At Consumer Electronics Show, Gates Talks Home Technology

Manufacturers line up to build set-top boxes that link PCs with TVs using Microsoft software.
LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Microsoft Corp.'s vision of allowing people to access digital content anytime, anywhere is taking another step toward reality.

In an address Wednesday evening to kick off the International Consumer Electronics Show, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates introduced technology that allows users to take their Windows Media Center PCs and any digital photos, music and video running on the platform, and display them on TVs or other entertainment devices.

Manufacturing partners including Samsung, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Gateway are planning to incorporate the technology, dubbed the Windows Media Center Extender, into set-top boxes for sale later this year. The devices would hook up to a TV and connect to the Media Center PC through a wired or wireless computer network.

By acting as a bridge between the PC and home entertainment centers, the extender technology marks a potentially powerful tool for the computing industry's aggressive push into the nation's living rooms, said Tim Bajarin, industry analyst with Creative Strategies.

In fact, Gateway and HP plan to introduce televisions that will be Windows Media Center-ready, automatically launching the entertainment-oriented PC platform once the TV is attached to an extender device.

Gates said Microsoft also plans to make an adapter kit with the technology for its Xbox gaming console, turning the gaming device essentially into a receiver for the Media Center.

Making his sixth consecutive keynote at the annual trade show, Gates also showed off portable media players, devices that are paperback book-sized and feature built-in hard drives and 4-inch color screens. Users can transfer music, video, photos, and even recorded television from their PCs to the portable device for playback anywhere.

Gates first demonstrated that technology, formerly known as Media2Go, two years ago, but now companies such as Creative Labs, Samsung and ViewSonic are poised to bring the product to market later this year.

Long-touted "smart watches" that stream Internet based traffic, weather or news reports to watches over the FM radio spectrum are also now available, Gates said.

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