Windows Vista Sports Lounge Quick Review

Jan 25 2007

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Vista is around the corner, and the question everyone has is: Why bother? Well, I won't go in all that, but I will be covering one of the best new features I've found within this new Vista Media Center edition--Fox Sports Lounge for Vista MCE.

If you're interested in sports, this application was designed with you in mind, and it does a very seamless job of incorporating your love of whatever sport into a sexy Vista MCE experience. So throw away your memories of the original Online Spotlight applications & their clunky, ugly interface, and prepare yourself for true integration.

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The ease of use for this application is ridiculous. I think I was playing around with it for 5 seconds before figuring it out. You use your remote to move around, and when you see something you like, just click OK.

 

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From the main menu, Vista automatically places the Sports Lounge icon there, and you can see all the sub-menus immediately. To my knowledge, there's no way to uninstall or remove this (yet), so you sport haters probably aren't going to like it, but at least the haters in your family can't mess with it either.

 

So let's get started with "On Now," the first option under the sports section. 

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You can see the format is pretty darned slick. At the top, you basically have your sports ticker, and at the bottom you have a scrolling alert. Keep in mind, the top portion isn't meant to be a full sports scores tracker, it will only show scores to events that are on TV (that you can tune to). If you see a score that looks good, just go up to it, and click OK. It's not 100% realtime, but during a laker game I found that the delay was only about a minute (the "alert" at the bottom actually was more current than the score at the top...quite odd). 

 

The best part about this is the instant WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor). She can watch her TV show clearly enough during halftime, and you can see when the game comes back on & then take control. At the very least, if you cannot regain control, at least you'll know the score, and the alert will be sure to tell you "Kobe hits game winning 3-point shot" and then...well....there's always SportsCenter.

Click on the news alert, and you have this nice little story with a little more detail. You can also instantly go to the Photos/Videos/Scores...but I'll have more on that later. Keep in mind, I wasn't watching TV at this point, but if you are, you will still see a thumbnail with it playing.

Going back to the front, the next option you can select is "On Later." And this is nice to make sure you don't miss any upcoming games. You can sort it by Date or Sport, and it'll show all the sporting events that you will be able to watch. Do I wish it would show me even events that I can't so I could plan my bar trips? Yes, but I can understand how they wouldn't want to confuse people...

And besides, that's what the above is for--"Scores." This is about as obvious as it gets. This option shows you ALL the scores around the league for any of the sports. Revolutionary, eh? :-P

You fantasy freaks are going to LOVE the above section, called "Players." It works pretty great as well. Here's how it works: You add whatever players you want, and it categorizes them by sport & position, and then shows you their Real-Time Stats for today's games!! The thing to get excited about, is if they can do this, no reason in time they can't develop an actual tie-in to your Fantasy Team & display your score as well (you hear me Sportsline?!?!). 

The "More Sports" option is pretty worthless right now, but seeing as this is Vista's first month, I can only imagine they'll have some nice content in the upcoming months...just hope they tell someone otherwise I'll never click this again.

Clicking News will take you to this really slick looking interface, just go up & down to select the sport you want...

Then you see a short summary of all the day's stories, with a lower menu that can take you from place to place. Clicking on the story, takes you to a complete version (below image) of it, similar to what was shown in the alerts before.

Scrolling to the next menu is simple, and equally sexy.

The photos were actually pretty out of date. To be honest though, how often will you ever just randomly want to see photos from the NBA? If you're on your MCE, I at least, would want to see Videos. And we'll get to that, as that's the next option, but in the meantime, here's what a picture looks like:

Nothing fancy, but it works. The numbers pointless, but whatever, I'll never use this. :-) Now onto the Videos which is a lot more interesting, and a lot more current.

Very user-friendly, you get a quick thumbnail as well as a description of it. It's exactly what you'd want to see and just makes sense.

The quality is what you would expect from a streaming feed, not high def by any means, but definitely watchable. And gotta love being able to use all the standard play/rewind/pause features of Video Playback within MCE as well.

Going to the last option is actually one of the coolest. Not only does it give you the scores as you can see above, but also...

Can break down the game as much as you could possibly imagine! They have a GAME RECAP, PLAYERS scores, TEAM STATS, and even INJURIES & DEPTH CHART. The above is the PLAYERS section, which shows all the players with a summary of their stats for the game, and of course the score at the top to remind you who actually won.

Here's the injury page just so you have an idea. Very clean, easy to read even on my old 27" Toshiba CRT Television. Now, I also put this to show you that it's really more of a "recent injuries" for each team, as Shaq did actually play in that game.

 

And that's about it folks, I'm sure there's some hidden features I haven't yet found, but I figure for the review I've bombarded you all with enough pictures & opinions on this absolutely fantastic application. I think Microsoft did a great job working with Fox Sports on this, basically their launchpad "Online Spotlight" for their new Vista MCE, and hopefully developers will be able to follow in their footsteps on all their upcoming applications as well. 

 

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