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Can Ceton Rejuvenate Windows Media Center, Extenders?

Ceton shows Windows Media Center Extender with built-in Web browser and DTS audio technology at NAB 2012, complementing its InfiniTV 4 USB multistream tuner.


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Ceton Echo extender (top) is the perfect complement to a Windows 7 PC and Ceton Infinitv4 quad CableCard tuner (bottom).

Just when you thought Windows Media Center was dead, Ceton Corp. and DTS announce a new Media Center Extender that delivers streaming media from a Windows 7 PC to multiple TVs in the home.

The product, called Ceton Echo, is being introduced at the NAB show 2012 this week.

Windows Media Center has fallen in and out of favor as a DVR and streaming media system. Proponents like the extensibility, the user interface and the lack of monthly fees; detractors say that PCs are too unstable as an entertainment solution, and that solid support for CableCards is lacking.

Microsoft itself has fallen in and out of love with the platform -- first building up the aggressive eHome group for Media Center development, and then dismantling it a few years later.

So-called Media Center Extenders were manufactured by several mass-market producers such as Linksys, as well as niche provider like Niveus. Now, it seems the only extender left is the Xbox.

But things may be picking up for the Media Center and extender platforms, thanks to Ceton.

First there was Ceton’s InfiniTV 4 USB, which enables users to watch and record up to four live channels of HDTV simultaneously, and stream live HD channels or recordings to multiple HDTVs throughout the home from a single cable connection and a single multistream CableCard, the M-Card. (My review of the device should be available soon.)

These cards can be leased for as little as $2 per month on top of a digital cable subscription service.

Introducing the Ceton Echo with DTS, Web Browsing
This year, Ceton is launching the Ceton Echo client device as an alternative to Xbox for extending entertainment throughout the home.

Unlike most mass-market first-generation Media Center Extenders, the Echo not only streams content, it also includes a Web browser that lets users surf the Web.

In addition, Ceton is incorporating DTS audio technology in the boxes.

In a press release, Ceton president and CEO Gary Hammer says, “Integrating DTS audio means our customers can experience immersive audio as they enjoy live and recorded TV, listen to music, surf the Web or stream media to any TV in their home.”

For its part, DTS hopes the solution will catapult the company into the connected home market.

Geir Skaaden, VP of products and platforms for DTS, says in the statement, “At DTS, we have an unwavering dedication to the future of audio enhancement and strive to bring the high-performance sound experience to the next-generation of home theaters, powered by media center devices. Joining forces with a forward-thinking company like Ceton allows DTS to play a more significant role in the connected home entertainment space and further ensure consumers have access to top-notch audio when enjoying entertainment content at home.”

There’s no word on pricing for the Ceton Echo, and the exact release date is not specified in the press release.

Ceton Echo Details


Technical Specifications:
  • Outputs: HDMI, Optical Digital Cable, Composite Audio/Video, 2x USB 2.0
  • Network: 10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet, MoCA, DHCP or Static IP Address
  • Standards: TCP/IP, UPnP AV 1.0, USB 2.0
  • Media Streaming Protocol: HTTP, RSTP
  • Audio Formats: AIFF, MP3, WMA, WAV, Playlists: M3U, PLS, WPL
  • Photo Formats: BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, TIFF
  • Movie/Video Formats: AVI, DVR-MS, DVR-MS HD, H.264, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, VC-1, WMV9
  • Digital Rights Management: Windows Media Player 11, WMDRM-11
  • Power: TBA
  • Dimensions & Weight: TBA
  • 1-year limited warranty

Requirements:
  • Standard- or high-definition television with HDMI or Composite Video input
  • TV or A/V receiver with optical digital or composite audio input
  • Wired Ethernet Network (10/100/1000 Mbps) or coaxial connection required if using optional MoCA adapter
  • A Ceton "Q" or a PC with Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Ultimate
  • Ceton "Q" or a Windows 7 PC with a TV tuner is required for TV and DVR features




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Article Topics

News · Product News · Video · Digital Media · Media Servers · Multiroom Video · Media Center · Ceton · Dts · Nab 2012 · All topics

About the Author

Julie Jacobson, Co-Founder, EH Publishing / Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.

