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Publication numberUS20050262449 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/838,645
Publication dateNov 24, 2005
Filing dateMay 3, 2004
Priority dateMay 3, 2004
Also published asCN101410774A, CN101410774B, EP1594277A2, EP1594277A3, US7941761, US20050246654, US20150007027, WO2005111767A2, WO2005111767A3
Publication number10838645, 838645, US 2005/0262449 A1, US 2005/262449 A1, US 20050262449 A1, US 20050262449A1, US 2005262449 A1, US 2005262449A1, US-A1-20050262449, US-A1-2005262449, US2005/0262449A1, US2005/262449A1, US20050262449 A1, US20050262449A1, US2005262449 A1, US2005262449A1
InventorsW. Anderson, Mark Radcliffe
Original AssigneeMicrosoft Corporation
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Online service switching and customizations
US 20050262449 A1
Abstract
A system and methods enable switching between a plurality of online media services from within an application, such as a media player application. A user can switch to any one of a number of online services made available in a services menu and thereby make that service the active service. The active service has customization opportunities that permit the service to customize parts of the media player or other application. Advantages include providing online media services with an ability to control the way in which customers discover and purchase media from within the feature rich environment of various user applications such as a PC-based media player application. From a user's perspective, the advantages include an uninterrupted media experience that can involve the entire process of discovering, purchasing and using of a wide variety of media content all from within the feature rich environment of a media player application.
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Claims(36)
1. A method comprising:
retrieving a list of online services;
enabling a selection of one of the services as an active service; and
customizing customization points within an application based on the active service.
2. A method as recited in claim 1, further comprising enabling switching between different services from within the list of online services, wherein only one service at a time is the active service, the active service corresponding with the switching.
3. A method as recited in claim 1, wherein the customization points include task panes and task pane buttons, the customizing comprising enabling the active service to control content within the task panes and task pane buttons.
4. A method as recited in claim 1, wherein the retrieving comprises:
accessing a Web listing service; and
retrieving an all-services file containing the list of online services from the Web listing service.
5. A method as recited in claim 1, wherein the enabling a selection comprises:
populating a service menu in the application with the online services from the list of online services; and
accepting a user input identifying the active service from the service menu.
6. A method as recited in claim 5, wherein the populating a service menu comprises:
for each online service,
representing the online service in the service menu with a friendly name and an image if the friendly name and the image are included in the list;
representing the online service in the service menu with a unique service key and the image if the friendly name is not included in the list and the image is included in the list; and
representing the online service in the service menu with only the unique service key if the friendly name and the image are not included in the list.
7. A method as recited in claim 1, wherein the application is a media player, and the customizing comprises:
retrieving a service information file from the active service, and based on information in the service information file,
representing the active service with a friendly name on a service list button;
representing the active service with a graphical image in an image area of the service list button; and
setting a color for service area buttons and for a navigation bar.
8. A method as recited in claim 7, wherein the retrieving a service information file comprises accessing a URL (universal resource locator) identified within the list of online services.
9. A method as recited in claim 7, wherein, based on information in the service information file, the customizing additionally comprises:
identifying a name for a task pane button using text provided by the active service;
displaying button tip text for the task pane button when a selection tool hovers over the task pane button, the button tip text being provided by the active service; and
displaying within a task pane, an HTML (hypertext markup language) page specified by the active service when a user selects the task pane button.
10. A method as recited in claim 7, wherein, based on information in the service information file, the customizing additionally comprises:
displaying within a Now Playing task pane, an HTML (hypertext markup language) page from the active service, the HTML page providing an InfoCenter view that includes information related to music currently being played by the media player.
11. A method as recited in claim 7, wherein, based on information in the service information file, the customizing additionally comprises:
displaying an HTML (hypertext markup language) page from the active service, the HTML page providing album information in a CD (compact disc) burn task pane and a Media Library task pane.
12. A method as recited in claim 7, wherein, based on information in the service information file, the customizing additionally comprises:
displaying within a Now Playing task pane, a “Buy CD” link to a Web page of the active service, the Web page permitting purchasing a CD (compact disc) or DVD (digital video disc) that is currently playing on the media player.
13. A method as recited in claim 1, further comprising:
receiving a user selection of a different service from the list of online services;
retrieving a service information file associated with the different service, the service information file specifying URLs (universal resource locators) and information for customizing the application; and
switching the active service to the different service based on the user selection, the different service being a new active service.
14. A method as recited in claim 4, wherein the accessing a Web listing service comprises:
determining a URL (universal resource locator) that identifies the Web listing service; and
accessing the URL.
15. A method as recited in claim 4, wherein the application is selected from the group comprising:
an operating system;
a component of an operating system; and
a media player application.
16. A processor-readable medium comprising processor-executable instructions configured to perform the method of claim 1.
17. A processor-readable medium comprising processor-executable instructions configured for:
retrieving a list of online services;
making one of the online services an active service based on a user input selection; and
customizing parts of a media player based on the active service.
18. A processor-readable medium as recited in claim 17, wherein the retrieving a list of online services comprises:
initiating the media player;
determining a URL link to a Web service listing upon the initiating;
connecting to a network with the media player; and
retrieving an all-services XML (Extended Markup Language) file from the Web service during the connecting, the all-services XML file including the list of online services.
