Microsoft unveils Windows Media Center Extender for PC and Xbox

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates announces the company's new integrated media software for the PC and Xbox at CES.

At the CES convention in Las Vegas, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates revealed the company's new integrated digital media software and hardware plans. The new technology essentially lets users share media, such as image files, movie files, and sound files from any computer with Windows XP Media Center Edition, in any room of the house, regardless of whether someone else is currently using that computer, and regardless of the computer's location within the house. The new technology allows digital media to be shared on either a television set (which can be fitted with a set-top box to receive the signal, or with TV sets that are integrated with this technology), or using an Xbox console.

The Xbox Media Center Extender Kit will consist of an Xbox DVD disc and a dedicated remote control, and will also allow users to view digital media from any room in the house. The Media Center Edition 2004 software development kit was actually released last September, and since then, over 8,500 developers have downloaded the software in order to use it to build media applications. These applications include the media-player application on the Web site of the popular sports broadcasting network, ESPN; that site's "ESPN Motion" application lets users view sports clips on either their computer or on a TV screen.

Gates went on to explain that the Media Center format is also being supported by numerous partners. Microsoft announced 16 new films in Windows Media High-Definition Video (WMVHD) format from such studios as Artisan Entertainment, IMAX Corp., and National Geographic. The company has also partnered with hardware manufacturers such as Gateway, Creative Labs, Samsung, and SANYO to product portable media center-compatible devices that will let users view digital media from a handheld device, which will support the Windows Media Video and Audio 9 series of media player software. Microsoft also announced that digital entertainment companies CinemaNow and Napster LLC will now support the portable media center platform.

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