Keeping Windows Media Center Alive Without Microsoft

Jan 16, 2014 by

We all know that Microsoft is no longer going to make any changes to Windows Media Center. If they decide to, that would be a major surprise. So where are we? As has been discussed many times, Windows Media Center is still the best option out there for media enthusiasts. So, like many of you, I will keep using Media Center until Microsoft stops offering guide data…unless some company comes along and surprises everyone.

So, my question to you is, “How do we keep Windows Media Center alive without Microsoft’s help?”

Option 1. We keep it alive by using it in its current form until it naturally goes away due to competition or gets cut off by Microsoft. Metaphorically speaking, Windows Media Center is on life support, and we are waiting as long as possible to pull the plug because we just can’t cope with its death.

Option 2. We try to prolong the life of Windows Media Center with the help of developers. We can do that by adding the things that we are missing and the things we didn’t know were missing. To extend the life support metaphor, this is us on our knees praying for a miracle as well as finding the best doctors to find a way to save our friend. (Obviously, this is not nearly as important as human life… just trying to make this interesting.)

We Pick Option 2. Now What?

First let’s talk about where Windows Media Center currently is.

  • We have an amazing recording engine as well as an amazing recordings interface thanks to Recorded TV HD [shameless plug].
  • We have great CableCARD tuners and mobile apps to control our scheduled recordings thanks to Ceton!
  • Ceton has also given us an extender in addition to Microsoft’s own Xbox 360 as an extender. No, they aren’t perfect, but they work very well!
  • We have a very good interface for interacting with our photos, videos, and movies. Great options are built-in or can be supplemented through other 3rd party plugins like My Movies, Media Browser, etc.
  • We have channel logos thanks to My Channel Logos!
  • We have Netflix – THANK YOU MICROSOFT!
  • And now we have Amazon Instant Video thanks to a couple of great developers!
  • We have a great website and podcast at The DMZ [thanks Mark! –ed]!

That’s a lot of great stuff! What are we complaining about? Well I guess it depends on…

What else do we need? What are we missing?

If we need an app, tell the Windows Media Center developers, like me, your idea. It may or may not be possible depending on the (aging) Media Center SDK, but developers are great for finding workarounds. It just may take a little longer than expected. If they think it will be worthwhile and beneficial to the community they just may create what you’ve asked for!

What’s The Point?

Unlike mobile platforms, where there are thousands of developers, there really are only a handful of Windows Media Center developers. Almost all of them are doing it in their spare time because being a Media Center developer does not pay the bills. Because of this, the Media Center developers need the community to help them with ideas and to motivate them!

There are still many Media Center users out there, but it seems most of them don’t know about 3rd party plugins. Made For Media Center was an awesome attempt to create a store/repository for Media Center plugins. Is there anything else that can be done in that aspect?

How can we get more people excited enough about Media Center to help us in this? One way is to tell people about The DMZ and the Entertainment 2.0 podcast, as well as sharing all of your favorite Media Center plugins with people you know and all over social media.

What Do You Think?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Let’s get a discussion going. What should we as the community do? What is Windows Media Center missing? Honestly, I’m very happy with what we’ve got! In a way, I’m just writing this post for the people out there complaining to say, “let’s do something about it!”

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  • Jonathan

    With Xbox One app development information being a major topic at Build, I’m hoping either Ceton or Silicon Dust will be able to make a Media Center equivalent and release it for Windows 8, Xbox One, and Windows Phone. A kid can dream, right?

  • talkto_menow

    I wanted to develop for Windows Media Center, however I was not able to figure out how to create project and create executable file. The biggest problem is lack of tools and samples. There was a sandbox website that is long time gone. Maybe as a creator of the great plugin you could setup some a corner at DMZ where you could make tutorials and development tools available for those that would like to try to create some plugins. Developing for WMC it’s like a secret knowledge and it should not to be this way. Without help from experienced developers, things will not move forward.