19. A processor-readable medium as recited in claim 17, wherein the making one of the online services an active service based on a user input selection comprises:
populating a service menu in the media player with the online services;
receiving via the service menu, a user input specifying an online service; and
designating the specified online service as the active service.
20. A processor-readable medium as recited in claim 17, wherein the customizing parts of a media player based on the active service comprises:
locating a URL link to a service information file associated with the active service, the URL link being located within the list of online services;
retrieving the service information file; and
accessing information needed to customize the media player from the service information file.
21. A processor-readable medium as recited in claim 20, wherein the accessing information needed to customize the media player from the service information file comprises retrieving HTML (hypertext markup language) pages from the active service based on URLs (universal resource locators) specified within the service information file.
22. A processor-readable medium as recited in claim 17, wherein the customizing parts of a media player comprises enabling the active service to control content within task panes and task pane buttons of the media player.
23. A processor-readable medium as recited in claim 17, wherein the media player is a software application selected from the group comprising:
a stand-alone software application;
an operating system; and
a component of an operating system.
24. A computer comprising the processor-readable medium of claim 17.
25. A computer comprising:
an application; and
an online service manager configured to enable switching between a plurality of online services, the switching determining which service is an active service within the application, and configured to customize areas within the application according to the active service.
26. A computer as recited in claim 25, wherein the application is selected from the group comprising:
an operating system;
an operating system component; and
a media player application.
27. A computer as recited in claim 25, further comprising an all-services file retrieved by the online service manager, the all-services file identifying the plurality of online services.
28. A computer as recited in claim 27, wherein the all-services file is an XML (Extensible Markup Language) file that comprises:
for each of the plurality of online services,
a service key element identifying a key that represents the online service;
an XMLURL element identifying a URL link to a service information file for the online service;
a position element identifying a placement position within a service menu for the online service;
a type element identifying a type for the online service;
a friendly name element representing a name for the online service; and
an image element representing a graphical image to be used wherever the friendly name element is needed.
29. A computer as recited in claim 28, wherein the all-services file further comprises:
a default element identifying a default online service to be used if there is no active service identified; and
a browse element identifying a URL (universal resource locator) link to a BrowseAllServices Web page.
30. A computer as recited in claim 25, further comprising a service information file for each of the plurality of online services, the service information file retrieved by the online service manager and configured to specify URL's and information needed to customize the application.
31. A computer as recited in claim 30, wherein the service information file is an XML (Extensible Markup Language) file that comprises:
a service information element that includes a service key used by the application to uniquely identify an online service;
a friendly name element that includes text to represent the online service;
an image element identifying one or more URL (universal resource locator) links to graphical images representing the online service;
a color element used to specify a service area button color and navigation bar color within the application;
a service task element that represents a service area task pane, the service task element including a URL link to a Web page configured to be loaded into the task pane, button text for use on a service area button that represents the task pane, and button tip text configured to be displayed when a user hovers over the service area button;
an information center element identifying a URL link to a Web page for customizing a now playing infocenter view;
an album information element identifying a URL link to a Web page for customizing an album information window;
a buy CD element to specify a purchase experience from a buy link within the application, the buy CD element including a URL link to a Web page for buying a CD or DVD in the application;
an install element to install default service code; and
an html view element identifying a URL link to a trusted html view.
32. A system comprising:
a computer having an online service manager configured to enable an active online service to customize areas within an application executing on the computer, the online service manager additionally configured to enable switching between a plurality of online services, the switching determining which service is the active service.
33. A system as recited in claim 32, further comprising an all-services file configured to provide a list of the online services to the online service manager.
34. A system as recited in claim 33, further comprising a Web service listing configured to maintain and provide access to the all-services file.
35. A system as recited in claim 33, further comprising a service information file for each of the online services, each service information file configured to provide information necessary for customizing areas of the application.
36. A system as recited in claim 35, further comprising the plurality of online services, each online service configured to provide a service information file to control the customizing.
Description
    TECHNICAL FIELD
  • [0001]
    The present disclosure generally relates to online services, and more particularly to enabling customizations for such services and switching between such services.
  • BACKGROUND
  • [0002]
    Most media player applications provide a range of features that enable users to discover, acquire, and use media content. In addition, the exposure to, and use of, media content (e.g., through online media services, etc.) is increasingly becoming part of a user media experience that is relevant to other applications and to an overall operating system environment. With the exception of providing the media content itself, most media players provide and control all aspects of the user experience. That is, the media player controls the experience with respect to discovering and acquiring online media, in addition to providing a broad range of features for using the media, such as playing the media, burning the media (e.g., music files) to a CD, and transferring the media to a portable device.
  • [0003]
    There are various ways for online media services to advertise and deliver media content to customers/users. For example, in one scenario, users can use a browser application to browse media service Web pages and search for media content, and then purchase and download desired content through the browser application and mechanisms provided by the media service. In this case, the media discovery and acquisition process is generally controlled by the media service itself. From the media service's point of view, being able to control the media discovery and acquisition experience in this manner is a benefit, as it provides the service with the opportunity to attract more users through its own innovative and dynamic presentation of media content.
