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Windows 7 Embedded & Media Center

Windows Media Center logo

Image via Wikipedia

I am not sure how many of you have kept up with the release of Windows 7 Embedded but it seems that this could be the Media Center dark horse and the one to watch.

What Is It?

So what is Windows 7 Embedded?  It is basically the ability to install Windows 7 directly onto a chip.  What does that mean?  It means you can install Windows 7 or some version of Windows 7 on devices like set top boxes.  Your cable box, game console and cell phone all have embedded software that makes them run.

Microsoft announced that Media Center features and functionality would be part of Windows 7 Embedded.  The cable card features will be missing at first but are expected to be added in the future.

So What?

So why is the important for Media Center?  It allows Media Center to start showing up in multiple for factors.  It would allow for the introduction of a few interesting Media Center products in my opinion:

  1. Media Center DVR:  Companies could create a Media Center set top box that competes with Tivo and other DVR’s.  It would allow them to create a streamlined experience that just works.  It could include a Blu Ray drive and a number of TV tuning options.  It would also increase the probability of a satellite based Media Center like the Dish Network Box demonstrated at CEDIA last year.
  2. New Bare Bones Media Center HTPC Kits: It would be possible to sell/buy Media Center bare bones kits in multiple form factors that the enthusiast could then take and begin to customize.
  3. New Extenders:  This may be where I am completely day dreaming but it would be possible.  The community has wanted a SoftSled extender for as long as I can remember.   SoftSled extenders are basically software versions of OEM only extenders.  This would give enthusiasts the ability to make their own extenders.  Now I do not see this coming but I do see the possibility for an OEM to build an extender that uses Windows 7 Embedded with Media Center running in an extender mode that would only be supplied by Microsoft to OEMs.  If this sees the light of day the extender platform would finally realize it’s potential.  I could still have a small form factor box like my Linkysys DMA 2100 that runs absolutely quiet with a unified TV Tuner pool and recorded TV list but has all of the functionality of an actual Media Center.

Will It Happen?

Well now that we know what some of the possibilities are how likely are we to actually see some of this happen?  At this point I feel it’s 50 / 50.  When I was at CEDIA and asked about extenders there was no news other than the fact that Microsoft likes the extender paradigm.  Could the lack of news been a result of not wanting to spill the beans on Windows 7 Embedded to soon.  Possibly.  It makes sense.  At the end of the day we do not have a roadmap and I do not think we will hear anything new until CEDIA which seems to be the preferred announcement time for Media Center.

The biggest strikes against this that I see are the Xbox 360 and the dissolution of the Media Center Integrator Alliance.  The Xbox 360 continues to become more and more of an alternative set top box.  The only missing component is Live TV which could be ending with option like ESPN 3 integration and the rumored Hulu integration. 

Also the custom integrator channel was seen as the biggest champion for continued Media Center adoption but we have no idea where that support lies.  When I was at EHX in March there were still a lot of integrators that had no idea what Media Center was an how it worked.  If they did know what Media Center was they did not know how to begin selling it to their customers.

The Future

While we cannot predict the future I still feel like Media Center’s glass is half full and not half empty.  With Google entering into the market and Apple rumored to be refreshing Apple TV as an iOS4 product you can bet Microsoft will not let their lead and experience just dissipate.

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One Response

  1. I’ve thought about this too but nobody is picking up the ball to roll with it. I think MS is waiting on IPTV.

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