Microsoft at CEDIA 2008: Focus on Channel, not on TV Pack

Microsoft to 'reaffirm commitment' to the channel, and highlight partners that are 'taking Media Center to the next level,' but don't expect big news on TV Pack

Microsoft at CEDIA 2008: Focus on Channel, not on TV Pack
Julie Jacobson · August 21, 2008

At CEDIA 2008, our friends in Redmond will be “reaffirming the commitment that Microsoft has in the custom install channel,” says Kevin Collins, director of the custom installer channel for Microsoft’s Connected TV Business, Entertainment and Devices division.

The company will have a much larger presence at the show this year, sharing spaces with both Lifeware (#410) and Runco (#510).

“We’ll have a much larger section, and we’ll be highlighting a lot more partners that are participating in the channel,” Collins says.

We all know that Microsoft has close ties to Lifeware, the most enthusiastic user of Media Center in the home-control space. Microsoft’s partnering with Runco, however, might come as a shock to traditional integrators who think Media Center has no place in a high-end home theater.

For the dealers who are believers, a large number of them entered Microsoft’s second annual Ultimate Media Center Install contest, and the winner will be announced Saturday, Sept. 6 at a special Expo press event.

“We were quite impressed,” says Collins. “There were more submissions than last year – by an order of magnitude – and the quality bar of people submitting projects was significantly higher.”

Microsoft also is upping its channel training, with a record four courses at CEDIA, including one that deals entirely with CableCard (who’d a thunk such a thing was necessary?) and one that focuses on Windows Home Server.

Why Care about the Channel?

It’s been a long time coming, but Microsoft has finally seen the value of the custom install channel.

As it happens, Media Center out-of-the-box does not have the mass-market appeal that Microsoft always envisioned (go figure). Now Microsoft is leaning on the channel to learn a thing or two about real-life Media Center installations.

“Microsoft is not into this channel as a revenue play,” says Collins. “Microsoft is in the channel to get learnings. We believe the channel is going to provide feedback to make Media Center a successful product in consumer retail. … We have to be successful here before we can take it to [Circuit City’s] Firedog or [Best Buy’s] Geek Squad.”

So far, Collins says, the feedback from integrators has been invaluable. It was the channel, for example, that brought the complications with CableCard to Microsoft’s attention.

“That’ [feedback] is something we would have never gotten through Best Buy,” he says. “Consumers would return it [Media Center] and we wouldn’t know why.”

He adds that Microsoft will “take the feedback and integrate it into the next round of products.”

New Technology at CEDIA

Despite all the rumors, Microsoft has no plans to make announcements involving Media Center TV Pack, formerly known as Fiji.

“I know there has been big speculation about a big announcement, but we’re not really doing anything [around TV Pack],” Collins says.

He says that CE Pro’s story on TV Pack pretty much covered it.

That said, Collins gushes over the new Media Center version, which he has been using at home for quite some time. “It has a bunch of nice options,” he says. “You can set up your own [electronic programming] guide based on a person’s preferences.”

Also, TV Pack provides a more intuitive interface for digital TV stations, with all channels appearing in their proper place, rather than all over the guide (or nowhere in the guide).

In fact, even Collins’s wife is warming up to Media Center, now that she can find her HD content easily. Previously, she resorted to the home’s Tivo Series 3 for high-def. (Collins apologizes – he has a lifetime subscription to Tivo, so why not?)

Just because Microsoft isn’t making a big deal about TV Pack at CEDIA doesn’t mean you won’t see technological innovations there.

Microsoft will be highlighting “partners that are taking Media Center to the next level.”

For details on that, stay tuned to

  About the Author

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. Email Julie at [email protected]

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  Article Topics

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