Charlie Owen

Charlie Owen charlieo

Niner since 2005

Program Manager at Microsoft for MSDN Online


  • Charlie Owen - Your first Media Center/Vista application (and a look at their secret room)

    Senkwe Chanda  --> Charlie, would it be possible to get my hands on the source code for that last demo with the spinning letters?

    Absolutely! We posted the Alphabet Soup sample (and a couple of others) when we introduced Windows Media Center Presentation Layer Web Applications. Read the blog post at,guid,cb622812-d80f-45d2-82d6-a54099e62e21.aspx for a pointer to the Alphabet Soup source (it's readable XML in your browser).

    PerfectPhase --> The first comment on the thread you reference above suggests that you will not be able to watch videos encoded with xvid/divx and the like on an xbox360/MCX device, is this correct?

    Your statement is correct in that we don't natively support xvid / divx within Windows Media Center or Media Center Extender (for a list of the formats supported on Media Center Extender see

    However, there are a couple of community apps which have cropped up enabling you to watch xvid / divx on Media Center Extender: See and (the former was written by one of our newest Windows Media Center MVPs, Casey Chestnut).

    Gotta love a platform. Smiley

    PerfectPhase --> Is there a list of people making Media Center Extenders?

    There should be over at

    PerfectPhase --> Will the current crop of MCX devices be able to fully support Vista's media center?  What sort of level will post be Vista RTM devices be expected to function at?

    To be honest, I'm not on the MCX team and your previous question was about as deep as I can go personally with MCX technology outside of where it intersects with the platform piece. I'll see if I can get someone from the MCX team to join the conversation and give us some details on these questions.


  • Charlie Owen - Your first Media Center/Vista application (and a look at their secret room)

    bluvg ---> Am I dreaming too big?

    I don't think so. Dedicate a Media Center PC to the task and you effectively have a 'Windows Media Center Server'. If you count the Media Center PC as a node itself (only use it for Windows Media Center) you have 6 sessions of Windows Media Center going at once. Think about it -- with status quo of what is shipping today you can have distributed audio / video throughout these rooms in a single house...

       Living Room (Media Center PC)
       Bedroom 1 (Media Center Extender)
       Bedroom 2 (Media Center Extender)
       Bedroom 3 (Media Center Extender)
       Den / Bonus Room (Media Center Extender)
       Kitchen (Media Center Extender)

    Your particular usage of Windows Media Center (single PC, dual monitor, television and monitor in separate rooms connected by long video cables) is not exactly what we had in mind for a single Media Center PC scenario.

    Generally speaking, if you have a single PC, the thought is you put away the mouse / keyboard, sit back and relax while enjoying content. If you want to use a Windows application (like browsing the web or email) and Windows Media Center at the same time you would typically run Windows Media Center in a window on the desktop. That's not to say your usage is wrong -- just not the use case for which we designed (but I'm glad it works as well as it does).

    And that's where Media Center Extender indeed does become very handy -- it allows you to 'extend' the Windows Media Center experience to other rooms, while leaving the Media Center PC in the typical location of the home.

    The initial setup of the Media Center Extender does more than you might think (check out where Dave Alles talks about MCX a little bit more in depth -- not sure if he touches on all that happens behind the scenes). For example, we set up the shares necessary to securely share the content out to the various MCX devices, as well as create the individual Windows Media Player libraries for each MCX user. Also, keep in mind the MCX initial setup happens once -- not every time you need to use. And even if we did a 'SoftSled' you would still need to have this setup (more than likely).
  • Charlie Owen - Your first Media Center/Vista application (and a look at their secret room)

    tj8212 --> Can we get some kind of objective comparisn between mcml and wpf for mce apps on the sandbox site.

    We do have this already in the beta Windows Media Center SDK -- it's a chart with a side-by-side comparison of the three development choices -- if you have the SDK, look for the 'Choosing a Technology' topic. We are trying to limit the information we post to the Media Center sandbox to stuff we are reasonably sure won't change between now and RTM (since it lives 'forever' on the web) -- and this chart and accompanying commentary probably have a few more edit passes before we can call it ready for prime time.

