October 6, 2004 4:00 AM PDT

Microsoft to tune up Media Center PC

With the next generation of Media Center PCs, you'll be able to have your TV and record it too.

For the first time, Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition is supporting multiple tuners, meaning that consumers will be able to watch one channel while recording another or record two stations at once, CNET News.com has learned. The feature is one of several improvements Microsoft has made with Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, an update that the company plans to announce next week.

At the same time, Microsoft is also allowing computer makers to create Media Center PCs that lack the TV recording feature altogether, a move that will allow computer makers to offer PCs with the operating system for less than $800. It's all part of an effort by Microsoft to position Media Center as a more mainstream consumer OS.


What's new:
For the first time, Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition is supporting multiple tuners, meaning that consumers will be able to watch one channel while recording another.

Bottom line:
, Microsoft is hoping that an improved Media Center OS can help reignite interest in Windows XP.

More stories on this topic

Without an all-new version of Windows until Longhorn in 2006, Microsoft is hoping that an improved Media Center OS can help reignite interest in the 3-year-old Windows XP operating system. The launch of the updated Media Center, along with several new companion products, will form a key part of Microsoft's fall marketing blitz designed to sell consumers on the benefits of XP.

The entertainment-oriented Media Center OS is similar to other flavors of Microsoft's flagship Windows XP, but adds a second interface that can play movies, music, digital pictures or television and be controlled via remote control. In its first two incarnations, Media Center has attracted only a niche of the PC market, largely those interested in recording TV shows onto their hard drives.

Microsoft has thus far been largely mum about the new version of Media Center OS, though details have begun to trickle out. As previously reported, the new version has several new features designed to address current shortcomings, such as the ability to burn CDs and DVDs from within the remote-controlled interface.

Sources tell CNET News.com that the product will also include the ability to exchange MSN-compatible instant messages while doing other things, such as watching television or viewing a photo slideshow. The instant messages appear as an overlay to the TV or other main image.

Media Center Edition 2005 will offer limited support for high-definition television, but only the type of high-definition signal received through an antenna--not high-definition satellite or cable. Microsoft declined to comment on the new version of Media Center or its features.

Much of the focus with the new version, which is code-named Symphony, has been on improving the audio and video quality, with the goal being to rival consumer electronics devices such as DVD players and digital video recorders that cost far less and have outshined the Media Center in quality. With this version, sources say, they believe Microsoft has at least caught up to TiVo. The program guide has also been improved, including the ability to browse upcoming movies using "cover art" images.

New products for the Media Center family
Microsoft has also announced plans for two products that will complement the new OS. One is a handheld device known as a Portable Media Center that will allow content from a Media Center PC to be taken on the go. The other is a type of set-top box known as a Media Center Extender, which allows consumers to view content in one room that is stored on a Media Center PC in another room.

The company is expected to use next week's "Experience More" event in Los Angeles to tout other digital home efforts, including several moves designed to make it easier to move content around the home while still offering digital rights management. For example, Microsoft has been developing technology, code-named Janus, that paves the way for a new class of portable music devices capable of playing music that is rented on a subscription basis rather than purchased. And, in addition to Media Center extenders, which work only with Media Center PCs, Microsoft has a broader Windows Media Connect effort designed to let many different living-room products grab video, music and photos that are stored on a Windows XP computer.

Some details have come from the companies making Media Center products. Two tuner manufacturers, Hauppauge and Vixs have announced dual-tuner products that are designed specifically to work with Media Center 2005.

Computer makers are also starting to tip their hand. Sony, for example, posted several new models to its SonyStyle Web site. Best Buy has also started listing at least one of the new Sony models.

The machines are part of Sony's existing "R" series of Vaio Desktops. In addition to sporting the new OS, the machines add faster processors and larger hard drives as well as the option to automatically create a backup of data using RAID. For now, Sony's machines stick to offering a single TV tuner.

Hewlett-Packard has announced its Digital Entertainment Center, a Media Center device that is designed to look more like a consumer electronics device than a PC and is also expected to offer dual tuners, among other features. HP has yet to announce pricing or when the device will be available, though. The company is also expected to have more traditional Media Center PCs and is expected to offer an upgrade program for existing Media Center PCs, but details are not yet available.

