The Evolution of Microsoft Mediaroom


As I’m not a AT&T U-verse customer, I don’t follow Microsoft’s Mediaroom television platform/experience too closely. EXCEPT when it comes to the Xbox. And I was pretty fired up when possibility of IPTV on the 360 was first announced at CES a few years ago (01/07?). However, on the consumer-front we’ve seen very little movement. During my CES briefing last year, I was told it’d be rolling out on BT (UK) in 2009. An initiative appears that appears to have died. However, here at CES 2010, Microsoft has announced that AT&T will be deploying the Mediaroom module to current or new U-Verse customers this year. And I spent some time looking at the unbranded version of Mediaroom on Xbox at this years CES briefing.

The downloadable app tunes live television and provides access to recorded content from the central unit in a whole-home U-verse household. Think of it as a thin client. For example, when you schedule a recording from the Xbox, the request is actually sent to the primary U-verse unit and the programming would ultimately be saved to that harddrive. I don’t have any hard information on pricing and timing, other than perhaps we’ll see U-verse on Xbox midyear.


In other Mediaroom news, a significant upgrade (dubbed 2.0) has been announced for the platform. There’s tons of elements, including a video-on-demand interface redesign that emphasizes content discovery, but it’s the idea of a cloud-based DVR that interests me the most. Whole-home becomes whole-world. Access your VOD or time shifted recordings at home, from a remote computer/browser (Silverlight), or from a mobile device. Unlike Cablevision’s frequently contested (by the studios) remote storage “network” DVR, subscribers of Mediaroom 2.0 create local copies of recordings in their home. However, when on the go, they’d be granted access to similar copies of their content via the provider’s servers.

Combined with the new Mediaroom integration into Windows Media Center, it had me wondering if someone could take this whole experience over the top (OTT). Meaning, could AT&T offer television services nationwide over any broadband connection? Technically, with the integration of Microsoft’s Smooth Streaming, it can be done. However, it’s anyone’s guess if AT&T would choose to go down this path. As, in addition to a variety of other technical challenges and implications (think cap), there could also be various licensing issues (studios, municipalities) that would have to be overcome.


The one thing that I don’t get and that Microsoft didn’t have a good answer for, is why is the company building up two separate products/interfaces (Mediaroom, Windows Media Center) that are designed to do very similar things? Seems to me they’d conserve resources and possibly produce a better product by merging these groups/initiatives. Similarly, I sure hope we see a Zune media experience on Windows Mobile 7 whenever that’s announced.

10 thoughts on “The Evolution of Microsoft Mediaroom”

  1. After my briefing, I spent a few minutes hanging out in the private Microsoft briefing lounge. Where I got to play with the Microsoft Surface computing tabletop for the first time. It’s pretty cool and I shot a video which includes an interactive, live (at the time) Twitter feed from CES. Touching surface wasn’t what I expected, it’s not perfectly smooth and felt kind of rough. Not in a bad way. Very interesting. (And different than the HP TouchSmart table I played with last year at CNTRSTG.) I also took a quick look at their new and attractive Arc keyboard.

  2. “…As, in addition to a variety of other technical challenges and implications (think cap)…”

    I have u-verse, not aware of any bandwidth cap. Then again they won’t say anything until I go over it since they don’t provide any monitoring tools.


    I have an xbox too, an would volunteer to check new service out if it weren’t for the hourly Red Ring of Death.

    Silverlight DRM, Red Ring of Death, media stored on a renamed version of Azure – good grief, just asking for trouble.


  3. I’m in U-Verse land and I would actually consider this if it could…

    1) Do more than 2 HD Streams
    2) Use WHS as my storage center (a la Sage)
    3) Offer a HD-200 to XBox exchange program (one can dream…)

  4. Also, what other capabilities do they plan on integrating with WinMo 7? Was the HD2 on stage only doing this cloud based content pulldown or were they planning on building a transcoding function to put content on the phone itself?

  5. Todd, I mean if I’m on a different Internet provider and I have a small cap, it wouldn’t be practical/possible to get all my television services over the Internet line via AT&T.

    Jason, we didn’t speak specifically about WinMo 7 (different group, entirely). But as far as mobile Mediaroom goes, they will support partners building clients for various devices. So, while MS wouldn’t create their own iPhone client, it’s not out of the question someone else would.

  6. I would be interested in a global “U-Verse” IPTV service with a “Bring your own Access” ISP plan.

    Think of the old AOL days. Remember when highspeed started coming out, AOL offered the bring your own access plan. Instead of 19.95 a month it was more like 9.95 a month, but you supplied the TCP/IP connection (DSL, Cable, whatever)…

    Now if I could get U-Verse in a non-uverse area, just because I provided broadband access to the set top, that would be great.

    Although, I’m not sure how much TV a 250GB Comcast HSI Cap will allow. We leave our DVR on 24/7, and many times it’s on an HD channel. That would consume a bunch!

  7. Since Mediaroom and Media Center have two different customers and thus different needs, I don’t see how they could be combined, but I would like to see MR look more like MC and at the same time I’m glad MC got support to work with MR.

  8. That’s basically where I’m coming from… the Media Center UI is richer and more flexible. Perhaps it’s too much for mainstream consumers and/or the STB hardware doesn’t have the horsepower for it.

  9. Mediaroom 2.0 I think like a lot of Microsoft products in their second major release is when people will really start to sit up and listen. It’s a huge release with numerous changes like DRM to play ready , IIS smooth streaming, some really, really cool new features in the development tools and a bunch of other things like the xbox 360 and mobility client.

    I too asked about the idea of mediaroom and mediacenter and indeed the mediacenter DVR versus the whole home DVR on the STB along with the previously released network live2vod features ( network dvr) . One of the challenges from a regulatory perspective ( at least here in Canada) is that if the user initiates the recording of show , that’s acceptable, however the operator recording shows on your behalf it’s frowned on. So the cloud DVR is really a very clever way to combine the two and overcome some of these aforementioned issues so big kudos to the big brains at MS on this one. There was a lot of talk at CES about targeted and interactive advertising and again mediaroon 2.0 offers a whole new world of possibilities on this front too.
    There are a couple of features I think that will be ground breaking too that were shown at the developers conference but not mentioned at CES and under NDA that will really embrace the whole convergence concept. All in all I think it’s a great time to be in the mediaroom development business !

  10. cypherstream- I’d wager that’s where Comcast is trying to go. It was a regional company, but now with the start of the TV Everywhere trend, it has a chance to go national, and even international. And obviously the cableco is bulking up on the content end of things.

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