Windows Media Center

Never get off the couch again (except for work, maybe)

The Windows Media Center is a part of the Windows XP Media Center Edition operating system, and can also be found in many of the high-end versions of Microsoft's Vista. You might be able to infer from that jumble of names that the technology combines both computer software and home-theatre functionality. If this is the case, then you're onto the whole point behind media centers.

Advertiser Links for Windows Media Center
You’ll need Windows XP Media Center Edition (or perhaps Vista) to get this beast running

Microsoft is slowly building what it considers to be the definitive media center. Although it includes many features, such as some of the more elaborate functions of a PC, it also offers the ability to transfer data between hardware in your home. This is made possible because the Windows Media Center utilizes a wireless network that allows for the distribution of audio and video throughout the local area. A central part of this process is Microsoft's Xbox 360 console, which was built from the ground up to include media center functions (such as playing music from the central computer or uploading photos to the gaming device itself).

 

Windows Media Center fully integrates the Xbox 360
The entire point of Microsoft's Windows Media Center (and many other devices like it) is to provide easy access to a number of different home-theater functions. You needn't worry about each individual device or how it connects to the television or home theater, etc. The point of the Windows Media Center is the hub itself, and Microsoft is slowly expanding its list of integrated peripherals.

The following is a list of Windows Media Center's most noteworthy features:

  • Categorization : Windows Media Center can actually scan the computer for all media applications, such as movies, games, and music, and categorize them based on a number of different factors. Whether it be by theme or simply alphabetical order, the media center from Microsoft can quickly organize all of your entertainment tools. It sure beats that giant pile of cracked CD cases in your bedroom closet.
  • TV Recording : After adding a TV tuner card to the Media Center PC, a user can schedule and then record television programming through a variety of methods, including over-the-air high definition TV, satellite or cable.
  • Burn : The Media Center can rip recorded shows and other media forms to CD once downloaded to the central computer's hard drive.
Go on, give this poor guy a few (more) bucks
As you'll find in the next few pages, most of Microsoft's competition in this realm is limited to music playback. For the most part, if consumers aren't willing to give Mr. Bill Gates a few more thousand dollars they'll have to build a system like this themselves. That's becoming more and more possible as PC video cards allow for TV tuning and HDMI playback, but as far as all-in-one entertainment devices go, the Windows XP Media Center is tough to beat.

Depending on the version you select (from the all-inclusive Server Edition to the Mini Edition), consumers can expect to pay between $1,100 and $3, 800.