Europeans using Windows Media Center to watch TV have been upset to find that all TV programme guide data has disappeared from the service as of 1 January.
For affected users, live and playback TV still works, but all programme guide information has been wiped as of 11am on 1 January, leaving users unable to plan recordings or see what shows are on. One commenter on the Windows Experts Community forum outlined his frustration in using what Microsoft describes as "the hidden gem of Windows":
Apart from live TV, the media center is now useless for planning and recording.
I have the PC installed as my main TV, so am very annoyed. Does anyone know how to get them to pay attention to this or am I being naive, thinking that it will be addressed?
Many angry Register readers have emailed in regarding the issue, some describing themselves as "distraught" by the loss of the online Electronic Program Guide or EPG. Some Media Center users (including a Reg staff member) have been unaffected, as Windows 7 and later editions of the software can read the EPG transmitted as part of the UK Freeview terrestrial TV signal, and so do not require any online updates to populate those channels. However those using earlier editions of the software and/or receiving their TV via satellite or cable would normally need the online EPG service.
Workarounds have been developed by frustrated users, and details of them can be found starting here.
Commenters from Ireland suggest that Microsoft withdrew the EPG service from that country on 6 December.
It is unclear whether the end of the service is a slip-up or an intentional withdrawal that Microsoft didn't announce to users. It could be that the fault lies with Red Bee, which holds a contract with Microsoft to provide Electronic Program Guides for Windows Media Center in Europe. Red Bee uses the contract as a case study on its site and boasts that it provides the single source of European EPG metadata for the Microsoft Media Center.
It could be that the fault lies with Microsoft and some hapless admin bod has forgotten to ask the big boss to sign a renewal for the contract for the EPG data feed with Red Bee.
Windows Media Center has never been a huge success for Microsoft: despite being available since XP and included in all but the lowest-end editions of Windows. With the rise of affordable and simple DVR set-top boxes, PC TV has become something of a hobbyist preoccupation. It can also be tricky to hook up an ordinary Windows machine to the main TV without annoying fan noise issues (our Reg enthusiast keeps a cheap desktop machine fitted with Freeview cards in the basement, with cables coming up through the living room floor to TV and remote-control receiver): many people use a sitting-room Xbox to connect to a PC located elsewhere.
However for those who have overcome the hardware issues, the debate over the form of the future networked home has been settled. There are lots of other ways to do PC TV and share all your content around the house, but most of them require constant maintenance to remain functional, in contrast to WMC - until now, that is.
We have contacted Microsoft US and UK and Red Bee London several times this morning and still await their reply. We'll let you know more when we do. ®