Vista Media Center

The Green Button is a forum that all Windows Media Center users have probably visited at some time or another. The community there is great, and they even have Jessica Zahn (a Windows Media Center Program Manager) participating in some of the topics. One topic that really caught my attention was started yesterday by Jessica and is asking for Beta participants for the next version of Windows Media Center:

Hey folks –

We’re now accepting applications to be beta testers for the next release of Media Center!

A couple of notes: I don’t accept bribes, nor can I make promises that particular people will be chosen. We only have so many spots, and we need a diverse group of testers from across the US and from supported countries. You’ll only be contacted if you’re chosen, and we will choose people by May 31.

Also, the survey is deliberately broad; it would probably be a mistake to assume everything we’re asking about is going to end up in the next version, whenever that is. :-)

I can probably answer general questions about the beta process if you have any.

Someone in the forum asked the exact question that I was wondering, and that was how this whole process was going to work. Would they make you install an entirely new version of Windows that includes the new Media Center or would they let current Vista users upgrade/add the new Media Center functionality without having to reinstall? Here is what Jessica had to say about that:

I’m not sure how this beta is going to work, but it will likely be that we give you a full OS version (Vista-based, of course) and you install it – then subsequent updates get installed over top of the first one. In general, we’ll have to test both clean installs and upgrades, though initially we usually test clean-installs first.

Remember, everyone who relies on Media Center: Beta versions inherently have at least some instability in them. I always have a backup recording on a released OS scheduled in case the Beta does something funky. (Case in point: my in-office machine, running incredibly early code, has frozen and will not recover. Yay.)

The process for signing up, which included an information form and quick survey, only took me about 3 minutes to complete. Now I have to hold out to see if I get in, but the bad part is that Microsoft doesn’t let you talk about these early builds of Windows without breaking your agreement…so I wouldn’t be able to say what it is like even if I did get in. :(

Unfortunately Jessica didn’t mention anything about “Fiji” either, which is now expected to be the codename for the next version of Media Center. Fiji was originally thought to be Vista SP1, but a recent revelation by another Windows Media Center Product Manager made us think differently. Guess we’ll have to wait a little longer for confirmation on that!

Signup for the Windows Media Center Beta Testing Program