Cool new toys on the horizon

I’m not an evangelist like Scoble, but I do love toys.  And you get to work on a lot of really cool toys in the multimedia group J

A couple of months ago I was redirected from working on Longhorn to work on a project code named Fjord.  Fjord’s public name is “Windows Media Connect”, and it’s really pretty awesome.

Essentially, WMC is a service that runs on your Windows XP SP2 machine that turns your PC into a audio/video jukebox.  It allows you to export the multimedia content on your machine to any device that supports the UPnP MediaRenderer protocol.  There are a bunch of these devices available, Sony sells one called the RoomLink, and similarly Omnifi sells one called a DMS1.  The Sony supports audio, video and pictures, the Omnifi is audio-only.

I’ve got to say that in all seriousness these things will totally change the way that people experience multimedia on their PC.  I currently have 3 machines in my office (the Omnifi, the RoomLink and a 3rd that’s not yet been announced).  These things rock.  You can play your MP3 files, your WMA files, you AVI files (I’m not sure which codecs are supported) on them.  You get the convenience of having your media on your PC but you get to play it on your home stereo.  Some of the devices are wired, some are wireless, so you can hook these things up to your in-house wireless network without too much difficulty (you do have an in-house wireless network, don’t youJ?)

Even in my office, I LOVE the fact that I can now use my office stereo to listen to my ripped CDs.  So much that I’ve been aggressively ripping them instead of just keeping them in their jewel cases (yes, I’m a dinosaur – up until about 6 months ago, I didn’t have ANY ripped music, all my office CDs were still in their jewel cases).

I’ll have to be honest and say that the UI on the devices can be a bit “esoteric”, but I’m confident that this will change as more devices come on line and competition heats up.  Some of them are REALLY quite nice (especially the one that’s not yet been announced).


Comments (17)

  1. Just Curious says:

    Does this technology work with protected WMA files (e.g. files purchased from the Napster music store)?

  2. Forgot to mention that – yes, if the device supports it, then it will work with DRM’ed WMA files.

    If the device doesn’t support it, then unfortunately it won’t strip the DRM from the files, but if the device supports DRM then it will support playing back DRM’ed files on the device.

  3. Mike says:

    Is there anything that would allow you to control (and play from) a media player on a PC from a Pocket PC (Windows Mobile 2003) wirelessly?

  4. I’m not aware of anything. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, just that I don’t know about it.

  5. Scott says:

    Larry and Mike meet Airport Express, Airport Express meet Larry and Mike. 🙂

  6. Good point, I had forgotten about the Airport Express when I wrote this.

    How does the AE handle video though? It looks to be an audio-only product (not surprisingly since it uses wireless b which doesn’t have the bandwidth to do video reliably)

  7. My favorite of the current crop of remote-media devices is the Squeezebox (, which is audio-only, but very slick.

  8. Mike says:

    I don’t see how the Airport Express would help me.

    Here is what I want to do:

    I have a PC conected to my stereo. The PC has a bunch of songs (mp3, wma) and playlists. I want to "remote" control Windows Media Player on the PC from my Windows PDA over the wireless network. Preferably, I would like to use Windows Media Player on the PPC.

    There is a product called Zerama (, but it’s kinda buggy and requires a separate "server" install.

  9. Adam says:

    Yes, the new UPNP enabled A/V devices are cool.

    But when does this thing beta so i can drop MusicMatch as my UPNP server?

  10. Finally!

    Larry – please – pull whatever strings you can get a hold of and get them to enable that functionality on the XBOX.

    (Music Mixer is such a piece of crap I’m surprised it got through QA… a nice fully working system would be so much better.)

  11. Adam, I believe it’s out in beta right now, but I don’t know how to get the beta 🙁 I wish I did so I could install it at home.

    Mike, an interesting idea, but I don’t know how it would be done. Obviously Windows MCE does this, but…

    Simon, I can see, but I’m willing to bet I’d fail 🙁 But I can ask around.

  12. Scott says:

    AE doesn’t do anything with video beyond what a normal WAP does. 🙁

    Mike/Larry/Anyone: Does PPC have a Terminal Server client yet? I found a VNC client for the PPC.

    You can install VNC server on the main desktop machine and control the player using the VNC client on the PPC. I’m not sure how it works over WiFI though. There are some applications for the Palm platform that let you learn IR remote control commands and control appliances using the IR port on your Palm but I haven’t seen any for the PPC platform.

  13. PPC has a VNC client, there were a bunch of demos we used to run for MCE that involved it.

    WinCE certainly has a VNC client, essentially that’s the core of how MCX works.

  14. Jon Galloway says:

    I’m looking forward to upgrading my low-tech but workable solution – a low power FM transmitter hooked up to my main computer. Thanks for the pointers – these and the AirPort Express are what I was looking for. Now to sort them out…

  15. Florian says:

    Simon Cooke: Just get a modded xbox and put XBMC ( on it.

    Plays back virtually all formats, from dvd/cd, network shares, and the built-in hard drive. Works with the DVD remote.

    The only annoying thing about this is the somewhat noisy built-in fan.

  16. Ryan says:

    Larry – What devices are out their that support playback of DRM’d files? I’ve been trying to find one without success. I’d really love to play my purchased WMA files wirelessly.

  17. Ryan, My bad: I’m not sure that any of the DRM devices are on the market yet – it depends on the Janus DRM stuff, and while that shipped, I’m not sure that any devices have shipped with it.

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