Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Hardware Implementation of Media Center Upgrade Scenarios

Continuing on with some useful Media Center related info released at WinHEC 2006, here is a presentation with the title Hardware Implementation of Media Center Upgrade Scenarios.

Within this slide deck are essentially three sub-sections:

  • Windows Media Center Hardware Requirements
  • Upgrades for Windows Media Center in Windows Vista
  • Components for Media Center in Windows Vista

In the 'Windows Media Center Hardware Requirements' section, it is noted that Microsoft is moving away from Media Center specific criteria lists, such as the MCE Hardware Requirement lists, or Designed for Media Center Edition lists. Instead, they are setting up the Windows Vista Media Center requirements to align with the requirements for the 'Premium' level of the Windows Logo Program and tests in the Windows Driver Kit. This should alleviate the need to consult yet another list to see if a computer is Media Center capable.

Of course, there are some minimum hardware specs. Highlights include:

  • CPU
    • x86/x64-instruction set
    • No minimum CPU speed
    • CPU utilization is key measurement
  • Memory
    • 512 MB minimum
    • 1 GB or more recommended for Windows Vista Media Center
    • 1 GB system memory for UMA systems
    • Minimum of 64 MB video memory reserved for graphics
    • Minimum of 128 MB video memory with a 128-bit interface for High Definition TV
  • Tuner/Encoder
    • Meets the Premium level WLP logo
    • Digital TV tuners use the Broadcast Driver Architecture (BDA)
    • No true hybrid tuner support (this is coming post-Vista)
  • Hard Drive
    • Performance (RPM, cache size, etc)
    • 100 GB free PVR storage space (recommended)
    • 40 GB for mobile (recommended)
  • DVD Decoder
    • Microsoft MPEG-2 decoder supports
      • DVD Playback
      • Television recording and playback
      • DVD Video burning
    • Non-Microsoft MPEG-2 decoders
      • Does not affect Microsoft MPEG-2 decoder

In the 'Upgrades For Windows Media Center In Windows Vista' section, a description of the changes in the Vista upgrade process are outline. Essentially, a 'clean' operating system is installed, and then application settings are migrated. Only certain operating system settings are migrated. Specific to Media Center upgrades, approximately 100 files and settings are migrated, including scheduled recordings, recording history, installed applications, audio and video preferences are migrated. However, it should be noted that even after the upgrade, Media Center upgraders will have to go through the First Run Wizard, as many of Media Center's settings are now stored in difference places (more items in the registry essentially).

Here is the a list of the SKUs that you will need in order to upgrade from previous operating systems.

Windows Vista Upgrade Paths

In the 'Components For Media Center In Windows Vista' section, three pieces of hardware are highlighted.

  • Graphics
  • Audio
  • Tuner

For Graphics, HDCP will be required for the playback of Digital Cable, HD-DVD, and other premium media formats when using DVI and HDMI. HDTV Display support, with DVI or HDMI inputs, will also be needed to display the abovementioned sources.

For Audio, Vista moves toward the new Universal Audio Architecture, which should make it easier for hardware device manufacturers to expose more functionality to end users.

For Tuners, there is a focus on MPEG2 encoding, how hybrid tuners are handled in Vista and in the future, better scanning of broadcast frequencies to ensure discovery of all channels, 64 bit drivers for tuners that have shipped in the last 1-2 years, and protected content, starting with OCUR for 2006 and then pBDA support in 2007 and Video Quality Certification through the Imaging Science Foundation. I've talked about some of items on the tv roadmap for 2007 in the blog posting 'Preparing for TV Beyond Vista'.

All in all, Microsoft is truly focusing on integrating Media Center into its Vista offerings, and has taken steps to make it easier for customers to ensure that they are purchasing computers that are ready for Media Center right off the bat. All the above initiatives aim to do this in a better manner than what we see today. Feel free to take a further look at the slide deck for more details.

What do you think? Is this better than what we see today? Will this help end users?

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