A notable omission from Microsoft's Media Center Edition (MCE) operating system when it launched in October last year was an EPG, the on-screen television guide that allows its users to see what's on and schedule multiple recordings at the click of a button.
Altech Computers, manufacturer of the Maestro line of Media Center PCs will distribute iceguide 4 MCE throughout 4000 resellers around the country. Local computer stores and major retailers will stock 12-month pre-paid cards, similar to mobile phone top-up cards, for a RRP of AU$149. The company also plans to bring out a six-month pre-paid card, but hasn't finalised pricing on this option. In addition, every Altech Maestro PC will come with a 30-day pre-paid card.
An EPG has been a long awaited feature that has hindered uptake of the Microsoft operating system since its launch locally almost a year ago. According to Altech's national sales manager Kevin Hartin, iceguide 4 MCE is a simple and elegant EPG that eliminates the need for Australian MCE users to hack DLLs and use programs that infringe copyright by gathering data from content provider's Web sites.
"Iceguide 4 MCE will be the killer app for Media Center in Australia. It will change the way you watch TV by allowing you to watch what you want, when you want," Hartin said.
At the launch in Sydney this morning, Hartin went on to demonstrate the convoluted method of programming recordings in MCE without an EPG, then contrasted this with IceTV's "elegant, one-click" solution.
Similar to Foxtel iQ, having the EPG on Media Center also enables series recording, where every instance of a particular show, for example The Simpsons, is recorded.
After installing software from IceTV's Web site to a Media Center PC, Hartin stated that iceguide 4 MCE will automatically update the 7-day EPG and if a program's timeslot changes, any affected scheduled recordings will be swapped accordingly.
Duncan Ross, CEO of ICETV, said that his company has finally overcome the legal and technical issues surrounding an EPG by employing an editorial team to write original synopses and descriptions of every show in the guide. Although the guide doesn't yet have Microsoft's official endorsement, Ross says he is talking to the software behemoth about deals that might see the EPG data integrated on future systems.
Iceguide is currently available on personal video recorders (PVRs), such as the Topfield PVR5000t, as well as home theatre PC hobbyist software packages, such as Media Portal, SageTV, ShowShifter, DigiTV, and Linux-based MythTV.
Stay tuned to CNET.com.au for a full review of the Maestro PC with iceguide over the following weeks.