  • [0004]
    In another scenario, media services can deliver content to users through agreements made with media player developers. A media service provides the media content, but the media player controls how the user discovers and acquires (and plays/consumes) the content. This lack of control over the discovery and acquisition of its content is problematic for media services, however. Some media services have attempted to overcome this problem by writing their own media players and providing them to users. Although this alternative gives a media service control over the discovery, acquisition and playback of the media content, it also has important disadvantages. In particular, the cost of developing a media player can be significant, which typically means that the resulting media player is unable to offer the rich playback features provided by other media players that are readily available to users.
  • [0005]
    From a user's view point, both of the scenarios discussed above can be problematic. For example, the first scenario discussed above provides a disjointed experience for the user. The user browses (i.e., with a browser application) media service Web pages in search of desired content, and then purchases and downloads the content. To use the content (e.g., play, burn to CD, transfer to portable player, etc.) the user must then initiate a separate action through a media player application. Thus, the experience is a disjointed and sometimes time consuming combination of steps that necessitates the use of different applications.
  • [0006]
    In the second scenario discussed above, the user is limited to media content that is made available through the media player application, as well as being limited to the presentation of that content as dictated by the media player application. The variety of content accessible to the user is therefore limited to content secured by the media player through agreements with various media services. A user who desires a wider variety of media content may not be able to find the content they want through the media player, and thus be relegated to using a browser application to search for their desired content in the same type of disjointed experience as discussed above.
  • [0007]
    Accordingly, from an end-user perspective, a need exists for a way to provide an uninterrupted media experience that includes the discovery, acquisition, and use of a variety of media content within a feature rich player environment specifically, and within an overall operating system environment more generally. From a media services perspective, a corresponding need exists for a way to enable media services to have control over the way users discover and acquire media for use within a feature rich player environment and/or an overall operating system environment.
  • SUMMARY
  • [0008]
    A system and methods enable switching between online services within participating applications (e.g., a media player application, operating system shell, etc.), and provide customization opportunities for the online services within the applications. A service becomes the active service when a user switches to that service. The active service controls the customization points within the application. When a user switches to another service, the other service becomes the active service and gains control over the customization points within the application.
  • [0009]
    A file that contains a list of valid services is maintained on a Web listing service and is retrieved each time a participating application goes online. The all-services file contains an updated list of online services to be managed within the application, along with information about the online services, such as friendly names, graphic icons, and URLs (universal resource locators) needed to populate a service menu within the application and to direct the application to additional information about each service.
  • [0010]
    Additional information about each valid service is found in a service information file retrieved from a URL identified by the valid service within the valid services list. Each valid service maintains its own service information file and manages customization points within the application through the service information file when the service is selected as the active service.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0011]
    The same reference numerals are used throughout the drawings to reference like components and features.
  • [0012]
    FIG. 1 illustrates an exemplary environment suitable for enabling switching between various online media services and allowing an active service to customize portions of an application on a computer.
  • [0013]
    FIG. 2 illustrates a block diagram representation of an exemplary computer that is suitable for enabling switching between various online media services and allowing an active service to customize portions of an application on the computer.
  • [0014]
    FIG. 3 illustrates an example user interface for a media player application.
  • [0015]
    FIG. 4 illustrates an example of a list of valid online services appearing in the drop down box of a service menu.
  • [0016]
    FIG. 5 illustrates an example of a selection being made of an online service that will switch an active service.
  • [0017]
    FIG. 6 illustrates a newly selected service as an active service.
  • [0018]
    FIG. 7 illustrates an example of an all-services file.
  • [0019]
    FIG. 8 illustrates an example of a service information file.
  • [0020]
    FIG. 9 is a flow diagram illustrating exemplary methods for enabling switching between various online media services and allowing an active service to customize portions of an application on a computer.
  • [0021]
    FIG. 10 illustrates an exemplary computing environment suitable for implementing a computer such as discussed with reference to FIGS. 1 through 9.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • [0022]
    Introduction
  • [0023]
    The following discussion is directed to a system and methods that enable switching between a plurality of online media services from within an application, such as a PC-based media player application. A user can switch to any one of a number of online services made available in a services menu and thereby make that service the active service. In addition, the currently active online service is given customization opportunities that permit the active service to customize parts of the media player or other application and/or operating system (e.g., by supplying Web pages using URLs from a service information file provided by the active service). Advantages of the described system and methods include providing online media services with an ability to control the way in which customers discover and purchase media from within the feature rich environment of various user applications such as a PC-based media player application. From a user's perspective, the advantages include an uninterrupted media experience that can involve the entire process of discovering, purchasing and using of a wide variety of media content all from within the feature rich environment of a media player application.
  • [0024]
    Exemplary Service Switching and Customization Environment
  • [0025]
    FIG. 1 illustrates an exemplary system environment 100 suitable for enabling switching between various online media services and allowing an active service to customize portions of an application on a computer 102. The exemplary environment 100 includes computer 102 operatively coupled to a plurality of online services 104 and a Web listing service 106 via a network 108. Network 108 can include both local and remote connections depending on the particular system configuration. Thus, network 108 may include, for example, any one or a combination of a modem, a cable modem, a LAN (local area network), a WAN (wide area network), an intranet, the Internet, or any other suitable communication link.