    Cryo --> [With regards to the silent room we filmed the video in ]...there's an Xbox and an Xbox 360 in there, and an unsilenced projector hanging in the ceiling? Sort of seems like that would defeat the purpose.

    For audio only tests, there is no reason the projector can't be turned off or the XBoxes moved into the siloed machine room. For video tests you aren't worried about the sound fidelity (and you can see AV sync problems with the lowest of the lowest audio fidelity). That said, the XBox is *probably* in there, well, because the room makes for an WICKED gaming venue. I mean, what fun would a room like that be if it were always business and no play at least some of the time. Smiley

    bluvg --> With regards to the Extender functionality, will Vista include an Extender "client" itself?  I heard there was talk of this going under the codename of "Softsled." Please, please, please tell me Vista will have an Extender app built-in.

    There have been some things misquoted the past couple of days with regards to 'SoftSled', so don't believe everything you read on the web. This approach is just one of the possible directions you might see things take in the future -- there are no specific announcements at this time. Having said that, I will say this: Windows Vista Home Premium and Windows Vista Ultimate will ship with OEM systems and in the retail (standalone) channel -- you don't need something like SoftSled if you have Windows Media Center 'built-in' already. Smiley

    bluvg --> Also, is there any possibility in the future that the maximum number of extenders will be increased?

    As a good friend once said: 'Anything is possible -- it's *just* software'. There are many factors that go into this type of decision, not the least of which is consumer demand -- and there are *way* more features folks are demanding from Windows Media Center at the moment over 5+ MCX connections.

    [Charlie is answering in the the order the questions / comments were made...] I see and acknowlege your comments, ohgood. I thought bluvg did a pretty good job of answering, so I'll just say 'ditto'.


  • Charlie Owen - Your first Media Center/Vista application (and a look at their secret room)

    Senkwe Chanda --> So I was puzzled as to why you found it necessary to create yet another UI markup language. Did you need a more lightweight framework?

    We shipped the very first version of Windows Media Center back in 2002. Windows Presentation Foundation ('Avalon') was demonstrated at PDC 2003 and, as of today, is still in beta.

    I.e., we have been shipping software using the Windows Media Center Presentation Layer for over 4 years now. I believe we would have used WinFX for Windows Media Center had it been a shipping platform way back when.

    Senkwe Chanda --> But a combination of that last demo of the twirling letters and the post quoted here leads me to suspect that you didn't want to go the WPF route because the performance of WPF at the moment leaves alot to be desired.

    Nope. We didn't expose the Windows Media Center Presentation Layer because WPF isn't performant enough. Note we have also given you the ability to use WPF for your Windows Media Center experiences, if you so choose. I've seen WPF do some pretty amazing things (the North Face demo totally rocks -- see

    Also, this statement would assume we had an option to ship Windows Media Center built on WinFX originally (which we didn't). The two UI description paradigms happened largely in parallel, each with different mandates. See my reply to Clint above (^^).
  • Charlie Owen - Your first Media Center/Vista application (and a look at their secret room)

    tj8212 --> As for performance on extenders, will mcml apps render better than wpf based apps?


  • Charlie Owen - Your first Media Center/Vista application (and a look at their secret room)

    PerfectPhase --> would be great to have a media center plugin for channel 9.

    smidley --> I agree with the idea about a plugin to watch CH. 9 vids from Online spotlight or something like that.

    You can use Newsgator Media Center Edition (find it in Online Spotlight) to subscribe to the Channel9 RSS video feed and watch in Media Center or on the XBox 360 Media Center Extender.
  • Charlie Owen - Your first Media Center/Vista application (and a look at their secret room)

    throb --> does the new mce deal with...[DirecTV]?

