Microsoft moves into the eHome

Microsoft moves into the eHome

Microsoft will announce on Monday the creation of a business unit charged with developing software and working with partners on Web-enabled products aimed at consumers living in an Internet-connected home.

Microsoft will offer details about its new eHome Division and discuss how it plans to extend "the PC's capabilities to deliver whole-home entertainment, communications and information experiences", the company said in a statement on Wednesday.

The announcement will come at Microsoft's monthly Speakers Series event at its Mountain View, California campus, and will be delivered by Mike Toutonghi, the newly named vice president of Microsoft's eHome Division. A nine-year employee with the Redmond, Washington software maker, Toutonghi has helped lead a number of development projects including the .Net developer platform, the company said.

Microsoft has recently stepped up its efforts to extend its reach into consumer markets beyond software and operating systems for PCs and servers, where it generates the bulk of its revenue. For example, last week the company launched the Xbox video game console in the US in a move that puts it at the centre of the video gaming market, which analysts expect to generate more than $US11 billion this year.

Microsoft has also built up its Microsoft TV division, developing a series of set-top boxes for accessing its WebTV platform and interactive programming. The company also builds operating systems to power smart cell phones, handheld computers and other computing devices that run "embedded" operating systems, such as those used in automobiles and appliances.

In the market for digital entertainment software, Microsoft has hunkered down with its Windows Media Player, which competes in the slowly emerging market for digital music and video with companies such as Real Networks. Microsoft has its own Windows Media file format and digital rights management technology for delivering music and video via the Web.

Microsoft's new Windows XP operating system is also packed with software that plays into its strategy for offering entertainment and communications services to consumers. The operating system features the company's Windows Messenger software, an instant messaging application that allows users to chat using text, audio and video as well as to make PC-to-phone calls.

In his new role, Toutonghi will head a division created to pull together pieces from all of Microsoft's groups that deliver products and services to the home. The company said it will detail on Monday how it expects all of its home-oriented software and Internet technologies to work together, a concept that is at the core of .Net, the initiative Microsoft is pursuing to enable access to information from any Internet-connected device.

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