  • [0026]
    Computer 102 is typically implemented as a user's primary computing device, such as a desktop personal computer (PC). Computer 102 might also be implemented as other conventional computing devices generally configured to receive and render multi-media content (e.g., play back, burn to CD, transfer to portable playback device, etc.) from various online media services. An exemplary implementation of a computer 102 is depicted in FIG. 10 and described in greater detail below in the Exemplary Computing Environment section.
  • [0027]
    Online services 104 and Web listing service 106 are typically implemented as one or more server computers such as a Web server. Thus, online services 104 and Web listing service 106 may include a variety of general purpose computing devices such as workstation computers, and may be configured in a manner similar to an exemplary implementation of computer 102 such as described below in the Exemplary Computing Environment referring to FIG. 10. Online services 104 and Web listing service 106 generally provide storage for electronic documents and information including various multi-media content that is accessible to client computers such as computer 102 over network 108.
  • [0028]
    Exemplary Embodiments
  • [0029]
    FIG. 2 illustrates a block diagram representation of an exemplary computer 102 that is suitable for enabling switching between various online media services 104 and allowing an active service to customize portions of an application on a computer 102. Various components on computer 102 facilitate the retrieval and management of media content for the general purpose of rendering the content on computer 102 and/or synchronizing the content with a portable playback device. These components include, for example, an operating system 200 and its sub-components (e.g., the operating system's folder system application, or “Shell” 202), various applications 204 such as, specifically, a media player 206, a media library 208 (i.e., a database that contains digital media files), and a service switching and customization architecture 210. Although these components are illustrated separately on computer 102, it is noted that any one or more of these components may be implemented on computer 102 as part of multimedia software product, the operating system 200, stand-alone components, and so on.
  • [0030]
    An application 204 may be any of various applications and/or tools configured to perform various computing tasks such as emailing, word processing, financial analysis, and so on. An application 204 may also be an application or tool configured to receive and manipulate media content, such as from an online media service 104 or some other source. For example, application 204 may be an interactive TV service application that facilitates the recording of video (e.g., TV programming) directly off of a cable and/or satellite feed, a video capture component to transfer home video footage from a digital video recorder onto computer 102, a Web browser application that facilitates downloading media over a network 108, and so on. Thus, applications 204 may supply various forms of media content to a media library 208 on computer 102. Media content stored in media library 208 may include, for example, audio files in the form of MP3 and WMA files, video files in the form of AVI and MOV files, and image files in the form of GIF and JPEG files, and so on.
  • [0031]
    A specific example of an application 204 that is illustrated in FIG. 2 is a media player application 206. A media player application 206 is typically a desktop based media player that manages a broad range of multimedia related tasks regarding the discovery, acquisition and use of media content. For example, a media player application 206 may handle streaming audio and video, CD/DVD playback, MP3 and WMA support, encoding, CD/DVD burning, transferring media to a portable playback device, Internet radio, and the like. Like some other applications 204, a media player application 206 supplies various forms of media content (e.g., audio files, video files, image files, etc.) to media library 208 on computer 102.
  • [0032]
    A service switching and customization architecture 210 is configured to be operatively interactive with any one or more of the components of computer 102 noted above for the general purpose of enabling switching between various online media services 104 and allowing an active service to customize portions of such components on computer 102. For example, in one embodiment, the service switching and customization architecture 210 may be an integral component of, and/or operatively interactive with, the media player application 206. Accordingly, although the current embodiment of the service switching and customization architecture 210 will be discussed herein with specific reference to the media player application 206, various aspects of service switching and customization may be generally applicable in similar ways to various components of computer 102 including, for example, the operating system 200 and its sub-components (e.g., shell 202), and various other applications 204.
  • [0033]
    The service switching and customization architecture 210 includes an online service manager component 212, an all-services file 214, and a number of service information files 216. The online service manager 212 is generally configured to populate a service menu list within the media player 206, and to manage switching between online services and to manage customizations made to the player that are provided by a currently active service. Each time computer 102 is connected to the network 108, the online service manager 212 fetches the all-services file 214 from a Web service listing 106. In the current embodiment, the all-services file 214 is an XML (Extended Markup Language) file that is kept up-to-date on the Web service listing 106 so that the online service manager 212 always has access to the latest list of valid online services 104. The all-services file 214 includes a list of all valid online services 104 and any other information needed to populate a service menu list within the media player 206. As discussed in more detail below, the online service manager 212 uses information in the all-services file 214 to determine where to retrieve a service information file 216 for each of the valid services identified in the all-services file 214.
  • [0034]
    When a valid all-services file 214 is retrieved from Web service listing 106, the service manager 212 populates the service menu list within the media player 206 with the list of valid online services from the file. Prior to a new selection being made by a user from the service menu list, the last active service is present in all the customization points within the media player 206. FIG. 3 illustrates an example user interface for media player 206 as it might appear on a display of computer 102. Assuming an all-services file 214 has just been retrieved, customization points such as the menu task pane 300 and the service menu button area 302 are still controlled by the last active service. Thus, the current service menu task pane 300 displays the HTML page associated with the last active service, which in the FIG. 3 example is “MSN”, as indicated in the service menu button area 302. Both the “MSN” text and an associated icon are displayed in the service menu button area 302.