Dell, Gateway and Toshiba are among the other big-name computer makers expected to offer machines with the new operating system, sources said.

As for the Media Center extenders, HP has announced plans to offer such a device and online retailer Buy.com has started taking orders for a similar product from Linksys. Creative and Samsung recently started selling the first Portable Media Centers.

All of the Microsoft devices find themselves competing, at least to some degree, with non-Microsoft alternatives. In the portable category, RCA and Archos offer competing portable video players that do not interface directly with Media Center. There are also other companies that offer features similar to Media Center both for Linux and Windows-based machines.

Intel showed off many such designs at its recent developer forum, though it is unclear how many big-name PC makers will choose to offer entertainment-oriented PCs that are not Microsoft-based. Instead, the challenge may come more from consumer electronics makers.

Devices that could both burn DVDs and record TV shows were once rare but are increasingly more common. Cable and satellite operators are also starting to ship digital video recorders in larger numbers, again potentially challenging Microsoft's Media Center ambitions.


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Adios, TiVo....
.... That sound you hear is a large share of the TiVo going down
the M$ drain......

But, it was bound to happen.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How many people will just wait for Longhorn instead?

The vast majority IMHO...
Posted by unother (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Media Center 2005... Underwhelmed
My full review is over at:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://thomashawk.com/2004/10/microsoft-media-center-2005.html" target="_newWindow">http://thomashawk.com/2004/10/microsoft-media-center-2005.html</a>
Posted by thomashawk (19 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Or use a $29 VCR
So let me get this straight - buy software for hundreds of dollars, put it on a machine that will also cost hundreds of dollars, take the time to learn the software and work around its bugs, and this is better than having a VCR? I can already watch one channel and record another, and have been doing it for decades.

And this is the innovation that millions of dollars worth of R&#38;D gets Microsoft? Wow, those PhDs must really be proud of themselves.
Posted by sunergeos (111 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Living in the 80s
A VCR? You still use a VCR to record and watch television programming? I retired my VCR two years ago and have been happier ever since. Here's a thought... before you try comparing MediaCenter to a VCR, why don't you actually try using MediaCenter. Perhaps you will realize just how archaic your VCR.... and your opinion really is.

MediaCenter is a fabulous product that takes the cake in the PVR market as far as I'm concerned. I've used TiVo, RePlay, and MediaCenter... and although MediaCenter could use a few *more* features, its feature set, ease of use, stability, and ability to integrate with other computing devices puts it in a class far above any of the competitors. I will upgrade my MediaCenter when updates are available, and I will continue to evaluate competing products... but believe me... the VCR is history.
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
Mediacenter PC? Who would be Stupid enough?
Sounds like MS plans to make the mediacnter PC a little more
than useless and unstable.

Imagine, a virus infexting your entertainment center, now
everyone line-up in an orderly fashion, there are enough MS
MediaCentres to screw up everyone's home entertainment centre
with their proprietary codec's and their susceptibility to
thousands of virii.

Only the fools will buy.
Posted by dirk128 (31 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Media Centers are great
Only Apple cult members will comment like that. They just love to read any story about MS and try to hammer it. You have no views, just pre-packaged anti-Microsoft sensationalist babble. You have no facts, just slander because you obviosly hate capitalism and Microsoft is the embodiment of that. So get a life.

Mediacenter computers are sweet. Now we can get them portable. I love the CHOICE (something apple users dont have) of sending any recorded show to any TV in my house. Recording based on many varibles and surfing on the TV. When I have people over it's great to click a single button and watch a slideshow of video and photos.
Posted by marlow714 (29 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Since you put it that way...
I couldn't help but "overhear" you bashing someone for having a different opinion than you, but since you made it a public statement you should be let in on the secret.

It isn't MS-bashing, it's the expression of years of frustration of watching a company yield a state-sponsered monopoly and then say it is anything but. All of Microsoft's products - that is ALL OF THEM, are nothing more than "me-too" products. Their products appear to have "broader appeal" because they have a broader distibution channel. They simply bolt everything onto the monopoly and it rides along with Windows. For example, why would the EU be busting their chops over their Media Player. Well, because they bolt it onto Windows and want to make the argument that "everyone is using it." That's tired.

