Choosing a Technology

Windows Media Center for Windows Vista exposes the following ways to deliver full-featured software and experiences to your customers.

  • Windows Media Center Presentation Layer Applications

    A Windows Media Center Presentation Layer application is a managed Microsoft .NET Framework assembly that runs inside Windows Media Center, regardless of what Windows Media Center is displaying. These applications use the Windows Media Center application programming interface (API) for granular control of audio/video playback, interoperability with the digital video recording (DVR) features of Windows Media Center, and parental controls. These applications also have full access to the .NET Framework platform for developing applications that are easier to build, manage, deploy, and integrate with other networked systems.

    With Windows Media Center Presentation Layer—a new feature in Windows Vista—applications now have access to the same rendering technologies that are used to create Windows Media Center itself. The Windows Media Center Presentation Layer provides dynamic layout capabilities, integrated animation support, rich text and graphics support, and automatic keyboard and remote navigation. In addition, applications using the Windows Media Center Presentation Layer run remotely with full fidelity on the Windows Media Center Extender for Xbox 360.

    Windows Media Center introduces a new Windows Media Center Markup Language (MCML), which is used to display the user interface. MCML is an XML-based declarative language that supports advanced concepts such as parameterization, private local storage, rich conditional-based data binding, composition-based animated visual content, and access to managed code assemblies from markup.

  • Hosted HTML Applications

    Windows Media Center takes advantage of MSHTML to host HTML applications. A hosted HTML application for Windows Media Center can use most of the same technologies that you use when developing applications for Microsoft Internet Explorer, and can be displayed within the Windows Media Center environment. Your hosted HTML application has access to almost all of the Internet Explorer Document Object Model (DOM), plus a subset of Windows Media Center functionality.

    Although Windows Media Center Presentation Layer applications are more immersive and rich, hosted HTML applications are easier to implement and are supported on all versions of Windows Media Center.

The table below summarizes the basic differences among these technologies, and the rest of this section discusses each one in further detail.

 Windows Media Center Presentation Layer ApplicationsHosted HTML Applications
Windows Media Center AvailabilityWindows Vista onlyLegacy and Windows Vista
Windows Desktop AvailabilityNoYes
Developer CommunityGrowingLarge
User Interface CapabilitiesRichFlat
Graphics CapabilitiesUses bitmapsUses bitmaps
Designed for Local ExperiencesYesNo
Designed for Web ExperiencesYes (via Web Services)Yes
View (UI) LanguageXML (MCML)DHTML
Model (Logic) Language.NET Framework 2.0Microsoft JScript
ToolsMicrosoft Visual Studio 2005

MCML Preview Tool

MCML Verifier

Visual Studio 2005


AJAX for ASP.NET 2.0

Expression Web Designer

Windows Media Center Extender ExperienceFull fidelityBasic (3-5 fps)
Graphics Overlay with VideoYesNo
Integration with Windows Media CenterSame layerAdditional layer

Note    Unless otherwise noted, the documentation applies to any of these technologies. Issues and considerations that are specific to a certain technology are labeled as such.

See Also