  • [0035]
    A selection arrow is shown in FIG. 3 hovering over a service list menu button 304. When a user “clicks” the service list menu button 304, a drop down box will open up and reveal the list of valid online services from the all-services file 214. FIG. 4 illustrates an example of a list of valid online services 400 appearing in the drop down box 402 after the service list menu button 304 has been “clicked” by a user. From the list of valid online services 400, a user can select an online service to be the currently active service. Only one service can be the active service at any one time, and the active service controls all of the customization opportunities within the media player 206, such as the service menu task pane 300, which in FIGS. 3 and 4 is controlled by the currently active “MSN” service. Thus, a user is able to switch between the different online services 400 shown in the services drop down box 402 and thereby change which service controls the customization points in the media player 206.
  • [0036]
    FIG. 5 illustrates a selection of an online service being made that will switch the active service from the “MSN” online service to the “Music Box” online service. Switching between these services will shift control of the customization points within media player 206 from the “MSN” service to the “Music Box” service. As shown in FIG. 5, the “Music Box” online service has been highlighted 500 for selection. FIG. 6 illustrates the newly selected “Music Box” service as the active service. Accordingly, customization points within the media player 206 have changed according to the new active “Music Box” service. In FIG. 6, the apparent customization points that have changed are the text and icon in the service menu button area 302 and the HTML page in the service menu task pane 300. It is noted that the customization points discussed thus far are only examples of customization points, and that various other customization points also exist, some of which are discussed in greater detail below. For example, the several task tabs 600 are customization points whose color and text descriptions can be customized by the currently active service.
  • [0037]
    FIG. 7 illustrates an example of an all-services file 214. As noted above, the all-services file 214 is an XML (Extended Markup Language) file that contains a list of valid online services and other information needed to populate a service menu list within the media player 206. Other important information included in the all-services file 214 is a URL (universal resource locator) link to a service information file 216 for each of the services listed in the all-services file 214. When a service is selected from the service menu list within the media player 206, the URL for the selected service is accessed and the service information file 216 for that service is retrieved.
  • [0038]
    Referring to FIG. 7, an all-services XML file 214 includes various elements that tell the media player 206 how to populate the initial service menu list and where to retrieve each service information file 216. These elements include <services>, <default>, <browse>, <service>, <friendlyname>, and <image> elements. The <services> element includes an optional version attribute that indicates the version of the XML file. The <default> element includes a required key attribute that is used to set the initial default service in the player on the very first use of the player. The <browse> element includes a required URL attribute that links to a “browse all services” page that matches the services that are listed in the all-services file 214. Selecting a “Browse All Services . . . ” menu item will open the <servicetask1> (discussed below) and switch to a page that will list and promote partner online services. The <service> elements represent each service that is a valid service. Each <service> element includes a required key attribute that is a service key representing the service, a required XMLURL attribute that is a fully qualified URL to the service's service information file 216, an optional position attribute that indicates the initial position of the service in the service menu list, and an optional type attribute that represents whether the service can customize all customization points within the media player 206 or just the service panes within the media player 206. The <friendlyname> element includes optional text that represents the name that is shown to the user for the service. If the <friendlyname> element is not specified, the <service> key attribute is used in the player 206 wherever the <friendlyname> element is needed. The <image> element includes an optional MenuURL attribute that is a fully qualified URL to a graphic image to use on the service menu list.
  • [0039]
    As noted above, when a service is selected from the service menu list within the media player 206, the URL for the selected service is accessed and the service information file 216 for that service is retrieved. Like the all-services file 214 discussed above, the service information file 216 is preferably an XML file. Each valid online service in the all-services file 214 hosts it own service information file 216 and uses this file to manage the customization opportunities within the media player 206. Customization opportunities, or customization points, are places or areas within the media player 206 that the media player gives up control over so that the active service can customize them to its own preference. Three main categories of customization can generally be described as music, video (TV, movie), and radio. Referring to FIG. 6, these categories are represented by the three task tabs 600, whose color and text descriptions can be customized by the currently active service.
  • [0040]
    An active/selected service provides an HTML page for display in task pane 300 for one or more task tabs 600. The HTML page typically provides access to a purchase experience. For example, an active music service may provide an HTML page that permits a user to search for a particular song or CD, after which the user can purchase and download the song or CD. A service can choose to include one or all of the three categories depending on the type of service. For example, a video service that offers only video products may only choose to use and customize the video category task tab and forego using the music and radio tabs.
  • [0041]
    In addition to the three main task tabs 600, an active service controls customization points regarding various media player functions, such as those represented by the function tabs 602 on the left side of the media player shown in FIG. 6. For example, the “Now Playing” function tab displays videos in the task pane 300 when a video is being played on the media player 206. However, when only audio (e.g., music) is playing on the media player, the “Now Playing” function displays either visualizations (i.e., shapes, animations, etc.) or an InfoCenter view. The InfoCenter view is an HTML page provided by the active service that typically includes useful information regarding the music that is being played by the media player at the time, such as track listings, artists, etc. Furthermore, the “Now Playing” function includes a “Buy Media” (e.g., “Buy CD”, “Buy Video”) shortcut link to the corresponding task tab 600 that permits a user to directly initiate a purchase experience regarding the currently playing media. Typically, the shortcut link will bypass intermediate steps such as searches, and proceed directly to a page that permits purchasing the media currently playing on the media player 206.
