Microsoft Releasing Home Media Powerhouse

Microsoft Corp. said it will turn PCs into media centers that integrate live television, PVR features, digital music, digital video, DVDs and more - all with remote-control access and in time for Christmas.

It's all part of the latest version of the Windows XP operating system, the Windows XP Media Center Edition (previously code-named "Freestyle"), now in beta-testing.

"The PC has evolved from a tool for productivity to a device capable of entertainment, communications and so much more," said Michael Toutonghi, vice president of Microsoft's Windows eHome Division. "Consumers desire more fun and enjoyment from their PC [sic] and want it to contribute to their lives even more creatively than it does today."

Microsoft is targeting users in space-limited environments such as college students, teenagers and young adults, the company said.

Those users will have a one-stop entertainment powerhouse on their hands, judging by the claims of the software giant.

The PVR feature includes an integrated electronic program guide and VCR-like functionality. The music center includes enhanced browsing and searching capabilities. The video feature provides thumbnail views and full-screen playback. And the photo feature allows inclusion of background music with just a few remote-control pushes.

"For instance, digital enthusiasts will be able to combine digital photos from a Caribbean vacation with the beat of a reggae album to truly capture the flavor of the trip," the company suggests.

The Windows XP Media Center Edition should be available to computer makers in time for holiday shopping in the United States, Canada and Korea, and will be available in Japan in the first half of 2003.