Windows Media Center is an application with a 10-foot user interface designed to serve as a home-entertainment hub for the living-room TV. Windows XP Media Center Edition, premium editions of Windows Vista (Vista Home Premium and Vista Ultimate) and Windows 7 (all editions, except Starter and Home Basic) comprise it. The Media Center is controlled by special remote controls or remotes. At the same time it can be operated with a mouse and/or a keyboard, too. The Media Center plays the computer user’s pictures, videos, and music from local hard drives, optical drives, and network locations. All this is then categorized by name, date, tags, and other file attributes.
Media managed through the Media Center can also be relayed via a home network to standard TV sets via the specially designed Windows Media Center Extender or the Xbox 360. This allows to use the Media Center and its features (such as view photos, videos, listen to music, watch live television, watch recorded TV, etc.) on the television set or other display device.
The advantage with these devices is that the household’s primary computer (hosting the Media Center) can be physically set up in a location more appropriate for its role, instead of being in the living room. Furthermore, the Media Center with an Extender can be accessed at the same time by several users. The Xbox 360 gaming console is a very popular example of a Media Center Extender. By the way, Xbox 360 is the only device that can work as an extender with both Windows XP Media Center as well as Windows Vista Media Center.
Windows 7 Media Center comprises all prosperous characteristics of its forerunners and brings new possibilities. Thus the performance improvement on Extenders is immediately apparent especially with the play functions like fast forward, rewind, and skip. The menus are also more manageable. The other big improvement concerns EPG (Electronic program guide), which makes utilities like Guide Tool possible. The Guide Tool is a Windows Media Center guide management application, which apart from other things enables local and remote guide management and other funny functions (see Guide Tool).
The new guide is visually better, it includes images throughout, as well as provides new ways to navigate. Moreover, all the tuners can be combined per channel to help resolve conflicts and give you control over which tuners are used for which channels. Additionally, new APIs (Application programming interface) are available there which permits to inject logos for each channel and create utilities to edit the line-up. Further, it offers the best of all around DVR (Digital video recorder) solution available today. It is even possible to import custom data, but regrettably you can´t easily backup them. At the same time it is actually extremely stable. (See for more details Windows 7 Media Center review ).
The Windows 7 Media Center undoubtedly exceeds the Vista Media Center. Microsoft has again raised the bar and has manufactured something which moves everybody beyond, even if the competition is still exists. Nevertheless, unluckily this Center isn’t for everyone. The upfront cost with the potential maintenance expenses is the most outstanding barrier to overcome.
For all that, the extant experience with Microsoft products make us believe that prices will come down and common people will afford to have Windows 7 Media Center.
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