  • [0042]
    In addition to the “Now Playing” function as a customization opportunity for the currently active service, various other functions provide such customization opportunities within media player 206. FIG. 8 illustrates an example of a service information file 216 which includes examples of the various types of functions providing customization opportunities. Each service information file 216 includes various elements that tell the media player 206 how to customize the customization points within the player. These elements include <serviceinfo>, <friendlyname>, <image>, <color>, <servicetask1>, <servicetask2>, <servicetask3>, <infocenter>, <albuminfo>, <buycd>, <install>, and <htmlview> elements.
  • [0043]
    The <serviceinfo> element is required, and is the container element for the service information file 216. The <serviceinfo> element includes an optional version attribute that indicates the version of the XML file, and a required key attribute that is used by the media player 206 to uniquely identify the particular service. The <friendlyname> element is a required element that includes text that will be used to represent the name of the service on the service menu list in the media player 206. The <image> element is optional and it represents the graphical images that should be used to represent the service. The <image> element includes an optional MenuURL attribute that is a fully qualified URL to a 1616 graphic image to use on the service menu list, an optional ServiceSmallURL that is a fully qualified URL to a 3030 graphic image to use in the chrome, and an optional ServiceLargeURL that is a fully qualified URL to a 3060 graphic image to use in the chrome. The file formats supported include .gif, .jpg, .bmp, and .png. PNG is the preferred file format as transparency is also supported and recommended. If the MenuURL attribute isn't specified, then no graphic is used on the menu. The ServiceLargeURL attribute for the chrome service image is used if both ServiceSmallURL and ServiceLargeURL are present. If the chrome images are wider than the image area (30 or 60 depending on which element), then the image area is animated over the image area when the user selects the service.
  • [0044]
    The <color> element is optional and is used to specify the service area button color and navigation bar color. The <color> element includes a required mediaplayer attribute of hex RGB value (#FFDDCC). The <servicetask1>, <servicetask2>, and <servicetask3> elements represent the three task pane tabs 600 (FIG. 6) for task panes in the service area 300. The <servicetask1> element is required, while <servicetask2> and <servicetask3> are optional. Each of the 3 elements includes a required URL attribute that is a fully qualified URL to an HTML page that will be loaded to the respective task pane when the user switches services and selects that pane, a required <buttontext> attribute that includes text that will be used as the button text for the task pane, and an optional <buttontip> attribute that includes text that will be displayed when the user hovers over the button for the task pane. The <servicetask1> element is required and is considered the primary commerce pane. The media player will launch into this pane when the user selects “Buy Media” within the player. As noted above, the three main categories of customization for these elements can generally be described as music, video (TV, movie), and radio.
  • [0045]
    The <infocenter> element is optional and is used to specify a customization of the “Now Playing” InfoCenter view. The <infocenter> element includes a required URL attribute that is a fully qualified URL that refers to an HTML page. As noted above, the <infocenter> view HTML page provided by the active service typically includes useful information regarding the music that is currently being played by the media player, such as track listings, artists, etc. The <albuminfo> element is an optional element that is used to specify a customization of the album information windows in the Burn to CD and Media Library panes. The <albuminfo> element includes a required URL that is a fully qualified URL that refers to an HTML page. The URL will be loaded into the album information window with parameters as a query. The <buycd> element is an optional element that is used to specify a purchase experience from various buy links within the media player 206. The <buycd> element includes a required MediaPlayerURL, an optional MediaCenterURL, and an optional BrowserURL that are each fully qualified URLs that refer to an HTML page for buying a CD or DVD in the media player 206. The “Now Playing” function includes a “Buy CD” shortcut link to the active service Web page that permits purchasing the media currently playing on the media player 206.
  • [0046]
    The <install> element is an optional element that is used by setup to install the default service code (if any) when setup is run online. The <install> element includes a required EULAURL that is a fully qualified URL that points to a .txt file for the code that the service wants installed, and a CodeURL that is a fully qualified URL that points to a cab file that will be installed during setup if the service is the default service. The <htmlview> element is an optional element that is used to allow Radio .ASX files to specify a trusted HTMLView file so that the page can have access to the external .NavigateTaskPane ULR function to link deeply into a service. The <htmlview> element includes a required BaseURL that is a fully qualified URL that points to the base URL to use for any new HTMLView to allow HTML access.
  • [0047]
    Exemplary Methods
  • [0048]
    Example methods for enabling switching between various online media services and allowing an active service to customize portions of an application on a computer will now be described with primary reference to the flow diagram of FIG. 9. The methods apply to the exemplary embodiments discussed above with respect to FIGS. 1-8. While one or more methods are disclosed by means of flow diagrams and text associated with the blocks of the flow diagrams, it is to be understood that the elements of the described methods do not necessarily have to be performed in the order in which they are presented, and that alternative orders may result in similar advantages. Furthermore, the methods are not exclusive and can be performed alone or in combination with one another. The elements of the described methods may be performed by any appropriate means including, for example, by hardware logic blocks on an ASIC or by the execution of processor-readable instructions defined on a processor-readable medium.
