On September 3rd, Microsoft will celebrate the five year anniversary of Windows Media Center, arguably one of the company’s more successful products.
Windows XP Media Center Edition was released to manufacturers in the United States and Canada in 2002, and Microsoft has followed up with a number of releases since then, most recently as part of Windows Vista. The software is at the core of Microsoft’s digital media strategy and looks to have a bright future ahead. In this post we’ll take a look at what Windows Media Center is, the levels of success it has achieved thus far, and finally we’ll touch on where Microsoft might take the product in the next few years.
What is Windows Media Center? Though commonly referred to as an operating system, Windows Media Center is really an application built on top of Windows XP and Windows Vista. It acts as a central access point for home entertainment, providing a specialized interface for browsing and organizing photos, watching television and movies, and listening to music. Windows Media Center also makes it possible to stream media around the house via your home network to devices called Windows Media Center Extenders, like the Xbox 360.
Computers running Windows Media Center can be controlled by a remote which usually features what has become known as The Green Button. Media Center PCs support TV tuner cards which allow you to record and schedule television shows which you can then burn to DVD, copy to portable devices, or stream to Extenders. They typically include RCA type cable inputs and outputs which make it easy to connect with your home speaker system. Playback of FM radio stations is also supported by Windows Media Center.