live TV, this is mouse driven! You can click/drag the bar to change your position within the programme’s duration. However, there isn’t the equivalent for a remote control user and there isn’t the equivalent of “fast forward” or “fast rewind”, so if you are watching on a TV with a remote control, your playback options are somewhat limited to pause, play and stop.

As I’ve noted a couple of times, if you aren’t entirely sure which category a channel fits into, or where a programme might have been broadcast, there is a search function built in:

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You can use the buttons on the left-hand side to filter the results somewhat, although principally by Sky’s idea of how the broadcasting is structured rather than genres for films, etc.

Searching will match against any part of a title:

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Selecting a match then performs a further search, which I found a bit weird but I guess there is a reason for it. This secondary search matches any words you’ve entered against a programme’s title or synopsis.

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Once you’ve found what you are looking for, you select it and you can then play it as before:

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It should be noted, though, that searching is only against the On Demand content and doesn’t search the Sky programme guide for Live TV options.

Conclusions

All in all, this is a good implementation of the Sky Player technology as a native add-in for Windows Media Center. There are, as has been highlighted, some rough edges in the user interface but they don’t really get in the way of enjoying the content. I remain concerned, however, about the usage restrictions as noted at the end of the previous blog, and I would really like to see support added for offline viewing.

For both Sky customers and non-Sky customers alike, this is an easy way to gain access to Sky content. I think that the pricing could be improved by reducing it somewhat but it would be interesting to see what the take-up is at the current pricing levels.

If you have Windows Media Center, why not give Sky Player a try and tweet me at @pcolmer to let me know what you think?

Getting started with Sky Player and Windows Media Center

Sky Player is one of two recent add-ons for the UK installs of Windows Media Center that support streamed video, the other being MSN Video. Sky Player started out life as a standalone Windows application that used the Kontiki peer-to-peer infrastructure to download programmes and films without overly taxing Sky’s infrastructure. Since then, Sky have reengineered Sky Player to use Silverlight for the delivery of the videos, introduced the streaming of live TV and also broadened the reach of Sky Player by allowing you to watch Sky Player through a web browser, Windows Media Center, Xbox 360, suitably equipped STBs (such as the forthcoming 3View) and, finally, through Sky Player software still, which allows you to download programmes to watch them offline.

One of the benefits of Sky Player is that it allows anyone to watch Sky programming, even if you aren’t a Sky customer. If you are at all familiar with Sky’s channel offerings, you’ll know that they are structuring into packs. The pricing for Sky Player is similarly set up, with their Entertainment Pack costing £15 per month, the Movies Pack £34.50 per month and the Sports Pack £32 per month. There is a combo offer of Sports & Movies for £41.50 per month.

If, on the other hand, you are a Sky customer, what you are able to watch is dependent on what your Sky subscription entitles you to. Live TV streaming, for example, is free if you are a Sky Multiroom or Sky Broadband Unlimited customer, otherwise it is £10 per month. There are selected programmes from channels in your Sky subscription that you can watch on demand for free. Beyond that offering, there is a selection of movies to rent from £2.50 and programmes from £1.

Enough about the background to Sky Player … what about using it?

Getting Sky Player set up is relatively straightforward. Windows Media Center should already have added two icons to the main menu area:

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Selecting either for the first time starts up the installation process:

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This should be a fairly painless process although I did have problems on one of the computers I tried this on, due to an earlier installation of either MSN Video or Silverlight – I cannot be sure. I ended up having to get out the keyboard and mouse for the Media PC in order to manually uninstall bits before trying again. In the above run-through, no such issue arose.

When the installation completes and you go into Sky Player, you’ll see a screen similar to this one:

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Before you go much further, though, you’ll need to sign in. Sky Player uses a Sky iD to associate any subscriptions you might have with a username and password.

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A word of warning: your Sky iD allows you to use Sky Player to up to 4 computers, but only one at a time. Furthermore, Sky have a concept of a main computer, which is typically the first computer that you use with Sky Player. Sky movies and Sky 1 programmes may only be watched on the main computer. All other computers are restricted to non-Sky content. You can change which computer is to be considered the main computer, but only once per month.

In my view, this is a significant restriction and one that should be reviewed. I don’t have a problem with the “up to 4 registered devices” limitation. What I do have a problem with, though, is the limitation of the viewing of Sky programmes. I  don’t think that it is reasonable to say that only one of the registered devices is permitted to access that content. I definitely don’t think that it is reasonable to then only allow you to re-designate the main computer once a month! For example, consider our household where Windows Media Center is primarily used on a dedicated PC in the living room. I then go on holiday somewhere in the UK or visit family and want to watch Sky TV or movies on my laptop. Currently I would have to designate my laptop as the main computer and then, when I got home, I wouldn’t be able to watch Sky on the Media Center PC until a month has gone by! It is simply a nonsensical restriction.

Rant over … next time, I’ll go into how Sky Player has been integrated into Windows Media Center and the experience of watching Sky on your PC.

What about Media Center in Windows 8?

A week or two ago, details of Windows 8 leaked – some might say in a big way. The pages that have been posted on various sites are marked “Windows 8 discussion, this is not a plan of record”, so they must be taken as such and not necessarily as what might eventually appear in Windows 8.