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  • http://www.recordedtvhd.com/ Mark Terborg

    That’s a pretty good idea. Not sure exactly where you got stuck, but yes, it is extremely confusing how to get a new project started. First, the SDK is so old that it hasn’t been updated to work on the new versions of Visual Studio (paid or free) so you have to manually copy over all the right files to the right places just so you can get started… after that it doesn’t get much easier :)

  • talkto_menow

    I was playing with some project couple years ago trying to figure out how things work together and I had problem creating exe file. It required some manual adjustments.(xml?) It was very confusing and no joy.

    Step by step tutorials are probably the best way to start.
    - Tools required
    - How to create project
    - How to create elements
    - How to create exe file

    I know you busy but without you and Josh help, things will not move forward

  • Renny Phipps

    What would be great werte if MS were to just cough up the code and walk away. Then the community could take over and finish the job. I am thinking a Bare Bones app that lets you choose plugins for various activities eg My Movies for movies, JRiver for music, Ceton for live TV etc. Probably an over simplistic wish list but we can all dream. Native Codec support for a range of AV file types would also be appreciated.

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  • Richard Gunther

    My biggest gap in Media Center is my UltraViolet movie library. Above anything, I think if Media Center had a way of accessing my UltraViolet library that would solve a lot of problems for me. I also miss Heatwave. If I had personally designed a weather app for Media Center, I couldn’t have envisioned anything better.

  • Geoff Clow

    Audio & Video CODEC support is the main issue with a fresh WMC install for me. I never know what method to use to add MKV support to Windows 7 for WMC. No matter which option you choose, it’s never pretty.

    That’s why I like Plex – it brings all that stuff along with it.

    Remote access for streaming outside the home is another thing that Plex excels at and leaves WMC in the dust. Having clients for all the mobile devices is great, and having a Roku client is a master stroke. $99 extender that does 1080p 5.1 30fps no worries. Brilliant. I run two of them already.

  • Guest

    Worth looking at the work of

  • mickles

    A plug-in to cast Windows Media Center content to your HDTVs. I want to give the crappy FIOS boxes the boot!

  • http://dtswebs.com/ Thomas Stombaugh

    I just stumbled across DMZ while looking for some answers about my WMC. That of course lead me here. I have been using WMC since I went to an AMD/Microsoft build in December of 2004. I initially thought “WOW, this is something I could sell to my clients!” Well it turned out, not so much. But here I am almost a decade later using MC in my living room on my big screen Hi-Def TV. I’ve gone through I don’t know how many tuners from SD to HD and now CableCard tuners from both Ceton and HDhomerun. I’m still using MC7 because I have no reason to move to Windows 8.x. Being in the field of IT and having a respect for peoples efforts, I have always made it a point to donate to anyone that is willing to take the time to develop an app or a plugin or whatever. If for no other reason than to say thanks for your efforts and time. Just wanted to give my 2 cents worth on your article and say thanks to you as well for your time and efforts. I hope that the community of Media Center enthusiasts can keep things going…

    Tom

  • Brian L. David

    I’ve come so late to the game having just purchased a Ceton InfiniTV 6 card for my HTPC…. How can we get this development continued? I don’t want to have a great DVR for a year after I paid over $250 to get started…

  • Greg

    I would love to see WMC support for chromecast – Plex has now done it in a really great way – I can use this in a limited fashion to see already recorded content and movies/photos/audio, however I do not get guide or live tv access, which would be stellar. I would pay for this, and well – it’s so much easier than an echo.

  • Coolsane2007

    Imagine the day when Microsoft develops Window Media Center and Cortana to the point where it can run your digitally connected home devices. Currently, most home automation software companies ( for example Homeseer, Cinemar and MControl) try through a convoluted process to control your home devices like HVAC (heat and air – thermostats), security and surveillance (cameras) , doors locks, appliances (refrigerators), water management and energy, and entertainment (TV, Music, XBOX) by a media connected device. However, these apps all fall short because of the complexity of their systems and unrealistic pricing models . Furthermore, they lack a common standard for integrating home automation and entertainment devices into one easy to use operating system. The only company today in my opinion that has the assets to pull off this feat is Microsoft.

