Q&A: MadeForMediaCenter.com Developer Andrew Cherry

In case you missed it, yesterday there was an announcement of a new plugin for Media Center called MadeForMediaCenter.com. The concept is less than revolutionary–having an online repository where you can download apps for your Media Center as simple as the App Store works on the iPhone, and basically how Meedio had their plugin store–but for one reason or another, Microsoft has never accepted this idea and taken it anywhere. 

This is where the guys behind MadeForMediaCenter have come through! Launched by fellow Media Center MVPs Ian Dixon and Andrew Cherry, this really got my brain churning and wondering! So what better way to get answers to this new product than to ask the creator itself! Andrew took the time out of his busy schedule to answer some Q&A I had for him, and he even promised to check in at our forums if there are more questions!

Good Morning Mr. Cherry (or good evening). Can you tell us a little bit about yourself for starters?

Andrew Cherry: Well, I’ve been a fan of Media Center since MCE2005 came out, and a developer of Media Center addins almost since then.  I run a company called Digital Living Solutions which develops Media Center add-ins and related apps for OEMs and third parties. I’m also a Microsoft MVP for Media Center, based on my contributions to the Media Center development community.

Who thought of the idea and why?

AC: It’s an idea I’ve been kicking around for quite a while – since the end of 2007 in fact (that’s when I registered the domain name), but it’s something that I’d not done much about other than talk about it to various people until Ian Dixon contacted me about setting up an "app store" for Media Center.

At the time I was in the middle of a big development project so couldn’t do anything with it, and we both kind of let the idea slide for a month or two.

However, that was really the catalyst I needed, so during my "down time" at the end of my project I took a weekend out to put together the basics of the add-in that you can see the screenshots for on the site. I passed this on to Ian and he wrote the website to go with it, and the back end database which drives the add-in and the website.

So how exactly does the project work? Is it a website? A 10 foot application for Media Center?

AC: It’s both – there is a "2 foot" website that developers can use to upload their add-ins (and other related apps if they choose), and then the add-ins can be "consumed" by either using the website or using the Media Center add-in "10 foot" interface. Users will be able to browse and install add-ins direct from their TV!

So…no keyboard and mouse is required for the installs?

AC: Nope – the only "non Media Center" thing you’ll get is a UAC prompt if you have UAC turned on.  This can be dealt with using the remote control too, so the remote control can do it all.   We use the new developer features in Windows 7 Media Center to do the downloads and installs on your behalf.

Is part of the reason this hasn’t come out sooner is strictly because it wasn’t possible before?

AC: Yes – another project was started under Vista by another developer, but I think they abandoned it as it was too hit-and-miss to do without the direct API support within Media Center.

You asked earlier about the "why?" which I didn’t answer before…

One of the things that excites me about Media Center is it’s extensibility – there is so much more that can be done with Media Center than just the built-in features, and there are a lot of very clever people out there producing add-ins to extend the functionality in all sorts of different and really inventive ways.

The problem is that most developers are individuals who don’t have the resources to advertise and don’t have the time or knowledge to get their add-ins noticed.   We hope that with this solution, all Media Center developers will have a voice that can be heard.  Publishing your add-in to madeformediacenter.com will get it direct to every single user of the website, both through the website and direct to their Media Center.

Is there a cost associated to posting one’s applications in your market? How do you address developers who fear they will lose traffic to their website/community by posting with you?

AC: There’s no cost associated with posting the applications – obviously depending on how big this becomes that may have to change to pay for hosting fees, etc. but at the moment the intention is for it to be our contribution to the community to broaden the visibility of add-ins to those people who want them, so they don’t have to hunt them down all over the place.

In terms of the developers losing traffic to their website – I think a lot of developers are put off by the idea that they have to create a website and forums, etc. just to let everyone see their app.  In some ways it takes a load off their mind and allows them to concentrate just on their development, not the peripheral stuff.

Having said that, we’re open to suggestions on how to support developers website traffic if that’s what they are looking for.

How will you handle the quality of apps? Will there be testing involved or will you rely on the star rating system already implemented and let users decide for themselves?

AC: A lot of that is still up in the air – this is very much "beta" both in terms of the code and the processes.  We’re not even sure if anyone actually wants this, so a lot of the processes and further developments will evolve over time should the demand be there.  For the moment, all apps will be manually checked after submission before they are made available to the public through the website and the add-in.

Oh, I think I can vouch for the community that we all want it! Finally we have something like the old MAID for Meedio, which made finding and installing plugins so easy!

AC: I hope so!  A lot of it’s success depends on a large number of people installing it, so that the potential audience for a new app is large enough that it’s compelling for a developer to launch through it.

It should make life a lot easier for the developers – one submission and your app reaches all the users the next time they check the addin.

Will the app work on Extenders btw (that’s for jennyfur)?

AC: You know, I’ve not checked it.  I’ll have to look and let you know!

So how do people get hold of the app?

AC: You can create an account at madeformediacenter.com – this will give you access to the website and to upload apps if you are a developer.  The Media Center add-in will be released shortly.

Curious, why the need for approval to the site?

AC: At the moment we’re managing the numbers during the beta phase – once it’s live I think you’ll be able to browse the site without a login, but will need a login to provide any feedback or rating.  Also, developers will need an account to upload.

Thank you for the time today Andrew, I’m sure it’s rather late there. For more information or to sign up for access to the site, visit http://www.madeformediacenter.com . And feel free to ask further questions for Andrew in our comments link below.