20 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Ian  on  04/17  at  12:20 PM

So, what does DTS bring to the extender? Broadcast/Cable TV does not use DTS. Most TVs do not understand DTS.

The device lacks an optical drive, so it can’t be physical media support.

So, that leaves rips and bootlegs.

Posted by Chris W  on  04/17  at  01:28 PM

Ian, that’s a great question that deserves a great answer.  While I don’t have that answer,  the only thing I can think of is that DTS is positioning itself for a yet-to-be-announced service (think Netflix streaming DTS).

I can’t wait to load up my house with Echo extenders, and I’d love to hear exactly how DTS will be used.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  04/17  at  01:53 PM

Yeah, I’m with Chris. DTS has been trying to be involved in the “connected home,” and Ceton has some decent coattails.

Maybe Ceton is hoping to eventually have the product embedded in CE devices/settop boxes and this would be a decent proof of concept.

And, oh yes, bootlegs!

Posted by adam  on  04/17  at  03:02 PM

And i am curious about the lack of mkv file playback, given that it is fast becoming the standard for HD playback. Will that be left to the media centre to decode?

Posted by pcompton  on  04/17  at  04:40 PM

Will this system give Media Center the ability to not suck?  Or will it just give it the ability to actually work? 

I’ve had a total of 4 computers with MMC on them, each time I get a new computer I think “This time I’m going to use it…It looks so groovy”...5 minutes later I give up after it’s froze up 3 times. 

I hope Ceton knows that MMC doesn’t actually work.  Sure would hate to spend all that money on a new bridle for my horse and find out that Henry Ford moved in next door.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  04/17  at  06:24 PM

We had several good years with Media Center + CableCard running our entertainment system. And now that we have Time Warner Cable, we realize just how good the interface was for Media Center. Wow, TWC UI is ridiculously bad.

I like the idea of paying only $2/month for four simultaneous streams of Hd video, a very strong DVR and access to Hulu+

Posted by pcompton  on  04/17  at  06:37 PM

You think TW looks bad, you should check out WOW (WideOpenWest).

Holy Mackeral.

Posted by Ben Drawbaugh  on  04/18  at  06:02 AM

Julie,

The Echo was actually introduced at CES and some providers don’t charge anything for CableCARDs (Comcast, for example, gives you the first one for free).

As for DTS in an Extender. The Echo will work as a standard Extender for Media Center, but it will also work as an Extender for the Ceton Q also due this year. When used with the Q, it has more features which I’m sure is what is tied into DTS. Playback of UltraViolet CFF files with DTS would be one possible example, and support for your own files like MKV etc, is another.

Posted by vince just  on  04/18  at  06:37 AM

This looks great but I have two concerns-
1. no wireless networking that I can see.
2. with the recent information from Microsoft regarding Win 8 only having MediaCenter available thru the Win8 Pro version after media pack purchase - isn’t the mainstream market shrinking?

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  04/18  at  07:02 AM

Thanks for the info, Ben.

Posted by Ben Drawbaugh  on  04/18  at  07:06 AM

Vince,

Streaming broadcast HD via wireless isn’t something any Pro would put their name on. It just isn’t consistently reliable. Ceton is making MoCA optional on the Echo, which means it will work anywhere you have coax. MoCA has been deployed for years and has proven to be very reliable, even over older existing coax cable.

Media Center was never mainstream, but then again, either is most of the products professional integrators sell and support.

Posted by concord  on  04/18  at  09:25 AM

Nice, but with TW (and others) applying copy protection to recorded shows (such that they are only viewable from the system that recorded it), will the extender play the copy protected show?

Posted by Ben Drawbaugh  on  04/18  at  10:24 AM

Yes, Extenders for Media Center can play Copy Once material, as it only streams, not copies.

Posted by CybrSage  on  04/18  at  10:38 AM

One correction, first there was the Ceton InfiniTV PCIe internal 4 tuner card, then came the USB version years later.

smile

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  04/18  at  10:52 AM

But it’s the USB version that can open it up to the masses…

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