That said, the pages do suggest some of the thinking going on in Redmond. Indeed, one page in particular caught my eye, titled “Consuming TV in Windows”. The page states “Our view is that broadcast TV for PCs via tuner cards will be replaced by Internet-sourced TV and broadcast TV via DLNA-connected tuners.”

I applaud the ability of Microsoft to see ahead and envision the future and in what direction they need to head. However, I cannot help but be somewhat concerned by the timeframe of this particular segment of thinking. I don’t know what it is like in the US, but in the UK, broadband speeds are not particularly high, data volume packages are (in general) not particularly generous and I simply cannot see broadcast TV being replaced by Internet-sourced TV in the short to medium timeframe. It would seem that BARB (Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board) agrees with me. In figures quoted in a recent article written by Digital Spy about the BBC’s Canvas project, they state “online viewing still only represents 1% of total broadcast viewing, and that only increases to 2% among the more web-savvy 15 to 34-year-old age group. As linear TV still accounts for the vast majority of viewing, it seems that we are some way off viewers completely abandoning the programming schedule”.

DLNA-connected tuners make sense given the desire to have consumption of TV anywhere in a house. However, that doesn’t mean that these devices are going to magically appear. Somewhat bizarrely, if you go to the DLNA web site, tuners aren’t even listed as a category of certified product! That aside, I guess my primary concern about DLNA-connected tuners is the possibility of added complexity. It is one thing to have a PC running Windows with Windows Media Center and you stick a USB TV tuner into it … it is something completely different to have to start working with a network and discovering devices, configuring them, etc. If Microsoft really, truly want this to work, it will need to be as seamless as possible. I strongly suspect that one of the reasons why Windows Media Center isn’t more prevalent (putting aside the fact that most people don’t know it is on their PC!) is that there will be a perception of complexity. Non-IT engaged users will be afraid of trying to use it.

I’m pleased to see at least a hint that Microsoft still see a future for Windows Media Center in Windows, but personally I think I’d prefer to see them investing their engineering effort into other features like supporting more functionality for Freesat and Freeview or, even better, working with Sky to get WMC to be a complete replacement for Sky+. Now that would be something worth having!

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).

Becoming a TV Ambassador and Most Valued Consumer for Windows Media Center

Around October last year, Microsoft UK launched an interest concept – raising the awareness of Windows Media Center across a diverse audience. Their hook was the offer of a free USB TV tuner that could be used to turn any PC with Windows Media Center into a fully fledged digital video recorder.

The offer was heavily over-subscribed by a factor of 300%! Free stuff is always a good lure but the scheme gave the team at Microsoft UK some insight into what people are looking for. When the programme was closed at the end of 2009, we were asked to fill out a survey. 9 out of 10 participants rated Windows Media Center as either excellent or good. 97% of the programme participants said they would continue to use the service after the end of the trial.

What I think has led Microsoft to continue to look at how to move forwards, though, is the last statistic that has been shared with us: 88% said they wouldn’t have tried Windows Media Center if they hadn’t taken part in the campaign. Indeed, I suspect that they might not even have known that it exists!

Following the closure – or perhaps suspension – of the TV Ambassador programme, we were all asked if we would like to be considered for one of five places on a new concept, Most Valued Consumer. Those applying had to say why we thought we should become an MVC and how we would spread the “TV on PC” love with Windows Media Center in the future.

It took a while for the decision to be made final but I learnt recently that I was one of the five, along with Andrew Edney, who is also an MVP for Windows Home Server, Richard Evans (@barnsdale), Graham Miller and Steve Holme.

Last week, the five of us were invited to visit Microsoft’s office near Victoria Station for the day. The first half of the day was spent talking about Windows Media Center, aspects of Windows 7 that expand the functionality of WMC such as HomeGroups and Play To, plus new additions to WMC functionality such as Sky Player and MSN Video Player. The second half of the day was spent talking with the Senior Marketing Manager for Windows Media Center EMEA, the Portal Business Manager for MSN UK and one of the Program Managers.

One of the challenges that Microsoft does seem to face is simply lack of awareness of the amazing functionality that Windows Media Center delivers. WMC was originally conceived as an additional component to Windows XP and then incorporated into Vista Home Premium & Ultimate, then wider versions of Windows 7 (Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate). From a PVR perspective, it implements the broadest set of common and prominent features when compared to other software-based PVRs. So the primary challenge facing Microsoft seems to be how to raise the level of awareness.

We talked about the role of the MVC and the possible future for the TV Ambassador programme. It was explained that both programmes are currently exclusive to Microsoft UK but that the rest of Microsoft is looking on with interest to see if there is merit to running either or both on a larger scale.

Personally, I am very pleased that Microsoft UK have taken the initiative and even more pleased to be a part of it. I think that all too often there is functionality in Windows that is US-centric. It was good to hear that there is a development team based in Ireland that are tasked with functionality such as DVB-T and Freeview compatibility.

I’ll be writing a separate article shortly that is my wishlist for the future of Windows Media Center. I’ll also share some of the slides from a PowerPoint presentation we were given at the start of the day that is an overview of some of the features and functions.

Overall, it was a great day and I hope that Microsoft (UK) continue to work with the community on driving the functionality forwards.