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Microsoft tuning Windows Live for digital media

Too late for Celebrity Big Brother

A broader plan for Microsoft's Windows Live services portal is slowly emerging, as a Microsoft spokesman yesterday explained the link between Microsoft's internet-based services and its Windows Media Center Edition OS, intended to give users more access to content on their Media Center PCs.

At the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Adam Sohn, director of MSN public relations at Microsoft, outlined how two new Windows Live services link up with Windows Media Center PCs. The interactions allow users to remotely record television, find programming information and discover viewing preferences from contacts in their MSN Messenger social network.

One service communicates to Windows Media Center over the internet and allows users to sign into Windows Live and see what television shows they are recording, and the status of those recording sessions, he said. It also will allow Media Center users to click on an icon for a TV program to choose to record that program on a Media Center PC, he said. That service is available now in beta form here.

Another service, expected in a few months, allows users to communicate with a TV 'bot' via Windows Live Messenger and get information about TV shows based on their personal preferences. The bot can also be used to find out about the TV preferences of other users on a personal buddy list, Sohn said.

Windows Live Messenger is currently in limited beta form, but Sohn said the company is in the process of "scaling out" the beta to more users. The final product will be out only when beta users decide the product is ready, he said.

"Windows Live for us is not date-driven in the same way other releases have been," Sohn said. "We build the code we think is right, let our users pound on us, then we’ll take it out of beta and call it final [when they say it's ready]."

Both new Windows Live services were demonstrated Wednesday during a keynote address by Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates at the conference.

Microsoft launched Windows Live in November, and at first the picture was fuzzy regarding Microsoft's plans for both the Windows Live portal and the associated services. Many initially saw Windows Live merely as a home base for MSN users for their chat, mail and similar internet-based applications.

According to Sohn, Windows Live is that, but also much more. "The [aim] of Windows Live is to make your [internet] life more personal, relevant, more mobile, available across more devices," he said. By layering an internet-based service on top of software that drives multiple devices with IP addresses, "the idea is, you can get access to your content anytime you want," Sohn said.

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