Windows Vista, which incorporates media centre functionality out of the box in its Home Premium and Ultimate versions, won't provide Electronic Program Guide (EPG) functionality to Australian users of the operating system.
According to Jeff Putt, Windows Client Director for Microsoft Australia, the TV networks are to blame for the omission. "The TV networks in Australia have claimed, and continue to claim, that their EPG information is proprietary -- it's intellectual property to them," he said.
An EPG is an on-screen guide to broadcast television programs, which enables users to cycle through upcoming shows and schedule recordings painlessly, without having to manually enter timer information.
US-based Vista users will enjoy a complete EPG service.
Given that Vista Media Center's predecessor, Windows XP Media Center Edition, did not offer a free EPG service, it was hoped that the issue would be rectified for Vista. Alas, Microsoft maintains that it's at the mercy of the TV networks in this regard, as it's ultimately their decision as to how much EPG information to transmit.
"We can't revolt and go and say ... we're going to do this anyway," Putt told CNET.com.au.
"We're in constant discussions with the networks around features and functionality within media centre.
"As it stands we can't make any commitment [regarding when an EPG would be offered], but certainly it's in our interests, because it's in our customers' interests, to get an Electronic Program Guide.
"It's just as frustrating for us as it is for everyone."
Australia is one of the only countries in the world with such strict restrictions on EPG transmissions. At present, most local free-to-air networks only provide current and next program information.
IceTV, a third-party EPG provider, sends updated seven-day program information over the Internet for AU$3 per week. It has enjoyed much success in Australia as the only commercial EPG solution available, however, the company's future is uncertain as it's currently embroiled in a lawsuit with the Nine Network.