Microsoft pushes TV-computer convergence

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates emphasized "seamless computing" environments at CES.

Using CES in Las Vegas as the stage, Microsoft continued to push its vision of tighter integration of the home television and personal computer. Chairman Bill Gates emphasized "seamless computing" environments and announced plans for "extender" devices that will allow media content stored on Microsoft’s Media Center computers to be used elsewhere in the house.

The first extenders, Gates said, will let people display TV programs stored on a Media Center's hard drive on television sets in other rooms via wireless signals. Microsoft said extenders will be available by the end of the year.

Called Media Center Extender, the new software package will provide up to five televisions remote access to PCs running the company's Windows XP Media Center Edition. The software supports digital rights management, so users can order media directly from Internet-based subscription services such as Movielink via a TV, Gates said.

Hewlett-Packard and Gateway will build televisions with the software and wireless networking hardware built in. In addition, HP, Gateway, Dell, Samsung and others will offer set-top boxes running the extender platform.

Gates also announced that a half-dozen companies will make pocket-sized "portable media centers" that will allow consumers to take recorded TV shows and movies on the go.

Microsoft also showed the latest version (1.5) of its digital cable software platform, Microsoft TV Foundation Edition. Version 1.5 provides integrated support for HDTV and digital video recording (DVR). The company also showed Windows Media Video HD, a version of Windows Media Player that supports HD output.

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