Microsoft's CEDIA booth
What we got right
Lets start with the fun stuff; being right. The most obvious prediction was also only one we predicted correctly, a firmware update was announced that would free content marked as copy freely from DRM and add Tuning Adapter support to the existing ATI Digital Cable Tuner. We're also going to call the Dish Tuner prediction half right, since Dish did show a tuner for Media Center at the show -- even though we later posted it was post-poned.
What we missed
We actually heard of rumor that the OEM requirement would be removed, but honestly we didn't give it much credibility. Either way, the removal of the OEM CableCARD requirement is a pretty big one and one that has the potential to change the Windows Media Center landscape. There's still no word on when the utility that will unlock this new feature will be released, but when it is, all you'll need is a DCT and a computer running Windows 7 to enjoy premium HD content on Windows.
What we got wrong
Sadly this is the biggest section -- we aren't even going to include our list of might happen here because honestly we didn't think they would. The biggest shocker to us was that ATI didn't have a new Digital Cable Tuner to announce. Instead it seems that after about three years of being the only game in town, ATI is pulling out of the market. In retrospect it should've been pretty obvious because AMD sold off most of its TV business to Broadcom last year and along with it most of the people who worked on the DCT. Luckily Ceton was at the show with its new quad tuner and the details of the new offering was documented on its website. So while we would've liked to have seen more competition from AMD, at least Ceton and Hauppauge are interested in helping us get premium HD on our HTPC. Speaking of Hauppauge, we're surprised official support for the HD PVR wasn't announced at the show, but then again we hear that the 3rd party solution is pretty good.
The last two items on the bad list were the Live Mesh and Zune HD integration and we wanted to save these because we haven't lost hope that they'll happen eventually. Although it is a long shot in the short term, we expect Microsoft tol continue to integrate its products and with the Zune HD just now hitting the streets, it might take some time for these dreams to materialize. As far as Live Mesh, now that we think of it we can see where Microsoft would want to hold these announcements for the main launch of Windows 7. But this still isn't something we expect to be announced at launch. No, after going back and watching the video demo from PDC, it seems that the Live Mesh Webguide was shown running on Windows Home Server. So it is entirely possible that this feature will be one of that product and not announced until WHS v2 -- sometime next year. One thing is for sure though, in one way or another Microsoft has to enable remote scheduling. We mean there's no way Media Center could be missing something so big when even the crappiest cable DVRs out there can do it.
Speaking of more predictions, one new one that we had in the might happen category has been moved to the will happen in time for the Windows 7 launch. Which is that there will be more internet TV partners announced. We did get to see the Windows 7 Netflix functionality at CEDIA and we have reason to believe there's more where that came from. Of course if we knew more, you see it plastered on Engadget. All that being said, we believe Microsoft has at least one more trick up its sleeve that Media Center fans should be happy about.
Overall things look good for Media Center
As much as we really hoped Microsoft would do more, we have to say that things are looking up for Windows 7 Media Center. First and foremost is that Media Center is a big step up in Windows 7 and will be available to everyone in about a month. But even more exciting is that a new CableCARD tuner is coming in the next six months. And to top it all off, premium HD content will be available to just about anyone. And because of all this there is a difference in the enthusiasts community, as the doomsayers have taken a break while at the same time people seem to be excited about Media Center again. Of course the real test will be if the market can grow past the die hards. We believe the next hurdle will be to convince TiVo HD owners who also have a Windows 7 PC and an Xbox to ditch the TiVo and replace it with a Ceton CableCARD tuner. Because hey, if you can't convince people who already have all the pieces, the need, and the money to put them together, then how do you expect to get anybody else?