    Imagine that you are in watching TV and someone rings your door bell. Before, you chose to answer you can use your media controlled device (Surface Phone, XBOX ONE, Windows Tablet) to view who’s at the door and use the security camera to determine if you should open the door. Further, imagine that you could ask Cortana found on your Phone, XBOX or Windows Tablet to unlock the door, turn on the hallway entry lights, and greet the visitor. Did you say Cortana could control my digitally connected home? Well not yet, but its a possible future.

    Lastly, Imagine that you and your friend who you just let in your home want to watch a movie, video, look at a photo album or play music that are on your digital connected network (windows server 2012, windows 7, 8, or 9). Again you could use you Kinetically controlled XBOX ONE digitally controlled host Cortana to open media center and play a movie of choose.

    Perhaps, if Microsoft rethought how the XBOX could control your digital home and entertainment needs, built in a cable card, enhanced media center for home automation and entertainment needs we could get this party started. I assume we would witness the next IPAD craze!

    How cool would that be?

    Question: Is microsoft going to upgrade windows media center to compete with JR River, XBMC, and Plex?

    In light of the fact that Plex will be coming to the XBOX One (are you kidding) I assume Microsoft must have some belief that media center will be successful. Microsoft needs to upgrade Windows Media Center. Is there anyone at Microsoft that has a vision anymore?

  • Rich

    1) access to ultraviolet library via vudu or similar service
    2) Plex plugin so entire library is accessible via ceton extender. It would be great if a Plex plugin completely integrated with the recorded tv menu
    4) hulu or playon plugin so that the entire (free) hulu library is accessible. No hulu+ subscription required
    5)universal search similar to newer tivo boxes or GoogleTV. Searching “walking dead” should return results for live tv, recorded tv, amazon, netflix, hulu, etc

  • Richard Gunther

    It used to be fairly straightforward to use PlayOn with Media Center. That would give you Hulu, Vudu (Ultraviolet), Amazon, and many other services. TubeCore and a few other DLNA client add-ins enabled full PlayOn browsing. Since the developer of TubeCore stopped producing it, I haven’t yet tried looking for a good, working alternative.

  • goodmayonnaise

    WMC needs YouTube! Someone just needs to put a link to (https://www.youtube.com/tv#/) into the WMC menu, but it would be nice if it was something a bit more native to WMC.

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  • Nick Preiser

    perhaps its time for Microsoft to open source the entire thing, and let the community own it, and more importantly, build on it. I have been using it for well over 8 years now, and am convinced that the basic design is good, it just needs some things added. I would like to a client app/os done, that allows me to turn any pc into an extender for example.

  • John Russell Sauquillo

    Looks like Made For Media Center has been abandoned too …… Hopefully the stuff I downloaded and saved in summer 2012 and early 2013 still work

  • John Russell Sauquillo

    I’d like to add that like Windows 8/8.1 Microsoft blew it Big Time with Media Center …. If they had enabled live TV streaming they could have kept a hold of a lot of the Market Share they lost by becoming the Media/Mobile Server PC that everyone with a moblie device still really needs

    Instead we got a combination Desktop/Mobile OS that doesn’t really do either one worth a d-mn ….. And in Classic Microsoft Fashion their answer is pure Marketing BS in calling Windows 9, Windows 10 like that’s going to fool anyone … WTF Microsoft!?!?!?!?!?!

  • DavidinCT

    I wish microsoft would bring back Windows Media Center…..

  • Doctor Bob

    Excellent idea. Open source wmc would bring it back to life. I could see the emby community taking it on. The emby wmc add-on is what makes mce so versatile. Come on Microsoft, if you are not going to support it, give it away!