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Microsoft renews push into entertainment products

Microsoft has unveiled a new version of its Windows XP Media Center, along with an array of new devices and services aimed at capturing consumer spending on movies, pictures and music.

The new media PC, which hooks up to televisions and allows users to view movies, listen to music and flip through digital pictures with a remote control, runs a modified version of Microsoft’s Windows software and is made by several PC manufacturers.

Microsoft will back up the new version of Windows Media Center, which adds features such as the ability to display HDTV and engage in instant messaging, with a $100 million-plus marketing campaign.

Companies that have already designed hardware for the Media Center include Dell, Toshiba, Hewlett-Packard, Gateway and Sony. Microsoft also plans to use its influence with media companies to encourage quicker releases of movies, video games and other interactive content through Web-based subscriber services.

Windows Media Center’s nearest competitor is Tivo’s hard disk-based video recorder, which allows users to pause and record live TV and save scheduled TV programs.

Media Center PCs also allow users to listen to music stored on hard drives, view digital pictures and access a variety of other content.

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