Microsoft intros Generation 2 of its Media Center

Microsoft last week unveiled the second generation of its Media Center PC operating system, optimized to play digital music, videos, games and control personal digital recorders such as TiVo — all from a single remote.

PC manufacturers including Sony, Dell, Gateway, Hewlett-Packard, Toshiba and Samsung have all built special media-centric remote-controlled computers for use with the Windows Media Center operating system. Most new media computers have the capability to tie directly to home television receivers.

Internet movie services Movielink and CinemaNow have signed up to offer films for downloading with Microsoft’s new system. The Internet-based movies-on-demand services now cater to Web surfers who watch films on PCs or laptops. However, both see their long-term revenue growth targeted to users who have the ability to download movies via a computer and then watch them on a TV set where the picture and sound are of higher quality.

Currently, PC or laptop users can connect to TV sets via special cabling, but the Media Center PCs can be connected directly to a TV set thereby eliminating the cabling.

New PCs equipped with Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center, too, can be operated using a TV-like remote control making the process of downloading films much like operating TV controls.

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