Opening the Living Room Windows
Tuesday, October 12, 2004; 9:42 AM
The Associated Press provided an advance report of Microsoft's plans last week: "Efforts by Microsoft Corp. and the PC industry to expand into to the living room will get a boost ... as they show off technologies that try to balance Hollywood's piracy fears with the appeal of digital media. In Los Angeles, Microsoft is expected to unveil Windows Media Center Edition 2005 for entertainment computers as well as other software and gadgets that seek to simplify sharing video and music while enforcing copyrights. Separately but not coincidentally, Intel Corp. will be in New York showing off prototypes for entertainment PCs. [See my June column on the topic.] The industry is touting such systems as the best example yet of the PC's convergence with couch-centric diversions - a goal that has so far proven elusive despite repeated attempts," the wire service reported.
New York Times: Microsoft's Latest Plan for TV (Registration required)
Associated Press via washingtonpost.com: Microsoft Looks to Expand Windows at Home (Registration required)
The British tech site, the Register, said, "Microsoft will announce the final version of its Windows Media 10 software today when it launches Windows XP Media Center 2005. Central to the announcement is Windows Media Player 10, which integrates MS' latest DRM technology, 'Janus', and, in a bid to appear to be nice to rivals, will include links to other online music stores based on WM 10, not just MS' own, in the player's 'Digital Media Mall.'" More from USA Today: "Others share parts of Gates's vision. Chipmaker Intel has spent millions the past two years sponsoring research to help mass-produce quieter PCs that fit in sleeker cabinets more suitable for the living room. And it has driven development of 'media extenders,' including the Windows version Gates will unveil today."
USA Today: Gates to Unveil Media Center PCs
The Register: MS to Launch Final Windows Media Player 10 Today
Microsoft's digital entertainment push today will be watched closely by rival Apple Computer, which has seen its stock soar this past year on the popularity of its iPod digital music player. "Microsoft's new offensive in the digital music industry will seek to significantly alter the competitive landscape in a new market that until now has largely been dominated by [the] powerful combination of the iPod portable music player and the iTunes Music Store," Forbes.com wrote today. "Among the many companies announcing PCs running the new Windows XP Media Center operating system to be unveiled today, Hewlett-Packard will stand out by offering an option of its version of the software that bridges at least part of the gap between Apple's online music service and others like Microsoft's. HP recently began selling its own version of Apple's iPod. Microsoft's new software will also include a final public release of Microsoft's MSN Music service, the latest rival to [iTunes], which will be built into Windows Media 10 software, and will also integrate access to other music stores, including Roxio's Napster."
Dow Jones Newswires has more details on HP's ties to Microsoft's announcement today, reporting that HP will showcase three new PCs that will run the updated Media Center software. "HP says the new machines deliver on a vision Chief Executive Carly Fiorina laid out last month during a speech in Florida, where she discussed the opportunities for HP in digital entertainment. Two of the machines will look less like PCs and more like DVD players, standing about four inches high with black, brush-aluminum cases. The third, more traditional PC -- the Media Center m1100 Series Photosmart PC -- will still run Media Center Edition 2005. HP also will introduce the Media Center Extender x5400, which will allow videos, music and photos stored on a Media Center PC to be shown on other devices throughout the home."
Forbes.com: Microsoft Ups Ante Vs. iTunes
Dow Jones Newswires via the Wall Street Journal: HP to Unveil 3 PCs Featuring Microsoft Media Center Product (Subscription required)
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer said Microsoft's media blitz today is part of its overall strategy to boost sales of its flagship software: "Along with earlier releases of a new Windows Media Player, an online music store, and stronger security features, the announcements are part of a broader Microsoft effort to freshen Windows XP and related programs. The current version of the operating system, released in late 2001, isn't expected to be replaced with a new one for another two years," the paper said. "The overarching initiative is known inside Microsoft as 'Windows XP Reloaded,' said Jim Allchin, Microsoft's group vice president for platforms, in a conversation with Seattle-area reporters earlier this year. Allchin described it as an effort to enhance the operating system's capabilities and do a better job of marketing them to consumers."
Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Microsoft Notebook: Gates Preps to Pitch 'XP Reloaded'
An Early Review
The blogosphere is already abuzz with advance reviews of the latest Media Center version. A post on techie site Slashdot.org links to Thomas Hawk's blog, which gives considerable attention to Microsoft's new software move and opines regularly on digital entertainment issues. In a post last week titled: "Microsoft Media Center 2005 ... Underwhelmed," Hawk wrote: "OK ... so to start with, how can Media Center 2005 NOT have HDTV capability for satellite and cable receivers? What the hell? TiVo announces back in January 2003 and delivers earlier this year and MCE has an opportunity to do a major release on their product and it doesn't include HDTV support? Something is seriously amiss in Redmond. Although the product allegedly will support the ATI HDTV Wonder card it is my understanding that this card only supports OTA (over the air) HDTV broadcasts."