Microsoft Preps ‘Symphony,’ ‘Slalom’ Media Center Releases

Microsoft Preps ‘Symphony,’ ‘Slalom’ Media Center Releases

Mary Jo Foley

Even though it has barely put the finishing touches on its Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004 release, Microsoft is already forging ahead with the next two versions of its home-entertainment-hub product.

According to sources briefed by the company, the “Symphony,” or Media Center 2005, release is expected to enter beta testing in the first quarter of next year. (“Harmony” was the code name for Windows Media Center 2004, which Microsoft unveiled in late September.) Based on past shipping history, Microsoft will likely release the 2005 version at the end of calendar 2004.

Meanwhile, the “Slalom” version of the product will be timed to coincide with other products in the “Longhorn” wave, which is expected to crest in 2006. Microsoft officials previewed some of the Slalom releases at the company’s Professional Developers Conference in Los Angles in late October, but did not announce a firm delivery date.

Windows Media Center, like the Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, is a superset of the Windows XP operating system. Changes that Microsoft makes to the core Windows product are reflected in each version of Windows Media Center. And a number of the advances that the Windows Media Center team builds into its platform are, in turn, adopted by the core Windows team when building their next version of Windows.

But Windows Media Center edition is more than just a one-off version of the Windows client operating system. Robbie Bach, Senior VP of Microsoft’s home and entertainment division, described it as the digital-asset repository for the home during a November 4 presentation he gave at the Harris Nesbitt Gerard PlayTIME conference in New York.

“Xbox is critical and vital to what we do in the home, but at the center of the home, we believe is a Windows computer, a Media Center computer, because at that center you want a place to store all your digital assets,” Bach told conference attendees.

At the PDC, eHome technical evangelist John Canning talked about some of the features Microsoft is planning on making part of Slalom:

Slalom will expose eHome metadata through WinFS;

Recorded TV playback will be available, via the Longhorn Media Player. In fact, TV will be part of the “Longhorn Media Experiences” by the time Slalom ships. (“Experiences” seem to be synonymous with the Microsoft concept of “scenarios.” Among the evolving Media Center experiences are the photo experience; the shopping experience; and the music experience.) ;

Via the Avalon presentation system, greater “extensibility” will be possible. What kinds of extensibility? Notifications (such as trigger alerts, expiration notices, etc.);

There will be more application programming interfaces added to the platform, especially for TV and remote-control capabilities.

One Windows Media Center tester, who requested anonymity, said he believed that Slalom is shaping up to be Microsoft’s second attempt to conquer the set-top box market.

(This is an updated version of an article from the November 3 issue of the Microsoft Watch newsletter.)

Copyright © 2004 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in Microsoft Watch.