    I don't believe we have made any more specific announcements about DirecTV in Windows Vista beyond what you see in this press release from CES this past January: I've asked someone on our TV team to let me know if we have more to share. Net, net -- it sounds like we are on a path to give you what you seek, especially given we previously announced native digital cable support will be in Windows Vista via Open Cable Unidirectional Receiver (OCUR). No pun intended, but stay tuned. Smiley

    Ang3lFir3 -- > for at least 4 tuners of any one type (8 in total) would be far more superior...

    Take a walk on over to Peter Rossers blog at where he explains how to get N tuners working in Windows Media Center. We still only officially support 4 total tuners (2 NTSC, 2 ATSC) but if ya gotta have more, it's doable. Peter actually had 3 ATSC + 6 NTSC for a total of 9 tuners at one time.
  • Charlie Owen - Your first Media Center/Vista application (and a look at their secret room)

    therobot --> Have any of you written apps/tools using this XAML or MCML?

    Well, obviously the Microsoft team developing the platform (and Media Center itself) has done so. You can learn more and actually introduce yourself to some MCML with the following two blog posts from our team:,guid,f0919949-91e9-4f4c-977f-bd944950ae4f.aspx,guid,cb622812-d80f-45d2-82d6-a54099e62e21.aspx

    The samples available from those posts will work with the Beta2 build coming soon. If you have any questions about the samples, feel free to post comments on the blog posts themselves.

    We are also shipping at least one end-to-end sample with the SDK as well -- a Windows Media Center Podcast Client -- learn more at,guid,17f1725d-b1f5-4631-90c5-6afc49dc5ca7.aspx.
  • Charlie Owen - Your first Media Center/Vista application (and a look at their secret room)

    Clint --> [With regards to Windows Media Center Presentation Layer Applications which use Media Center Markup Language (MCML)] it sounds like it existed before to describe the Media Center UI and was only opened up reluctantly because people weren't happy with the HTML model for UI development.

    Nope. Smiley

    We leveraged the HTML model first because it offered us the quickest way to get our API out there and didn't force folks to learn a whole new development paradigm for a nascent market. In addition, many of our target partners already had HTML based experiences they could easily leverage in a remote controlled world. But yes, you are right, HTML development for Media Center can be painful at times.

    And yes, the Windows Media Center Presentation Layer and MCML has existed in some form since the very first version of Media Center. It has proven, over the course of 4 versions of Windows Media Center (and soon to be a fifth in Windows Vista) to be such a powerful way to create applications designed for use with a remote control it was a no brainer decision to make it available to third parties. Far from being a reluctant decision, we are ECSTATIC it's being opened up to folks like you Clint. It's really what our community of developers have been asking for from our team and we are happy to deliver.

    Clint --> While I am thrilled that MCML is now opened up I can't help think that it will always be second class to XAML/WPF.

    I can see how you might arrive at this conclusion, but it's certainly not the case. We hope people will look at it this way...

    The Windows Media Center Presentation Layer Application paradigm is the first class citizen in developing applications and services for Windows Media Center (but it's NOT available for general Windows development). The WinFX paradigm is the first class citizen in developing applications and services for Windows (and you can also use it in developing Windows Media Center experiences). The Windows Media Center SDK for Windows Vista has a topic called 'Choosing a Technology' which will help you decide which one is appropriate for your needs.

    Clint --> Moving forward will we be seeing the technologies converge to the point where XAML/WPF becomes the standard for the UI?

    Perhaps -- time will tell. The two teams are certainly collaborating now to give us the ability to use WinFX XBAP in Windows Media Center. Based on what I have seen so far internally I don't think you are dead-ended long term with either choice, if that's your concern.

    Clint --> Since WPF is getting all the tools (ie, Expression Interactive Designer), wouldn't it make sense to go to purely a WPF UI?

    That's the great thing -- as a third party you CAN use WinFX for your Windows Media Center experience -- totally your choice -- just as you can choose the Windows Media Center Presentation Layer or HTML, which is still a valid app dev model within Windows Media Center in Windows Vista.
  • Charlie Owen and John Canning - Media Center exposed, Part II

    Minh--> Is it safe to say that with all the hardware vendor partners, that MCE won't be sold separately as a stand-alone software product?

