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Niveus SDK Expected to Bridge Media Center/Automation Gap

The Media Center maker is getting into the software business with fully baked solutions and a platform to enable third-party development.


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Companion software lets you access and control Media Centers and Extenders throughout the house.

Niveus, arguably the first developer of high-end Media Center PCs, is getting into the software business.

The company has announced its new Companion software that lets users operate their Media Centers from an Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC). Niveus developed this software itself, having worked previously with Promixis, developer of NetRemote software. "Version 3 of Companion is a complete rewrite with all of our own software," says Niveus CEO Tim Cutting. "It does all the same things as before but with some optimizations and fixes."

In addition to general fixes, Companion now can control DVD changers, which it could not do previously. It also supports Media Center Extender, so it can operate any entertainment system connected to a Media Center or Extender product. (We announced previously that Niveus is making its own Extender solutions). Also, the software enables users to navigate with arrow keys, whereas previously it only supported touchscreen navigation.

But that's not all. Niveus is also rolling out Niveus Control Server, a home-control platform that the company hopes will be embraced by software developers from both the CE and IT ranks. The company is releasing a software developers' kit (SDK) to enable third-party development.

"We now have a fully documented SDK for communicating via RS-232 or TCP/IP -- whatever command set (AMX, Crestron, Elan, etc.) someone wants to write for it," Cutting says.

He says that templates for the SDK have not been created but Niveus may develop some to jump-start the developer community. It may be a challenge, Cutting admits, but the company remains committed to keeping the software ball in its own court. "We've had a lot of starts and stops with third-parties," Cutting says, not mentioning Promixis or Lifeware -- a one-time intimate partner -- by name. "We see control as so core to the Niveus server, we need to make sure we have our own [solution] to add features. … We don't want such a core part of our product tied [exclusively] to third-party developers."

Autonomic Inside



In addition to its own Control Server and Companion software, Niveus will load its Media Centers with software from Autonomic, enabling dealers to integrate Media Centers into AMX, Crestron or HAI control systems.

I've raved about Autonomic in the past because its software (just a few hundred dollars) allows dealers to create rich integration between the Media Center and automation environments, allowing, for example, a HOME scene to turn on the Lutron lights and launch music from a specific playlist from the Media Center.

Niveus' own Control Server ultimately may compete with Autonomic's offering but for now Autonomic is the only organization with a turnkey programming environment bridging the Media Center/automation gap.

"If someone wants to just plug and go, they can use Autonomic," Cutting says, "but if you want to write your own clients, then use our SDK."

Service Pack Pre-Release



Before Microsoft releases its next service pack, Niveus will roll out its own version to Niveus users. "We've been out there working with CableCard and Vista for many years," Cutting says. "We've worked out a number of fixes. We didn't hold back with XP. We've been out there working with Vista and with our dealers working out the bugs."

The "Niveus Service Pack" will be an update of Vista hot fixes that are not available through Microsoft right now, Cutting says. "There are a number of CableCard updates, updates to HD DVD and proprietary updates from Niveus."

The updates will be available for download after CEDIA.




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Article Topics

News · Media Center · CEDIA · Exclusive · Media Center · 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. [More by Julie Jacobson]

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