Windows Media Center Edition 2005 & the MS Strategy
The good old days of home electronics weren't so good for the Analog family. Those were the days when each room of their home and each of their electronic devices was an independent island in a vast electronic archipelago. Those were the days when there were few choices if they tried to bridge these islands or take their music, videos and pictures on the go. When they could only watch DVDs or listen to their music collection in one room of the house. When downloading music was equally complicated - or illegal. Those were the days when Mom, Pop, Bro and Sis were truly unconnected.
The Analog family, while hypothetical, is like many these days. For more than a decade, they've been told that a home and personal electronics revolution was coming. But each time they visited their nearest electronics store, there were few choices. One "solution" beamed TV around the house, but not music. Another let them download music on a portable device, but not videos. Unless someone in the family was tech-savvy or they were willing to drain the kids' college fund to buy a high-priced stack of audio/video equipment, the revolution never seemed to arrive at their home. They never got to experience much more than before.
Microsoft recognized this unfulfilled promise, and has worked with industry partners to create digital entertainment experiences that consumers can enjoy anywhere - in the home, around the home or on the go. With the debut today of the Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 and a host of related products and services, Microsoft and its partners aim to take digital entertainment to a new level of convenience, ease of use and affordability.
"For years, many in the consumer electronics industry have viewed digital entertainment as a field of dreams: if you provide consumers with a solution, they'll build it into a larger experience - regardless of cost or complexity," says Will Poole, senior vice president for the Windows Client division at Microsoft. "Windows XP Media Center PC and all of these other devices and services make it possible, for the first time, for the average consumer to enjoy digital entertainment anywhere, anytime and in any way."
The new experiences in digital entertainment allow consumers to do more with their entertainment, in more places throughout the home and on the go and with more devices than ever before. Microsoft and its partners are giving users great choice without complexity through a wide range of technologies.
The Experience Starts
The experience starts, in and around the home, with:
Windows XP MCE Extenders. These devices allow consumers to connect their Media Center PC via wireless, over a home network or wired approaches to TVs and other devices so they can extend the complete Media Center experience to any room of the house. HP will begin selling Media Center Extenders today with availability from Linksys in November.
Digital Audio Receivers. These new music players from DLink, Roku and OmniFi enable seamless playback of all of a consumer's digital music in other rooms of the house. Based on Windows Media Connect, these devices are the first to play music from multiple online stores and subscription music services.
Windows Media Player 10. The new player is designed to make it faster and easier to enjoy digital music and video - whether a person is searching for a song in their music library, downloading a new album, playing a favorite DVD or compiling a playlist of music for their portable player. The new player also includes a built-in Digital Media Mall.
MSN Music. The online music service, available at www.music.msn.com or within Windows Media Player 10, provides music fans with an easy, comprehensive way to discover and legally download music from all major and more than 3,000 independent music labels.
And the Experience Continues
And the experience continues, on the go, with:
Portable Audio Players. Creative, Gateway, iRiver, Rio, Roc Digital, Samsung, Virgin Electronics and other leading device manufacturers will today unveil new audio players that will hit stores prior to the holidays. These devices offer easy set up without any drivers, can automatically synchronize with the music on a consumer's Windows PC and offer other new ways of using music and video on the go via subscription services available through Windows Media Player 10.
Windows Media Player 10 for Windows Mobile-based Smartphones and Pocket PCs. New Windows Mobile devices from Dell and Audiovox include Windows Media Player 10 Mobile software, allowing consumers to easily synchronize digital media to their devices from a Windows XP PC and enjoy their favorite digital media - songs, photos and video clips - on their device while on the go.
There are more than 70 portable audio devices, Portable Media Centers and selected PocketPCs and Smartphones on which consumers can transfer and listen to their music. The Dell Axim x50 will be the first Pocket PC to include Windows Media Player 10 Mobile, which allows consumers to bring their subscription-based music and video content, such as MSN Music and Music Match. New Auto Sync technology in Windows Media 10 Player can be set to automatically download the latest music, pictures and other digital entertainment via a USB 2.0 cable to a portable media player.
Statistics show that consumers are ready to embrace the "digital entertainment anywhere" experience with a multimedia PC as the hub. More than two-thirds (70 percent) of Internet users already listen to music on their PCs, according to Jupiter Research. More than a third (40 percent) are interested in watching PC-based live television programming on their television, and nearly half (47 percent) are interested in managing and viewing digital photos on their PCs, Jupiter and IDC research found.