    It's not currently offered as a shrink wrap product in retail like Windows XP Professional or Windows XP Home.  In a nutshell, here is how the OS is available...

    1) Bundled with a Media Center PC from an OEM.

    2) Available from a System Builder with a Media Center PC or qualifying part(s).

    3) Via an MSDN subscription starting with the Operating System SKU.

    Links to (2) and (3) are provided in the setup docs on my blog.

    dantheman82 --> all the hardware stuff separately...where and how could I do this?

    There should be links in the setup docs -- anywho, check out the Designed for Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 Logo Partner List for a list of components -- where you buy is up to you.

    dantheman82 --> Is it possible to upgrade an XP Pro system to XP Media Center 2005 or would I need to install it side by side?

    Upgrade is not possible in any supported scenario.  Dual boot (side-by-side) is acceptable.

    jhs2 --> Things MCE needs to solve:

    jhs2 --> - Websurfing from the remote (10 ft. display)

    Done, via Online Spotlight.  These experiences are tailored for distance UI and interaction via remote.  The majority of existing web pages on the internet today won't work (well) with a remote and it's not a trivial task to 'automagically' transform any random web page into one compatible with a remote and distance UI.  You can create a MCL for *any* website you wish, drop it into C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\Programs\Accessories\Media Center\Media Center Programs and launch from More Programs.

    Also, check out Newsgator Media Center Edition -- you can browse your selected RSS feeds in Media Center using this tool.  The Channel9 videos are available directly on Media Center in this fashion and its how I watch all the great content here myself.

    jhs2 --> - Built in seamless Antivirus and Antispyware

    Done.  This is Windows XP, so all your favorite protection tools are available, many preinstalled by the OEM or System Builder.

    jhs2 --> - Automatic updates without prompting.

    Done.  Windows XP SP2 has this feature and by default the Media Center guide data is downloaded automatically *unless* you change this behavior during Media Center First Run.

    jhs2 --> - Downcoding recorded video to more compressed formats to make it more porable from the 10 ft. display

    Done.  We have a 'Sync to Device' feature available in More Programs which will transcode content and sync it with the device.

    jhs2 --> - Less buttons on the remote!

    Done, get yourself one of these.

    jhs2 --> ...Make shortcuts instead (similar to Tivo)/

    Give me a pointer to 'TiVO shortcuts' and I'll pass that along to the remote control team.



  • Charlie Owen and John Canning - Media Center exposed, Part II

    Forgot one...

    dantheman82 --> What are the minimum system requirements to build my own Media Center PC?

    Check out Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 Setup Instructions where I document some of these at a very high level.
  • Charlie Owen and John Canning - Media Center exposed, Part II

    A few quick answers to the questions...

    dantheman82 --> my 2 gb of pictures which are in a rather disorganized mess in Windows folders could be sorted in Media Center.

    You can sort by Date or Name in Media Center and we use the file and folder structure My Pictures folder.

    dantheman82 --> Furthermore, same goes for music...

    Media Center uses the Windows Media Player Library to organize your collection.

    For a more in-depth view into the Media Center feature set check out the  Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 Reviewers Guide

    Manip --> Where does the 'guide' information come from?

    Guide data is licensed by Microsoft from third parties and provided to the end user free of charge (absolutely NO monthly fee for the guide).

    Manip --> Can the media centre play simple TV remote games?

    Yes (several are shipping today).

    Manip --> Couldn't the Media Centre PC be 'smart' and learn that you are using a low-quality device, and run a background service that in idle periods converts to low quality video?

    Sure.  There are several utilities floating around which convert Recorded TV to WMV -- not sure if any of those use idle time for the conversion, but it's certainly possible.

    Manip --> With the portable Media Centre PC, what kind of programming bits can us VS2003 guys do? Would you need a special dev kit (which costs $$$) to develop applications for the portable version?

    As far as I know, the Portable Media Center does not enable third party software extensibility.

    gav --> Bunch of UK observations and questions.

    I've asked one of my UK colleagues to read this thread and answer accordingly.