Kim’s Media Center Views

 By Kim Dixon

 

Welcome my new Media Center Blog – Media Centered. I’m Kim Dixon, assistant producers to the Media Center Show, blogger and Media Center Enthusiast. I’ve been talking and writing about Windows Media Center since 2004 and have produced over 100 podcasts on the subject. You might say I’m a bit of a Media Center geek!

All about Media Center

This new blog will focus on bringing you the latest news from the world of Media Center and the Media Center community.

My weekly Podcast, called ” The Media Center Show“, features guests ranging from the Media Center developers at Microsoft to hardware manufactures and digital media enthusiasts. You can find my podcast at TheDigitalLifestyle.com.

The Extender strikes back

The big news this week is all about Windows Media Center Extenders. Today (Thursday) sees the launch of the 2nd generation of Windows Media Center Extenders.

These include: the DMA2200 (with built-in DVD player – pictured) and the DMA2100 from Linksys; the D-Link DSM-750 MediaLounge HD Media Center Extender; and the HP MediaSmart LCD HDTV. You can read Microsoft’s full press release about the new Extenders here.

Extenders are hardware devices that enable you to extend the Media Center interface to your TV without having to have a PC connected to it. This means no more noisy PC in your living room. Instead you get a wife-friendly slimline box connected to your TV that has the slick Media Center user interface. It can stream all the content from your PC – recorded/live TV, pictures and music.

You can have up to five Extender devices connected to a PC simultaneously, which means five people can stream their preferred content over a wired or wireless network. Some of the new devices (the two from Linksys, for example) come with wireless N built-in, so they are capable of streaming HD.

Can Extenders find an audience?

I should mention that there is one type of Extender already available. The Xbox 360 is already capable of media streaming, it’s the device I use and it makes a great Media Center Extender. One downside of the 360, however, is the fan noise and this does put some people off.

You can watch Joe Belfiore, Corporate Vice President of the Entertainment and Devices Division at Microsoft giving a keynote at Digitalife 2007. Here, he shows off the V2 Extenders via an on demand stream provided by Microsoft.

On this week’s Media Center Show I have an interview with Hakan Olsson from Microsoft who talks about the new generation of Extenders. We will be talking about why there is a need for Extenders and what kind of experience we can expect from them. We’ll also be talking about which manufacturers are bringing out the Extenders.

Beyond the set-top box

One point to note is that Media Center Extenders don’t necessarily have to be standalone boxes. The technology could easily be built in to TVs (note the HP MediaSmart LCD HDTV that’s been announced), DVD players and many other devices. Personally, I’d like to see an Extender complete with an HD DVD drive. But we will have to wait and see if that happens.

Sadly there is no information about when these new boxes will be available in the UK, but as soon as any information comes out I will let you know.

Also announced at DigitalLife is a new beta from Microsoft for Media Center called “Internet TV”. This is a US-only service (Hey Microsoft! How about getting some content for the UK!) that will offer hundreds of hours of entertainment on demand – including full-length shows, music concerts and movie trailers, all for free and supported by adverts.

I think this is step in the right direction for Microsoft. It uses the power of the PC and its internet connection to bring web content to the TV. So check out this week’s podcast and watch the keynote

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