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Dish Network Media Center tuner.
We have good and bad news after visiting the Dish Network booth first thing in the morning. We're happy to say that Dish was proudly displaying a Dish Tuner for Media Center 7 at its booth. The bad news however is that it was just a "proof of concept." Which means no matter how hard we tried, no one would tell us anything about price or availability. The other thing up in the air was if the actual implementation would be based on VIP211K HD STBs like the demo, or if instead there would be a dedicated tuner. The last unknown was around VOD or PPV, which we know was recently being tested, but still no word if it'll make the final version. The other bad, but not unexpected news, is the fact that like the first generation CableCARD tuner for Media Center, all the content is copy protected. As for how it works, looks good, but the channel changing was slower than our CableCARD tuner enabled Media Center. We did grab a video, but you'll have to wait until we can get it uploaded.

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Ceton quad CableCARD tunerThere's no press release or anything, but an eagle eyed blogger noticed that the FAQ for highly anticipated multi-stream CableCARD tuner for Windows Media Center on Ceton's site has been updated. Among the new details is the fact that there will be multiple offerings -- as apposed to just the one version announced at CES -- which will include 2, 4 and 6 tuner versions. The card has also been adapted to work in a low-profile PCI-E form factor, but no word if all three iterations will be available in the shorty version. The bad news is that the new release date has been pushed back from 2009, until the first quarter of 2010. Of course the new tuners also won't be restricted to the OEM requirement and will of course work with Tuning Adapters to add SDV support. The quad steam version is currently geting its stamp of approval from CableLabs so it'll be out first, but we're very saddened to tell you that there is still no word on the price. While we wait for price and availability though, you can look forward to our hands-on just as soon as we work our way to the Microsoft booth at CEDIA.

[Via GeekTonic]

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And so it is. Toshiba, the one-time cheerleader for HD-DVD, has now officially gone to the azure side with the BDX2000 Blu-ray player. It supports BD-Live (Profile 2.0) and REGZA-LINK (HDMI-CEC), outputs 1080p at 24 frames per second, and does Dolby True HD / DTS-HD Master Audio... but really, all that needs to be said here is that it's a Toshiba Blu-ray player. Look for this one-time paradox this November for a penny under $250. As for yesteryear, we think this line from the press release says it best: "This product does not play HD DVD discs." It's at once both sad and poetic that this very well may be the last official line ever uttered in the once-promising format's story.

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That smug FiOS guy wants you to know that Verizon has announced the launch of FiOS TV Online, extending your sitcom addiction to yet another screen with on-demand programming from TNT and TBS (with other providers coming "soon," apparently). If you thought watching Project Runway on your Motorola Krave was mind-blowing, wait until the latest Mark-Paul Gosselaar snoozefest is available any time, any day, on your laptop! Kind of makes Twitter widgets seem rather tame in comparison. Full PR after the break.

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CEDIA Expo
We had a good feeling that Microsoft might have a thing or two to announce around Windows 7 Media Center at the upcoming CEDIA show in Atlanta this September, but now we can start the official countdown. The after-hours event at ESPN Zone will help kick off the show in Atlanta at 6:30pm -- the event is invite only, but don't worry, we'll be bringing you the events live as they happen. Although the specific announcements are anyone's guess, the invite did let us know that all of the Windows Media Center news and updates will break there, as well as the winner of the Ultimate Install Contest. So that's just over two weeks until all your home media hopes will be fulfilled -- or destroyed -- depending on your perspective.

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Announced during CES as the third title (after Sleeping Beauty and Pinnochio) to get Disney's Platinum Edition treatment, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs will appear for the first time in high definition October 6 --well ahead of the standard DVD November 24 -- and Disney prez Bob Chapek is already bragging that it will be a reference point for home entertainment libraries. Expect a major push from Disney to upsell its family customers to the HDTV edition, with the staggered release scheduling and meticulous attention paid to this release, there's no question this as much a part of the company's Blu-ray driving strategy as its Magical Tour last year. USA Today also says several Blu-ray exclusive extras will be included, but your guess is as good as ours what they are, other than the now standard for Disney $40 combo pack that includes a DVD and Pinnochio's Disney View picture frame.

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Maybe Pioneer just needs to change shipping companies here, but we're seeing a frighteningly high amount of cracked screens on the KRP-600M over at AVSForum. The problem has become so bad, in fact, that users have started a dedicated thread just to grumble about it. Thus far, 11 responders have seen their precious plasma arrive with a cracked screen, while 18 received theirs in good shape -- not a good ratio in terms of quality control standards. We aren't sounding the fire alarm just yet, but we're curious, have any of you unboxed your shiny new set only to weep for hours due to a busted panel?

[Thanks, Gio]

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Wow, we didn't see this coming, at least not this fast -- just a week after getting a sneak peek at release candidate zero, our friend Brent Evans pointed us to a Microsoft knowledge base article that clearly states "The Windows Media Center TV Pack was released on July 16, 2008." Our sources are now confirming this and unfortunately the earlier leak that this would be an OEM only update seems to be true as the very next line in the KB says "Not all computers that are shipped by hardware vendors in the retail channel have the Windows Media Center TV Pack installed." What we really want to know though, is if we were able to did get our hands on the Windows Media Center TV Pack, could we just upgrade or would we have to re-install Windows? So while we can't wait to check out the new HD features, native QAM support, and heterogeneous tuner support, we can't say we're not disappointed.

Read - MS KB955485
Read - Geek Tonic

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Paramount
The last HD DVD exclusive studio to announce Blu-ray titles won't be the last to release, as Paramount has announced its first Blu-ray movies will hit the street starting on May 20th with Face/Off, Next, and Bee Movie. But the fun really starts in June, as the long awaited award winning There Will Be Blood and Cloverfield are both due on June 3rd. Then a few weeks later, the first day and date title will come with The Spiderwick Chronicles on June 24th. So with the last studio finally lined up, it won't be long until we really get to see DVD and Blu-ray go head to head and once and for all find out if the new Blu format can make a run at the defending champ.

[Via Blu-ray.com]

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USA HD and SCI FI HD
DISH has been telling us that the unfortunate fate of AMC-14 wasn't going to get in the way of its HD plans and you know, we're starting to believe 'em. Seriously, how could you not with all the new local markets recently, then CNN HD a few days ago and now the two channels many have really been waiting for -- Battlestar Galactica in HD anyone? Now to those who subscribe to DISH's AT100 and Essentials HD (or higher) package, SCI FI HD is available on channel 122 HD and USA HD is available on 105 HD.

[Thanks, Scott!]

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Boy it sure took long enough, but finally, a company other then Toshiba is producing an HD DVD player. Sure, it might be made by the same company that produces those low-cost Walmart DVD players, but before you say anything, think back a few years. Remember when DVD players where a thing for AV geeks and gadget lovers, costing around $150 to $200 per player? Companies like Venture, APEX, and all those other random Chinese companies did what CE giants like Sony and Toshiba couldn't - get people to kick their VCRs to the curb with low-cost DVD players. We aren't saying those DVD players are still alive and kicking but those cheap units put a DVD player in every home across the country.

There aren't many details about the Venture SHD7000, besides it plays HD DVD movies. We are assuming it has the mandatory HD DVD requirements of persistent storage, network interface and HDi support but other then that, we have nothing. Hopefully when more details emerge, they will include a price of around $100 and a launch date that is sooner then later. Just when you thought the format wars where dying down, here come the Chinese. FYI - Venture is based out of Canada with a Chinese manufacturing partner, Alco.

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