Xbox 360 Extends Media Center

May 13, 2005

I’ve been ignoring all of the Xbox 360 rumor-mongering this week, for several reasons — I’m not much of a gamer (although I’m sure my kids will twist my arm clear out of the socket when this finally ships), the real details were imminent, and the thing isn’t shipping until Xmas season anyway.

Anyway, the details are out, and GadgetMadness has posted the official press release.

There are, predictably, a couple of items of interest to the HTPC inclined:

With Xbox 360, gamers are always on. At its core, Xbox 360 is an amazing game machine with a wide selection of titles. But it is also an entertainment system that lets people power new experiences. Every Xbox 360 system has built-in progressive-scan DVD movie, CD music and photo playback support. The integration of Xbox Live into the system lets players receive game invitations from friends while they’re watching movies or listening to music. And every MP3 player, digital camera and Windows® XP-based PC with a Universal Serial Bus (USB) 2.0 port can plug right into an Xbox 360 system to stream music and photos.

In addition, with built-in Media Center Extender functionality in every system, Xbox 360 players can access recorded TV and digital movies, music, video and photos stored on Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005-based PCs through any Xbox 360 system in the house.

Xbox 360 also opens the door to incredible, new high-definition entertainment. In addition to optimizing all Xbox 360 games for high definition, Xbox 360 will stream high-definition TV and movies stored on Media Center PCs starting this holiday season. As high-definition entertainment becomes more pervasive, Microsoft will offer more ways to experience HDTV and movies in any room in the house, any way people want it. Whether it’s by the dropping of an optical disc in a drive, streaming to Xbox 360, or through broadband distribution, Xbox 360 will let players choose how to light up their high-definition content.

First off, I guess we can assume that Xbox will finally ship with a licensed MPEG2 decoder in the box — it was always rather asinine that you had to license it by buying the DVD remote.

Second, not suprisingly, it looks like the Media Center Extender functionality is now built into the box.

The real interesting news (at least for Windows Media Center Edition owners) is that it will stream HD content from Media Center.

Since one of these will doubtless be parked on the HDTV by Xmas, this may be the excuse I’ve been looking for to add an HD tuner to my MCE box.

As a (relatively) low-cost way to distribute HD content, this should spark Windows Media Center Edition sales considerably.

Also big disk drives. Lots and lots of big disk drives.

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