Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Preview of Microsoft Media Center TV Pack (aka Fiji) by Engadget HD


The gang at EngadgetHD got their hands on a RTM (release to manufacturer) build of the Vista Media Center TV Pack (aka Fiji) and they are showing off Fiji's new features (same ones I confirmed a few weeks ago) including:

  • 16x9 thumbnails

  • Native QAM support

  • OTA Channel flexible numbering

  • New DRM’d video format called WTV will replace DVR-MS

  • HD recording preferences (set channel preference by tuner)

  • Favorite Channels Listing in EPG (create multiple lists of favorites and choose which favorites to include in the guide

  • Non-US tuner support- (this includes DVB-S (not S2) for several countries including Australia)

  • Teletext support (non-US)

You’ll note that H.264 support and therefore DirecTV tuner and Hauppauge HD-PVR support are NOT included – again this was confirmed here a few weeks ago

Ben Drawbaugh has an excellent rundown of the features, installation and lots of screen-prints.  The bad news on Fiji is really upsetting some of the long-time Media Center customers though.  Here’s a few of the negatives:

  • Installation of this “pack” is difficult and “not designed for end users” according to Drawbaugh

  • Old DVR-MS recordings don’t work once upgraded - UPDATE:  As noted in the comments below, only DVR-MS recordings made with a cablecard tuner have this restriction - all other DVR-MS recordings should work fine.

  • Not all plugins will be compatible

  • The new WTV files aren’t compatible with many (possibly any) other players

  • The update is only available to OEM’s

  • It has been confirmed by a few OEMs on the GreenButton forums that the update is only available for new purchases!

I should note that if you look in the right place, there are torrent copies of this update available – just know you’re PC could be messed up as it wasn’t intended to be installed by the “casual user”.

Its becoming more obvious that Microsoft is giving this release to OEM’s only to appease their computer manufacturers and plan to hold off most coveted features for Windows 7.  I understand wanting to make sure that the next version of Windows has as many “gotta have” features as possible, but seriously Vista isn’t that old and pissing off so many of your loyal VMC fans like this just doesn’t make sense – even from a business perspective.

The official details of Windows Media Center TV Pack will be announced by Microsoft at CEDIA which is September 3-7 in Denver, CO.  Beta testers of Fiji are restricted from talking about it until September 3rd as well.  Just keep in mind that CEDIA’s focus is to OEM’s and not end users so any positive news on this front will have to come by way of a clarification to VMC users.  Surely Microsoft will at least throw it’s loyal users a bone and provide some sort of upgrade path without having to wait for Windows7.  If not, I just can’t see putting much faith in Microsoft’s Media Center Platform.  The other thing that is upsetting many folks is that so many of the new features that were expected to be in Fiji just aren’t there in this release.

If you want to get an idea of the confusion and outright disappointment Microsoft has created with this Fiji mess, give Mary Jo Foley’s article from Yesterday a read.

Read the entire EndgadgetHD Hands-on report on the VMC Fiji