Where are the TV apps for Windows 8 and the Xbox?

Windows 8 and the new Xbox Dashboard are officially available and Microsoft is giving Windows Media Center to Windows 8 Pro customers for the next few months. But the more I think of it, the more I wonder if Microsoft could really be willing to let all the work it put into Media Center go to waste. I say this because I’m reminded of all the Windows 7 commercials that mentioned its ability to watch TV — was there even one that didn’t. Windows 8 and Xbox apps from Netflix, Hulu and others add obvious value to the new Windows ecosystem, but so does real TV. It seems to me — famous last words from a non-developer — that it would be trivial for Microsoft to develop and release Modern UI apps for TV. Recorded TV, Guide and Live TV tiles could be pulled over from the deprecated Media Center experience. Ported to feel right at home in the new Windows world.

These simple apps would put a new face on the years of work and that so many love. The apps would run on Windows PCs, the Xbox, Windows Phones and maybe even 3rd party devices like Roku. They would rely on the core of Media Center to schedule, record and playback premium HD obtained from your cable TV subscription via great CableCARD hardware. What they wouldn’t be is the answer for pure HTPC fans as the Modern UI is not a 10-foot interface, it’s a touchscreen interface, but that’s fine. I said it some time ago, and I still believe it, the HTPC is dead. But just because the age of connecting your PC to your TV is a dead-end, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a place for tuners in Microsoft’s ecosystem.

What I don’t understand is, if Microsoft was going to do this, why not do it at launch? Assuming this is all a pipe dream, I wonder if it would be possible for 3rd parties to do it? Are there documented API’s for Media Center that would enable enough access to the tuners? Can 3rd party apps leverage the Windows 8 PlayReady components that unlock protected CableCARD content?

I realize some believe that Microsoft will not invest another nickel into anything that involves broadcast TV, but I just can’t believe they are that hubris. Sure, the future is on-demand IP delivered content, but the reality today is that the majority of content is still delivered via RF broadcast. And even when the day does come where more content is on-demand than linear, it still won’t make sense to ditch broadcast completely as there is no more efficient way to deliver events like the Super Bowl to 30 million people, at the same time, than to broadcast it — do you really believe that enabling multicast throughout the internet is more plausible than just continuing to use RF broadcasts?

7 Responses to “Where are the TV apps for Windows 8 and the Xbox?”

  1. Chris Harrington says:

    amen brother

  2. Richard says:

    Yes, I agree completely. I want to stop trying to bandaid my MCE DVR back together forever, but am still waiting for the right solution. My wife even asked me this morning “do we have cable?” The fact that the DVR is a closet and out of sight is actually a negative 😛 Currently, Windows 8 RT has no good way to watch organized video libraries like MCE does. But I guess a lack of support now, means an opportunity for a good app developer.

  3. Dana says:

    I completely agree with you. It wouldn’t take Microsoft much programming AT ALL to break Live TV, Recorded TV, and Guide into their own Windows 8 “Modern Style” apps. All they would have to do is:

    1) Make the return pathways out of these applets point to the Windows 8 Start screen instead of the Media Center Start Screen

    2) Reprogram the Green Button to launch the Windows 8 Start Screen, not the Media Center Start Screen.

    3) Create deep link tiles on the Windows 8 Start screen to each of the 3 applets.

    Josh Pollard has linked to a post about #2 where one can go into the Registry and make an easy change. I wrote about #3 at: http://www.blog.danamccall.com/?p=389

    It really makes no sense from Microsoft’s end to not do these value-adds….unless they have something else up their sleeves. I was told by someone that CableCARD tuners can be controlled from a Modern Style app, so perhaps there is another product coming. We’ve heard about how “Media Center Development is Dead”. That doesn’t necessarily mean: “Microsoft will never develop tuner/viewing/guide software for their OS”. People in this business like to parse words and stay EXTREMELY consistent, so the fact that a blanket statement about tuners has not been said certainly leaves a door open.

    For sure the menu-driven TV experience will one day be the norm, however we are a long, LONG way from that. The live stream of TV will be the norm for the life cycle of this version of Windows and many more to come. To ignore the popularity of tuner-based TV at this point is extremely premature and refuses far more money than the download model offers at this point. Microsoft should embrace this and make some very minor changes to evolve their entertainment core, and extend the best piece of software they’ve ever written, Windows Media Center.

  4. Ben Drawbaugh says:

    Guest minds thing a like. Surprised I missed those posts. Considering MythTV Sage and everyone else works with OCURs, it seems obvious that a Modern UI app could.

  5. Joe says:

    I agrre Dana but if I had to guess we all wont be happy until Google gets a real OS. Microsoft just doesnt care about us.

  6. What’s also disappointing is how so many of the Windows 8 apps are not optimized for keyboard (and therefore remote control) use. I point to Netflix and Hulu as key examples here. Granted, navigating the new Start screen from the sofa is far from ideal, but with a remote and mini keyboard, it could be workable. Why developers aren’t bothering with keyboard/remote navigation in these apps confounds me.

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