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At the NXTcomm telecom conference this week, Microsoft removed the mystery from a recently-unearthed trademark filing by announcing its new Mediaroom IPTV and multimedia platform. According to Microsoft, it's more than Microsoft IPTV with a brand-new name, as it adds new features like personal media sharing, enhanced picture-in-picture capabilities, and a new multimedia application environment. Ars Technica met up with Joe Seidel, director of Microsoft TV partner business development, at NXTcomm for an overview and demonstration of Mediaroom.



Microsoft's exhibit at NXTcomm

Seidel started out by explaining that Mediaroom is an "ingredient brand," meaning that it will be used in conjunction with an IPTV provider's service, e.g., AT&T U-Verse with Mediaroom. "Our goal is giving the consumer all of their information in one place, all of their media at one place," said Seidel.


Mediaroom will run on both a set-top box and an Xbox 360, and for the first time Microsoft's IPTV products can support satellite TV service from the likes of EchoStar's DISH Network and DIRECTVif they decide to partner with Microsoft. The demo ran on a Motorola set-top box and if you've ever had cable or satellite TV, much of the interface will look quite familiar to you.



Mediaroom channel guide complete with alpha blend and picture-in-picture preview

The guide above shows Microsoft's default color scheme, but IPTV providers will be able to add their own branding, as AT&T did in its U-Verse demos at NXTcomm. Seidel says that relying on packet streams has its advantages when it comes to picture-in-picture and what he called multiview. Mediaroom is capable of displaying up to 16 separate video streams at once in a 4x4 grid. "You can watch a basketball game in 720p with players on teams in your fantasy league displayed below in low-res picture-in-pictures and switch streams at any time," explained Seidel. Each stream has its own set of metadata associated with it, which can include player stats.


Microsoft's vision for the set-top box in Mediaroom is that of a "digital media receiver" according to Seidel, who also said that the company has a "whole-home PVR" in development. Only one of the digital media receivers in the house would have a hard drive built-in. Any receiver connected to the home network would be able to view content stored on the DVR, however.



Looking for shared content on the network Seidel also demonstrated the media sharing capabilities of Mediaroom. Content from all Mediaroom-aware devices (i.e., set-top boxes, PCs, Windows Mobile devices, and the Xbox 360) will be viewable from anywhere in the connected home. Users will be able to easily browse picture and music libraries and can stream content from room to room using Mediaroom. There's also an application developer kit available to IPTV carriers, which will allow AT&T and the 17 other companies worldwide that use or are in the process of deploying IPTV to create their own custom-built applications for Mediaroom.



Browsing shared music and photos from the living room TV with Mediaroom

One of the early criticisms of IPTV was that the channel-surfing experience can be a bit frustrating at times, as it could take up to a couple of seconds to go from one channel to the next. Microsoft has worked hard on that aspect of the IPTV experience, said Seidel, and the channels changes in the demo were nearly instantaneous. According to Seidel, Mediaroom uses an algorithm to determine whether a viewer is in channel-surfing mode and will change from unicast to multicast mode to ensure a smooth viewing experience.



With Mediaroom, the Xbox 360 acts like another set-top box

In his keynote speech at CES in January, Bill Gates revealed that the Xbox 360 would be integrated into Microsoft's IPTV offering. Seidel demonstrated the functionality for me and gave me a chance to explore the 360's IPTV capabilities. Mediaroom can be accessed from the 360 from the Media menu, appearing as an option below the current Music, Pictures, and Video selections. Once you select Mediaroom, the 360 acts as another set-top box.



Watching TV on the Xbox 360

While watching TV on the 360, you can still receive invites from friends. Should you decide to engage in a friendly Halo 2 deathmatch, Mediaroom will automatically pause the show and record the rest so that you don't miss out on a minute of Grey's Anatomy. Seidel said that the 360 will get full Mediaroom functionality by the end of 2007 or in early 2008, but that Microsoft has not decided whether the Mediaroom update will be pushed out like other Xbox Live updates or be media based. Either way, existing Xboxes will be able to fit into the Mediaroom environment.


Seidel reiterated that Mediaroom will only be available from IPTV providers, which means that your Xbox 360 won't gain any set-top box capabilities unless your TV provider decides to go the IPTV and Mediaroom routes. In the US, that means AT&T, as Verizon brought its FiOS TV efforts in-house after initially casting its lot with Microsoft's IPTV.


Mediaroom is an impressive-looking product from Microsoft, but it's going to be a slow rollout in USif only because of a current dearth of potential homes to connect. AT&T is Mediaroom's big customer in the US. The telecom currently has about 40,000 U-Verse subscribers, but plans to pass 18 million homes by the end of 2008. Outside of the US, Microsoft counts Bell Canada, Deutsche Telekom, British Telecom, and Swisscom among its customers. If AT&T can convince one of the satellite providers or a major cable company to make the switch, it should raise Mediaroom's profile in the US significantly.

http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post...aroom.html?bub
 

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if anyone jumps on board it's dish, they just picked up slingbox, and mediaroom would be an excellent addition if they can make it all work together, and just think, sign up for dish and get an xbox360 STB/DVR instead of just a dish dvr, that would be sweet.
 

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Sounds cool, but I doubt I will see this product any time soon :-(. Now if only there was a way to give the 360 cable card support or somethign like that. Or for someone to provide a similar service that doesn't require you to have a specific service provider.
 

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Does Mediaroom have anything to do with the Internet TV button that showed up on Vista Media Center???
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by chris5977 /forum/post/12043318


Does Mediaroom have anything to do with the Internet TV button that showed up on Vista Media Center???

no, thats internet tv beta.... you can already use it.
 

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Yeah, you can pause a show and go play a game and come back and have it only to leave a message saying, "Insufficent Disk Space"
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by danieloneil01 /forum/post/12043639


Yeah, you can pause a show and go play a game and come back and have it only to leave a message saying, "Insufficent Disk Space"

I have about 1.3TB of disk space. Can't it fit in there somewhere once I get around to installing Vista?...
 

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Sweet idea but I'm not so sure i'd want to use my 360 to watch TV.
 

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I'm not sure if you are trying to be sarcastic or not. But I'll give you my straight up answer.


I simply prefer my cable box to do my TV watching. Its specifically designed to do that, and just that. Its going to be way more quiet and reliable than any 360 I know of. And my girlfriend will always find the cable box easier to use for simple tv watching.


I know MS is going after the all-in-1 box digital living room. But I think its too early for that.. the hardware, graphical interfaces, and software simply arent mature enough to do everything yet. That vision is still atleast 10-15 years down the road but I guess it has to start somewhere. It seems like right now the reality of the situation is that the 360 is capable of doing one thing absolutely well, and that is playing games. Everything else has been software or hardware additions which for the most part work well too. I'm specially talking about the TV/Movie Media downloads in the Marketplace and the HDDVD addon. It feels like MS has a team dedicated to finding out what *ESLE* can the the 360 do. And ideas that seem good enough, get added.


While I have no problem with the "look at what I can do now" additions to the 360. I imagine the only people interested in this MediaRoom feature of the 360 are early adopters, technogeeks, and people with absolutely small living spaces who always appreciate less electrical clutter.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by ThumperII /forum/post/12044587


Why not. It is very quiet and stable with great reliability.

I detect some sarcasm, but my experience is that the Xbox 360 IS quiet and stable when being used as a Media Extender. I watch virtually all of my TV through the 360 because everthing is recorded on a PC in my office through an HD Homerun setup. It has been flawless after many hundreds of hours of viewing.


I agree that playing games on the 360 is a noisy and unreliable (but fun!) affair. However, it is a superb streaming client.
 
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