HOME Technology Nov 2006
Media Centre changes tack
Vista key to market transition

By 2015, it is expected 90 percent of all households in the developed market will have a home media centre managing digital voice, data and video content and services, according to Paul Budde’s 2006 Global Digital Media report.

He says the uptake of media centre PCs will be driven forward by TV operators, telecommunications companies, ISPs and consumer electronics businesses, all hungry for a slice of the new digital home entertainment business.

Meanwhile Acer’s chairman J.T. Wang believes after several false starts the digital home will take off from 2007, as new devices and software hit the market and users begin to replace their home entertainment equipment with digital devices.

He believes the growth in media player solutions, and increasing willingness of the entertainment industry to begin selling movies and music online over the internet are an important growth factor.

One of the obstacles is a common agreement on digital media rights (DRM) for media management and control to prevent piracy and illegal downloading and copying across all media.

An essential component in moving the digital home concept forward will be Microsoft’s new computer operating system Vista, which will be bundled with new laptops and desktop PCs from January 2007. Vista, the next step up from the Windows XP operating system, will bring higher levels of security, enhanced search features, a more advanced user interface, and at the higher end include Media Centre software.

Vista Basic offers an enhanced user interface with ‘see through’ Ribbon menu bar and greater control over the desktop and file layout. It’ll be less demanding on resources than Vista Premium, Enterprise and Ultimate versions, which require at a minimum 1GHz processor performance, 1Gb of RAM, along with a graphics processor that runs Windows Aero, 128 Mb of graphics memory and 40Gb hard drive.

Vista Ultimate has the best of all options, including advanced business and mobility features, versatile graphics architecture and the full Media Centre suite for managing the digital home.

All Hewlett Packard’s higher end machines now come with Media Centre software and TV tuners PC product manager David Proctor, says Media Centre PCs sales have built up to about 20-25 percent of its consumer business or several thousand units per quarter. "A number of people are hooking them up to their TV and home theatre systems to record direct to the hard drives, play music and store photos." From January 2007 HP hopes to have all its machines pre-loaded with Microsoft Vista.

Office 2007, is also imminent. The latest version of Microsoft’s suite of essentials such as Word, Excel and Powerpoint, claims to be streets ahead of previous releases with ‘ribbon’ menu structure which requires less clicks to access functions.

Microsoft has also updated its popular Windows Media Player with version 11,optimised as a digital media receiver for music, video, photographs and TV. It’s also geared for sharing, so you can stream media from a wireless or other connection throughout your home or synch content to portable media players.

Meanwhile the latest version of Microsoft’s web browser, Internet Explorer 7 for Windows XP IE7, with redesigned interface and a variety of new security features is now available online or through the company’s ‘automatic updates’.

Microsoft is believed to have 82 percent of the world browser market. The balance is largely made up of Mozilla’s Firefox which has also recently had a major makeover. The Microsoft update is described as significant and will be similar to that offered with the new Vista operating system from next year.

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