  • [0049]
    A “processor-readable medium,” as used herein, can be any means that can contain, store, communicate, propagate, or transport instructions for use or execution by a processor. A processor-readable medium can be, without limitation, an electronic, magnetic, optical, electromagnetic, infrared, or semiconductor system, apparatus, device, or propagation medium. More specific examples of a processor-readable medium include, among others, an electrical connection (electronic) having one or more wires, a portable computer diskette (magnetic), a random access memory (RAM) (magnetic), a read-only memory (ROM) (magnetic), an erasable programmable-read-only memory (EPROM or Flash memory), an optical fiber (optical), a rewritable compact disc (CD-RW) (optical), and a portable compact disc read-only memory (CDROM) (optical).
  • [0050]
    At block 902 of method 900, a list of online services is retrieved. An online service manager 212 related to an application 204 (e.g., a media player 206) executing on a computer, goes online via a network and accesses a Web listing service. The online service manager 212 retrieves an all-services XML file containing a list of valid online services and additional information.
  • [0051]
    At block 904, an online service is set as an initial active service based on the last active service previously chosen by the user. If the application has never run before, a default service specified by the all-services file is initially set as the active service.
  • [0052]
    At block 906, the online service manager 212 enables the selection of one of the online services as an active service. A service menu within a media player 206, for example, is populated with the list of online services. Each online service is represented in the service menu with a friendly and a graphical image if the name and image have been included by the active service in the retrieved list of online services. Selection of one of the online services includes accepting user input that identifies which online service the user desires to make the current active service within the media player.
  • [0053]
    At block 908, customization points within the media player 206 (or other application 204, operating system 200, etc.) are customized based on the active service. Customization includes retrieving a service information file from the active service and customizing the customization points within the media player 206 (and/or operating system shell 202 and applications 204) by enabling the active service, via the service information file, to control the content within the customization points. The customization points include, for example, task panes and task pane buttons within the media player. Customizations within a media player 206 (and/or operating system shell 202 and applications 204) can include a variety of content input and modifications made to parts of the software, including for example, identifying a name for a task pane button using text provided by the active service, displaying button tip text for the task pane button when a selection tool hovers over the task pane button, the button tip text being provided by the active service, displaying (in a task pane) an HTML page specified by the active service when a user selects the task pane button. Customizations can also include displaying an HTML page from the active service within a Now Playing task pane of the media player, where the HTML page provides an InfoCenter view that includes information related to music that is currently being played by the media player. Customizations can also include displaying an HTML page from the active service, where the HTML page provides album information in a burn-to-CD (compact disc) task pane and a Media Library task pane. Customizing can also include displaying a “Buy CD” link to a Web page of the active service within a Now Playing task pane, where the Web page permits purchasing the CD (compact disc) or DVD (digital video disc) that is currently playing on the media player.
  • [0054]
    At block 910, a user input selection is received through the service menu for a different service from the available online services. At block 912, the online service manager 212 retrieves a service information file for the different service. At block 914, the online service manager 212 switches the active service to the different service based on the input selection made by the user.
  • [0055]
    Exemplary Computing Environment
  • [0056]
    FIG. 10 illustrates an exemplary computing environment for implementing a computer 102 suitable for enabling switching between various online media services and allowing an active service to customize portions of an application such as a media player as discussed above with reference to FIGS. 1-9. Although one specific configuration is shown in FIG. 10, a computer 102 may also be implemented in other computing configurations.
  • [0057]
    The computing environment 1000 includes a general-purpose computing system in the form of a computer 1002. The components of computer 1002 may include, but are not limited to, one or more processors or processing units 1004, a system memory 1006, and a system bus 1008 that couples various system components including the processor 1004 to the system memory 1006.
  • [0058]
    The system bus 1008 represents one or more of any of several types of bus structures, including a memory bus or memory controller, a peripheral bus, an accelerated graphics port, and a processor or local bus using any of a variety of bus architectures. An example of a system bus 1008 would be a Peripheral Component Interconnects (PCI) bus, also known as a Mezzanine bus.
  • [0059]
    Computer 1002 includes a variety of computer-readable media. Such media can be any available media that is accessible by computer 1002 and includes both volatile and non-volatile media, removable and non-removable media. The system memory 1006 includes computer readable media in the form of volatile memory, such as random access memory (RAM) 1010, and/or non-volatile memory, such as read only memory (ROM) 1012. A basic input/output system (BIOS) 1014, containing the basic routines that help to transfer information between elements within computer 1002, such as during start-up, is stored in ROM 1012. RAM 1010 contains data and/or program modules that are immediately accessible to and/or presently operated on by the processing unit 1004.
  • [0060]
    Computer 1002 may also include other removable/non-removable, volatile/non-volatile computer storage media. By way of example, FIG. 10 illustrates a hard disk drive 1016 for reading from and writing to a non-removable, non-volatile magnetic media (not shown), a magnetic disk drive 1018 for reading from and writing to a removable, non-volatile magnetic disk 1020 (e.g., a “floppy disk”), and an optical disk drive 1022 for reading from and/or writing to a removable, non-volatile optical disk 1024 such as a CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, or other optical media. The hard disk drive 1016, magnetic disk drive 1018, and optical disk drive 1022 are each connected to the system bus 1008 by one or more data media interfaces 1025. Alternatively, the hard disk drive 1016, magnetic disk drive 1018, and optical disk drive 1022 may be connected to the system bus 1008 by a SCSI interface (not shown).
