Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Windows Media Center

One thing Windows has going for it - Media Center. Really - if you haven't taken a look at what you can do with Media Center, no matter how anti-Microsoft you are, you really ought to check it out.

Cool Article by Julie Jacobsen
Media Center Users Get Free ITV and Slingbox Functionality
Microsoft adds free Internet content and remote access to recorded TV shows, music and other Media Center features.
If you already have a Media Center PC, it’s your lucky day, as Microsoft adds two features to the platform: Internet TV and Media Center’s own version of SlingBox called WebGuide.

Both services will be available free of charge to Media Center owners. “It’s a good example of how the Media Center platform keeps evolving,” says Scott Evans, group manager in the Entertainment and Devices eHome Division at Microsoft. “It adds value for people who bought Media Center.”

The new Internet TV feature—accessible through a tab on the Media Center home page next to “Recorded TV”—is supported by advertising. Internet-based content such as TV reruns and sporting events can be accessed just like any other show available through Media Center.

ITV should not be confused with Microsoft’s IPTV service, now called Mediaroom. Available through broadband providers, Mediaroom is an IP-based alternative to traditional cable and satellite content delivery. It is a non-PC solution that delivers programming guides, content and other services directly through the TV via a proprietary settop box.

The ITV offering, on the other hand, is a simply a way to push some IP-based content to Media Center PCs.

The other new feature, called WebGuide, is a third-party application that does what Slingbox does, and a whole lot more. Like Slingbox, it is a time-shifting, place-shifting TV viewing solution, but it also lets users schedule TV recordings, access music collections, and in short do pretty much everything you can do with a Media Center … via any Web browser, whether inside the home or from a hotel room halfway around the world.

A labor of love by founder Doug Berrett, Web Guide has been highly lauded in Media Center circles, and practically free at $18 for a download. Now it is actually free. Just download it onto your Media Center, and begin accessing it from anything that has a Web browser, from a PC to a cell phone.

In fact, WebGuide does a few things that Media Center alone doesn’t do. For example, you can set up an RSS feed for your recorded TV shows, and access them with one click from a Sidebar gadget on your PC desktop.

The service is just one more reason to dump Slingbox and TiVo for that matter. TiVo’s remote access service is slow and laborious. Web Guide is almost as fast as being there.

Berrett has now joined Microsoft full time.

Full article

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Re-invigorating the ebay experience

Today ebay launched an ebay that is designed to look more like a social networking site with more stickiness than the old school ebay. One of the central elements of this plan is called Neighborhoods where users can gather around a theme such as Shoe Heads or Battlestar Galactica to post photos, product reviews, tips and responses pulled from Ebay blogs, guides and reviews. The fresh look is the result of a broader strategy at Ebay prompted by a small blip on the rapid growth of Ebay late last year followed by a 6% decrease in postings in the second quarter of the year and a 25% decrease in listings by Ebay stores from last year. 2007 has been the year of enhanced websites, particularly retailers looking to add some viral elements to their site using social trends on the net - even Walmart added customer feedback and reviews on their site!