Microsoft Announces New Multimedia Version of Windows Just In Time For MACWORLD

Microsoft announced yesterday its plans to release a new version of its flagship operating system, Windows XP. The new version, titled Windows XP Media Center, is an attempt to make the desktop computer into a remote-controlled digital entertainment hub. From the press release:

Microsoft Corp. today announced the newest member of the Windows¨ XP family: Windows XP Media Center Edition. Formerly known by the code name "Freestyle," Microsoft¨ Windows XP Media Center Edition turns a PC into a media center that integrates digital entertainment experiences -- including live television, personal video recording (PVR), digital music, digital video, DVDs and pictures -- with the freedom of remote control access. Currently in beta testing, Microsoft will ship Windows XP Media Center Edition to OEMs in time for the holiday shopping season in the United States, Canada and Korea. It is expected to be available in Japan in the first half of 2003.

"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 the Windows eHome Division at Microsoft. "Consumers desire more fun and enjoyment from their PC and want it to contribute to their lives even more creatively than it does today. The time is right for Windows XP Media Center Edition; it maps to our vision of realizing potential with technology in ways people may not have thought possible."

Central to the "new Windows experience" is the new Media Center. The Media Center is the "destination for entertainment on the PC." With a compatible remote control, users can control their digital media from across the room. Media Center will be able to do such things as pause & rewind live television, record shows, browse and play music libraries, browse photo albums, browse video collections, and view DVD movies -- all from the remote control.

While all of these features may be a part of the new Windows XP Media Center edition, those features are directly linked to the hardware. Therefore, this version of the operating system will not be available except for on pre-loaded machine configurations from Hewlett-Packard, NEC, and Samsung Electronics. According to a Reuters report, it is expected that these specially-configured machines will be available in the $1,000-$2,000 price range. Oh yeah, thereis one more thing:

At the slightest nudge of the mouse, Windows XP Media Center reverts back to the familiar Windows desktop and menus that have become nearly ubiquitous on PCs worldwide.

Microsoft is working with hardware vendors for a holiday release of the new Windows XP Media Center edition. More information on the features of Windows XP Media Center can be found in the press release and additional analysis in the Reuters article.