The Windows-based digital entertainment experience is designed to eliminate the main barriers that have prevented many families from connecting the digital entertainment dots: choice and complexity.
The "digital entertainment anywhere" experience offers consumers numerous different brands and types of devices from which to choose - and the underlying software and other technology to enjoy multiple different types of entertainment on each device, ensuring that users have choice without complexity. Also, Microsoft has created the PlaysForSure logo program to help consumers have confidence that all of their digital entertainment experiences "just work" together. If consumers see one of these logos on the devices they plan to purchase, they know everything will work together when they get it home. And if they download music from a site displaying the logo, they can be certain it will work on all of their digital entertainment components.
Another important and innovative part of the "digital entertainment anywhere" experience is the new, easy-to-use Windows Marketplace (www.windowsmarketplace.com), a shopping and download site dedicated to offering consumers a broad selection of software and hardware for their Windows-based PC. Windows Marketplace, which launches today, is the one place where consumers can find, discover, discuss, compare, shop, download and enjoy all the things they need or want to do with their Windows-based PC, at home or on-the-go. As of today, more than 93,000 products from over 200 merchants are available through the Windows Marketplace, over 10,000 of which carry the Designed for Windows logo.
The choices extend to the pocketbook. Prices for Media Center PCs begin at under $800 and average around $1,200 in the United States, with prices similar in other parts of the world. A full home-entertainment system that performs all of the same tasks as a Media Center PC and other related devices could cost twice as much.
Just as important for consumers frustrated by home entertainment clutter, the Media Center PC performs the tasks of several components in a typical home entertainment system and, thanks to the Media Center Extenders, can be located outside of the living room without creating a maze of wires. Alternately, some of the newest models are designed to look - and rest horizontally - like traditional home entertainment equipment, such as stereos and VCRs - meaning that the PC can more easily blend into an entertainment center or living room for the first time.
Digital Entertainment Anywhere
The day starts early for the Analog family -- and so do the entertainment options in their increasingly connected lives since they got a Media Center PC, other "digital entertainment anywhere" devices including a Portable Media Center and a new music player and subscribed to a variety of services providing access to on-line music and movies. Mom is the first person up. It's the only time she can watch her favorite shows from the day before. She picks up the remote control in the family room and uses it to scroll through a menu of shows that are automatically recorded each day for her on their Media Center PC. Bro gets up next. He's got 30 minutes to eat breakfast and gather his things before his bus arrives. He grabs the Portable Media Center from his backpack and plugs it into the Media Center PC. In less time than it takes him to pull together his lunch, he's transferred a ballgame from last night to the device. Now he has something to watch during the bus ride to campus.
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 PCs and other devices and services in the "digital entertainment anywhere" experience are designed to provide a new level of options and control when watching TV. With support for dual TV tuners in Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, consumers can watch, pause and record as many as three live TV shows simultaneously, including one HDTV signal.
The TV viewing options are many and varied in the "digital entertainment anywhere" experience. If a friend suggests they watch a show that will be on before they get home, consumers can use MSN Remote Record, a free service that allows them to add a program to the recording menu of their Media Center PC remotely via the Web browser on another computer.
The choices extend to where they watch the program and where they locate their entertainment devices. Windows XP Media Center Extenders not only allow consumers to watch programs recorded on their Media Center PC on TVs and monitors around their home; they allow consumers to locate their Media Center PC in an office or other room, and then send a wireless signal to the Extender fitted with Extender Technologies or an Xbox gaming console enabled with Windows Media Center Extender for Xbox. The Extender then feeds the signal to the TV or monitor. No cable box, DVD player or other devices need clutter the living room.
Consumers who want to watch TV on-the-go can transfer programs and other digital media recorded on their Media Center PC to a Portable Media Center. The first Portable Media Centers, built by Creative Labs, Samsung and iRiver, include a 3.5-inch screen (8.9 centimeters) and enough storage for 80 hours of video, 5,000 songs, or tens of thousands of pictures.