  • [0061]
    The disk drives and their associated computer-readable media provide non-volatile storage of computer readable instructions, data structures, program modules, and other data for computer 1002. Although the example illustrates a hard disk 1016, a removable magnetic disk 1020, and a removable optical disk 1024, it is to be appreciated that other types of computer readable media which can store data that is accessible by a computer, such as magnetic cassettes or other magnetic storage devices, flash memory cards, CD-ROM, digital versatile disks (DVD) or other optical storage, random access memories (RAM), read only memories (ROM), electrically erasable programmable read-only memory (EEPROM), and the like, can also be utilized to implement the exemplary computing system and environment.
  • [0062]
    Any number of program modules can be stored on the hard disk 1016, magnetic disk 1020, optical disk 1024, ROM 1012, and/or RAM 1010, including by way of example, an operating system 1026, one or more application programs 1028, other program modules 1030, and program data 1032. Each of such operating system 1026, one or more application programs 1028, other program modules 1030, and program data 1032 (or some combination thereof) may include an embodiment of a caching scheme for user network access information.
  • [0063]
    Computer 1002 can include a variety of computer/processor readable media identified as communication media. Communication media embodies computer readable instructions, data structures, program modules, or other data in a modulated data signal such as a carrier wave or other transport mechanism and includes any information delivery media. The term “modulated data signal” means a signal that has one or more of its characteristics set or changed in such a manner as to encode information in the signal. By way of example, and not limitation, communication media includes wired media such as a wired network or direct-wired connection, and wireless media such as acoustic, RF, infrared, and other wireless media. Combinations of any of the above are also included within the scope of computer readable media.
  • [0064]
    A user can enter commands and information into computer system 1002 via input devices such as a keyboard 1034 and a pointing device 1036 (e.g., a “mouse”). Other input devices 1038 (not shown specifically) may include a microphone, joystick, game pad, satellite dish, serial port, scanner, and/or the like. These and other input devices are connected to the processing unit 1004 via input/output interfaces 1040 that are coupled to the system bus 1008, but may be connected by other interface and bus structures, such as a parallel port, game port, or a universal serial bus (USB).
  • [0065]
    A monitor 1042 or other type of display device may also be connected to the system bus 1008 via an interface, such as a video adapter 1044. In addition to the monitor 1042, other output peripheral devices may include components such as speakers (not shown) and a printer 1046 which can be connected to computer 1002 via the input/output interfaces 1040.
  • [0066]
    Computer 1002 may operate in a networked environment using logical connections to one or more remote computers, such as a remote computing device 1048. By way of example, the remote computing device 1048 can be a personal computer, portable computer, a server, a router, a network computer, a peer device or other common network node, and the like. The remote computing device 1048 is illustrated as a portable computer that may include many or all of the elements and features described herein relative to computer system 1002.
  • [0067]
    Logical connections between computer 1002 and the remote computer 1048 are depicted as a local area network (LAN) 1050 and a general wide area network (WAN) 1052. Such networking environments are commonplace in offices, enterprise-wide computer networks, intranets, and the Internet. When implemented in a LAN networking environment, the computer 1002 is connected to a local network 1050 via a network interface or adapter 1054. When implemented in a WAN networking environment, the computer 1002 includes a modem 1056 or other means for establishing communications over the wide network 1052. The modem 1056, which can be internal or external to computer 1002, can be connected to the system bus 1008 via the input/output interfaces 1040 or other appropriate mechanisms. It is to be appreciated that the illustrated network connections are exemplary and that other means of establishing communication link(s) between the computers 1002 and 1048 can be employed.
  • [0068]
    In a networked environment, such as that illustrated with computing environment 1000, program modules depicted relative to the computer 1002, or portions thereof, may be stored in a remote memory storage device. By way of example, remote application programs 1058 reside on a memory device of remote computer 1048. For purposes of illustration, application programs and other executable program components, such as the operating system, are illustrated herein as discrete blocks, although it is recognized that such programs and components reside at various times in different storage components of the computer system 1002, and are executed by the data processor(s) of the computer.
  • CONCLUSION
  • [0069]
    Although the invention has been described in language specific to structural features and/or methodological acts, it is to be understood that the invention defined in the appended claims is not necessarily limited to the specific features or acts described. Rather, the specific features and acts are disclosed as exemplary forms of implementing the claimed invention.
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Classifications
U.S. Classification715/779
International ClassificationH04L29/06, H04L29/08
Cooperative ClassificationG06F17/30887, H04L29/06027, G06F3/0484, H04L65/604, H04L65/4084, H04L67/306, H04L67/36, H04L67/02, H04L69/329
European ClassificationH04L29/06C2, H04L29/08N29U, H04L29/08A7, H04L29/08N35, H04L29/08N1, H04L29/06M6C4, H04L29/06M4S4
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Dec 9, 2014ASAssignment
Owner name: MICROSOFT TECHNOLOGY LICENSING, LLC, WASHINGTON
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