Microsoft has released a free update to Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 that will enhance the way consumers access digital media in their homes.
Windows XP Media Center Edition Update Rollup 2.0 allows users to integrate Media Center PCs with the forthcoming Xbox 360 gaming console, said Justin Jed, product manager.
This will enable customers that have both an Xbox 360 and a Media Center PC in their homes to access digital content from their PCs on an Xbox 360 at the same time, making that content more widely available on multiple devices.
"Microsoft is continuing to drive the request for convergence for digital entertainment," Jed said. The Xbox 360 feature, however, can only be used when the new Xbox game consoles with Media Center Extender are available later this year.
The update rollup also adds a feature called Away Mode. This enables a PC to automatically turn on without the usual bootup time and also gives users the ability to record TV programs or access content through the Xbox 360 when a Media Center PC appears to be off.
Microsoft is also expected to today unveil a new set of partners that are delivering DVD changes for Media Center PCs - enabling more DVDs to be loaded onto the PC - and additional support for another HDTV tuner - so users can record two HDTV programs simultaneously.
Microsoft also plan to launch a new Windows XP Media Center Edition site on Windows Marketplace today. The site will enable customers to shop for Media Center PCs, components, peripherals and other related products.
Hardware vendors that sell Media center PCs include HP, Dell, Gateway and Sony and will have PCs preloaded with the update today. However, Dell and Sony's machines will not yet support Away Mode.
It will be a busy day for them today as Microsoft is also expected to unveil a new content deal with MTV Networks that will provide on-demand access to MTV programming, Jed said. Media Center PC users can access the programming from MTV Overdrive, MTV.com's new broadband video channel.
More than 4million Media Center PCs have been sold to date, momentum that increasingly is inspiring ISVs (independent software vendors) to build exclusive applications for the platform. There are currently more than 75 add-on services to Media Center PCs that have been built by third parties, with more expected before the end of the year.