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9/27/2007
01:49 PM
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Microsoft Unveils TV Networking Devices For Windows Media Center

Microsoft opens up revenue channels on its Internet TV platform for third-party hardware makers and content providers.

Microsoft on Thursday introduced Linksys, D-Link, and Niveus Media products that would distribute high-definition video from a Windows Media Center PC to any home TV with a wired or wireless network connection.

In addition, Microsoft said that on Friday it expects to distribute an automatic upgrade to Media Center in Windows Vista Home Premium Edition and Vista Ultimate Edition. The beta release of its Internet TV products would provide easy access to more than 100 hours of ad-supported entertainment -- including TV shows, music concerts, and movie trailers -- from MSN Video, the company said.

Microsoft and partners unveiled the new hardware at the DigitalLife conference in New York this week. Called "extenders" for Media Center, the devices in general make it possible to distribute content from cable networks and the Internet to multiple TVs in the home. Media Center essentially turns a PC into a personal video recorder.

Microsoft and PC makers are trying to make it easier to use a Windows computer to manage and distribute entertainment content throughout the home. Getting video to the home TV opens up a potentially lucrative advertising channel. Competitors in the market are manufacturers of Internet-enabled digital video recorders, such as TiVo.

Linksys, a division of Cisco Systems, unveiled two Media Center extenders, the DMA2200 and DMA2100. Both devices can distribute high-definition content over an 802.11n wireless network. The standard is under development by the Wi-Fi Alliance, which is expected to issue the final specification next year. The DMA2200 includes a DVD/CD player.

D-Link introduced the DSM-750 MediaLounge Media Player that has the same capabilities as the Linksys products. The DSM-750 also includes a USB 2.0 port for downloading music, photos, and video from removable flash or hard drives.

Finally, the Niveus Media Extender targets high-end home theater enthusiasts. The system, which includes a 3-D user interface, only offers a wired connection.

The new products are expected to be available for the holiday shopping season. Pricing was not disclosed.

Microsoft's Internet TV expands the software maker's channels for distributing advertising. The MSN Video channel will offer TV programming, such as Arrested Development, and full-length music concerts from Chris Cornell, Snoop Dogg, Elton John, Pink, John Mayer, The Pussycat Dolls, and other artists. Other programming includes news segments from MSNBC and sports clips from Fox Sports Television.

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