Microsoft will release an update to Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 that will enhance the way consumers access digital media in their homes, a Microsoft spokesman said last week.
Windows XP Media Center Edition Update Rollup 2, which will be available free to all Windows Media Center customers Friday, allows users to integrate Media Center PCs with the forthcoming Xbox 360 gaming console, said Justin Jed, product manager for Windows XP Media Center Edition.
This will enable customers that have both an Xbox 360 and a Media Center PC in their homes to access digital content from their PCs on an Xbox 360 at the same time, making that content more widely available on multiple devices. "Microsoft is continuing to drive the request for convergence for digital entertainment," he said.
The Xbox 360 feature, however, can only be used when the new Xbox game consoles with Media Center Extender are available later this year, according to Microsoft.
The update rollup also adds a feature called Away Mode to Media Center PCs, Jed said. This enables a PC to automatically turn on without the usual boot-up time a PC requires, and also gives users the ability to record television programs or access content through the Xbox 360 when a Media Center PC appears to be off.
Microsoft also is expected to unveil Friday a new set of partners that are delivering DVD changes for Media Center PCs, so more DVDs can be loaded onto the PC; and additional support for another high-definition television (HDTV) tuner, so users can record two HDTV programs simultaneously, he said.
Additionally, Microsoft plans to launch a new Windows XP Media Center Edition site on Windows Marketplace Friday, according to the company. The site will enable customers to show for Media Center PCs, components, peripherals and other related products.
Hardware vendors that sell Media center PCs include Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP), Dell, Gateway and Sony Electronics. Dell, Gateway, HP, Sony and other vendors will have PCs preloaded with the update Friday; however, Dell and Sony's machines will not yet support Away Mode, according to a spokesman from Microsoft's PR agency, Waggener Edstrom.
Also Friday, Microsoft is expected to unveil a new content deal with MTV Networks that will provide on-demand access to MTV programming, Jed said. Users can access the programming from MTV Overdrive, MTV.com's new broadband video channel, on Media Center PCs beginning Friday, he said.
More than 4 million Media Center PCs have been sold to date, momentum that increasingly is inspiring ISVs (independent software vendors) to build exclusive applications for the platform, Jed said. There are currently for than 75 add-on services to Media Center PCs that have been built by third parties, with more expected before the end of the year, he said.