New Win XP to have remote control

By : |July 16, 2002 0

By Reed Stevenson

SEATTLE: Forget the keyboard and the mouse. What the newest edition of Windows XP really needs is a common household gadget — the remote control.

Microsoft Corporation announced an addition to its flagship Windows XP series of operating systems on Tuesday, Windows XP Media Center, which aims to transform desktop computers into remote-controlled digital entertainment hubs.

The world’s biggest software maker said the new entertainment-friendly edition of Windows XP will debut in stores in the United States, Canada and South Korea in time for this year’s U.S. holiday season, which typically begins late November, and be packaged together with personal computers specially designed to deliver its key media features.

The PCs, to be built by Hewlett-Packard Co., Japan’s NEC Corp. and Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co., will have extensive digital music, video, TV and DVD video playback capability.

Remote controls shipped with the computers will feature a “Start” button just like that on all Windows desktops, which brings up a screen to replace the standard Windows graphics with a sleek, simple design that provides quick access to various entertainment media and functions.

Windows XP Media Center, formerly code-named ‘Freestyle’, is targeted at “digital media enthusiasts, college dorm rooms and teen bedrooms,” said Jodie Cadieux, marketing manager at Microsoft’s eHome division, which aims to make PCs more than just a business and communication tool.

Younger users, who are more accustomed to listening to music and watching video on computers, are more likely to appreciate having their e-mail, Internet access and digital in a complete package, Cadieux said. Since Windows XP Media Center’s features are closely tied to the hardware, it won’t be available as a separate operating system. Instead, the new edition of Windows XP will ship with new mid-range PCs priced in the $1,000 to $2,000 category.

Microsoft’s year for consumers

Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft is gearing up to release a slew of consumer-oriented products this fall, as it begins to deliver on plans to fuel further growth beyond PC-centered software. The first major salvo into people’s living rooms was launched last fall with the Xbox video game machine.

This year, Microsoft will roll out a separate advanced media player for existing Windows users, the Tablet PC for mobile pen-based computing and Mira, a wireless monitor that can be detached and used away from the desk to access the computer. “Consumer relationships with PCs have to change,” Cadieux said. Japanese PC makers have been trying to do that for years.

Japan’s Sony Corp., the world’s largest audiovisual equipment maker, has been particularly keen on blending the PC, stereo and video functions and has built its own PC hardware and software to do this. And nearly all of Japan’s major PC makers sell a desktop that also doubles as a TV and video monitor.

Microsoft’s push into the realm of computer-based entertainment — the prime example being the PC-based Xbox — represents the same effort to compete for entertainment budgets. At the same time, Microsoft isn’t giving up any ground where it dominates desktop computing.

At the slightest nudge of the mouse, Windows XP Media Center reverts back to the familiar Windows desktop and menus that have become nearly ubiquitous on PCs worldwide.

(C) Reuters Ltd.

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