More Places -- and Ways -- to Get Music
Sis begins her day on the stair climber in the family room. She wipes the sleep from her eyes and hits the Play button on the Media Center remote control. The mix of pulsing techno dance songs that she created last night blares from the home stereo. Sufficiently warmed up, she jumps off the stair climber and heads for the door to begin her daily two-mile run. She drops the remote control, grabs her portable music player and fast forwards through a digital copy of the same high-energy music mix, which the Media Center PC automatically loaded onto her player. She finds the last song she was listening to on the stair climber and then hits the pavement and the Play button at the same time.
The products and services included in the "digital entertainment anywhere" experience expand the options for acquiring and listening to music.
MSN Music offers downloadable tracks in 20 genres of music - from jazz to hip-hop to world beat. Search technology built into the service helps consumers find the music they want, even when they're not sure how to spell the artist's name. In addition to music, consumers can look to MSN Music for artist bios, music videos, concert tickets, lyrics, celebrity photos, as well as entertainment news and gossip.
MSN Music uses Windows Media technology to provide the highest quality digital sound offered by any commercial download service. Songs downloaded via the service are transferred at rate of between160 kbps to 256 kbps, providing near CD-quality at half the bit rate and file size of MP3s.
Consumers in the United States who want to look elsewhere online for music can search through the Digital Media Mall within the new Windows Media Player 10. In addition to MSN Music, the mall offers access to over 30 new online music services, including Musicmatch Inc., MusicNow LLC, Napster LLC and Wal-Mart Music Downloads.
Consumers can listen to music from their digital library on their Media Center PC or on a home stereo. Music can be wirelessly transferred to the stereo via Digital Audio Receivers from D-Link, Roku and OmniFi using Windows Media Connect technology. These devices are available in stores beginning today.
Get the Picture?
It's late afternoon, closing in on suppertime. Mom and Pop are headed out to a dinner party and have just finished downloading the photos from last summer's family camping trip onto their new PocketPC to share with their friends. Bro has only a few minutes before he heads off to work and is importing the new shots of his sweetheart onto his SmartPhone. Sis is going to be home alone tonight, but she doesn't mind: She's going to watch the slide show of pictures from homecoming, accompanied by a rocking soundtrack of tunes from her personal playlist. If no one else is around, why bother eating at the kitchen table? She watches her personal picture show - via an Extender - on the TV in her upstairs bedroom.
My Pictures in Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 provides tools consumers need to import, edit, view and transfer digital photos. Consumers can use the Media Center remote control and the onscreen menus to sort and find photos and images. Digital touch-up tools in My Pictures let consumers crop a photo to best position the subject matter within the frame, adjust the contrast, and remove red eye from subjects. They can then view their digital photos one at a time or create automated slide shows, which can be used as background visuals for parties. Another option: they can play background music while watching a slide show to set the right mood.
Consumers can print a picture on their home printer or share their photos with family and friends by compiling and burning a custom collection to CD or DVD. They also can take their pictures with them with Portable Media Center devices or wirelessly view them on TVs or other monitors equipped with a Media Center Extender.
Digital Movies, Made at Home or Made in Hollywood
By the time the whole family is back home, it's bedtime. But no one is ready to turn in yet, so the family considers its entertainment options. Mom, Sis and Bro get comfortable on the couch in the home theatre room and watch the recently released film they located with the movie-finder feature of their Media Center PC. Pop heads to the family room to imagine he's Francis Ford Coppola, editing and adding music to a home video he's compiling for grandma and grandpa.
The My Video feature within Media Center PC Edition allows consumers to create and view movies they - not Hollywood - call their own. With the new Windows Movie Maker 2.1 software, they can create, edit and share home movies on their computer with a few drag-and-drop moves. Movie Maker 2.1 contains more than 100 transitions and effects that can be utilized by novice and expert home movie-makers.
But digital movies come in multiple flavors these days - those made by the Coppolas and those made by the wannabes. To enjoy the former, consumers can choose from more than 200 movies that are available via CinemaNow.com to view on Portable Media Centers, with more titles to be added in the coming months. Movies can be rented on a pay-per-view basis or downloaded-to-own. If they need to send a quick reminder to a friend, they can open a small window in the corner of the screen and conduct a quick IM chat while the movie plays on the rest of the screen.
The family has finally had its fill of digital entertainment for the day -- all except for Pop. He's creating a label for the recordable DVD on which he just burned his latest home movie. As he begins to type the family's name onto the label, he realizes it doesn't seem quite right. Then he chooses a more appropriate nom de plume: "The Digital Family."