Microsoft Pika: Media center remoting comes to devices

What is Microsoft 'Pika'? One Microsoft blogger provides the back story behind Chairman Bill Gates' fleeting reference to the as-yet-unannounced technology that he showed off during a keynote address last week.

During Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates' Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) keynote last week, there was a demo of Media Center content being streamed to a TV. Gates referred to the technology behind that demo as "Pika," but didn't offer up much else in the way of explaining what WinHEC attendees were seeing.

Luckily, one Microsoft blogger has shed a bit more light on Pika.

Media Center Extender (MCX) Program Manager Dennis Morgan refuted the idea that Gates "announced a 'Softsled' (software version of MCX) at WinHEC. Instead, Morgan explained, what Gates showed was Pika, a project "that allows CE (consumer electronics) partners (e.g. people who make hardware) to add MCX to their devices....There are no plans to make a software-based MCX."

A few days later, Morgan posted to his blog another Pika update:

"Pika specifically is a set of technologies that enable relatively 'thin' devices to present Windows Media Center scenarios with fidelity and richness that is usually restricted to a PC or Xbox360. The level of computation and graphics performance on the latest HDTVs, HD-DVD players and Digital Media Receivers, while impressive, still trails PCs and game consoles by a wide margin. The Pika architecture is tuned to compensate for this performance mismatch and distributes the computational load in ways that are not necessary or appropriate for PC to PC or PC to Xbox360 distribution scenarios.

"It is natural that the comments made by Bill Gates in his keynote and others could imply that our plan is to port the specific Pika implementation to PCs. A number of partners and users have asked us for details on this configuration. We are investigating the right way to enable these popular scenarios between PCs. It is unlikely that the specific Pika technologies will be appropriate for this due to the different challenges this configuration presents. Windows Media Center will continue to enable new powerful scenarios through Pika and other initiatives. Delighting our customers is our primary goal."

Morgan said that Microsoft and its launch partners are planning to launch "Wave1" products in time for "this holiday season."

My guess: Pika and Fiji, the updated version of the Media Center components that are part of Windows Vista, could be connected in some way. Given Fiji is expected later such a launch would make sense. Again, however, this is just a guess on my part...

Morgan won't be shedding any light on my theory, I'd wager. He ended his Pika update with the following caveat: "As is standard Micorosoft policy, we cannot talk about things we have not announced yet." (Hmmm....Didn't Gates basically announce Pika last week?)