The facts have been stated for years on these discussion boards and, frankly, that's why you will not get the response that you would have two years ago. That's the secret - we all know it by now. You're allowed to keep forking over your hard earned money to a company that thinks stealing ideas and litigating it is innovation. No need to actually create something when it is more cost effective to settle the case out of court than to pay people for their intellectual property and hard work.

It's really more of an ethical question that one of capitalism. Wouldn't you agree?
Posted by sunergeos (111 comments )
Link Flag
perfect examples
Like I said...they cult members come out of the woodwork.
Posted by marlow714 (29 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Dan Johnson
"I was a software architect working on a Macintosh" - haha - are we supposed to be impressed? LOL

"You must submit to the sovereignty that gives you the freedom to prosper. If you don't, you won't prosper. That's that." Apple needs to learn from that. - read some headlines.

Overall I can see your comments took some thought. I'm glad I can pull you away from the small little world you live in and open your eyes to what is really happening.

Wait a second...we are talking about the Media Center. Oh ya, Apple doesn't have one. Hmmm.
Posted by marlow714 (29 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Bring on the onslaught
Hurry up an respond mac users. I cant wait.

Actually, I should rephrase in a language you will understand better.

iHurry iup ian irespond imac iusers. iI icant iwait.
Posted by marlow714 (29 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Reply to the question?
So what I want to know is your reply to the question.

What wonderful innovations has MS given the world?

No retoric, no slandering, no name calling, or whining.

Just put up or shut up.

A person who uses most platforms and evaluates according to
the users needs.
Posted by wrwjpn (113 comments )
Link Flag
What was the topic of this thread?
Funny how this topic started out touting MSs Media Center OS  which IS an innovation (If you disagree, check out the demo links here -<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/mediacenter/evaluation/tours/default.mspx" target="_newWindow">http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/mediacenter/evaluation/tours/default.mspx</a> )
to what this conversation is now, nothing more than a few idiots trying to justify their investments.

Comparing a DVR or TIVO system to the Media Canter OS is like comparing the bank accounts of Bill Gates and steve jobs or comparing the user base of Windows and the macos. No contest.
Posted by marlow714 (29 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I have to agree with James Hill
I work in half and half Windows and Mac environment in a graphic design department. I must say that most of what James has said is true. It seems like the Mac is playing catch-up most of the time. When OSX came out - dont get me wrong it's a sweet OS - but most of what makes it good came from Windows. Give MS some credit. Plenty of little things in the OS are a direct rips from WindowsXP. The problem I see in our office is most of the Mac users don't want to hear about anything Windows - so when they get a new feature in their OS they think it was invented by Apple - and apple doesn't help that too much.

As far as the Microsoft Media Center OS it looks promising. I checked out the demos and it does look very cool. I may just look into getting one so the whole family can use it.
Posted by (35 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Media Center OS demos look sweet
I would also have to agree. You mac users need to take a reality pill and read this! <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.fool.com/news/commentary/2004/commentary04100703.htm?source=mptoppromo" target="_newWindow">http://www.fool.com/news/commentary/2004/commentary04100703.htm?source=mptoppromo</a>

The only problem I see with the Media Center is you cannot build your own exactly. You have to purchase a premade machine (like macs). This has it's advantages but is also very limiting. I'll buy the OS in a heart beat if I could build it myself. So Microsoft, don't do an Apple, make Media Center OS avaiable to purchase to anyone - not just manufacturers.
Posted by (28 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Actually you can.
My Media Center came with the OS disk. I was able to install, with a little tweeking, and get it fully working on a differnet machine. Some of the same hardware but nevertheless, it works. I agree, why isnt MS selling the Media Center OS as a standalone? Not a good move if you ask me.

Great story on the fool.com - Mac users need to read that.
Posted by (30 comments )
Reply Link Flag
what a concept!

Chock another one up for *innovation* at Microsoft.

Chairman Bill didn't have far to go to beg, borrow or steal this latest technological breakthrough.

The village idiot was happy to capitulate.
Posted by djugan (40 comments )
Reply Link Flag

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