MICROSOFT is set to launch a new breed of PCs that will turn desktop computers into televisions. Hailed as the next stage in the evolution of the PC, the computers will take data simultaneously from the internet and from satellite and terrestrial TV broadcasts.
This will revolutionise the broadcast and internet worlds, forcing a further consolidation of the two media. Microsoft plans to announce a raft of deals it has negotiated with broadcasters and internet content providers within the next month.
‘We are currently working with major European service and content providers,’ said David Week, head of Microsoft’s E-Home division. ‘One of the developments that you could see would be video rental companies distributing their titles using a mix of internet to select the title and broadcast to download it.’
Microsoft is keen to promote and control the trend. ‘Broadcasting and the internet are definitely going to converge and I would see this as a first step,’ said a company source.
The hardware will be made jointly with PC manufacturers including Hewlett-Packard, Time and Evesham Technology, and the product will be available in Britain by Christmas.
There have been several attempts to pair the PC and the television without fulling converging the two but Bill Gates’ Microsoft is betting that the new advance, dubbed Media Center, will see a step change in attitudes.
It will incorporate internal TV cards, fast connections, new graphics cards, remote control and 200-gigabyte hard drives that will be able to store and manipulate 60 hours of TV and DVD reader writers to provide additional storage.
The development will effectively tidy away the mass of DVD players, set-top boxes and other television add-ons.
Intended to be a complete media package, the system will also be able to store still photos and audio.
But the Microsoft assault on home appliances is not expected to end there. Hewlett-Packard is said to be about to release products that will capitalise on the Media Center and allow digital content to be broadcast using wireless technology to TV and PC screens anywhere in the house.
‘The PC is changing its face and its place,’ said Yehia Oweiss, UK head of the German electronics manufacturer Hauppauge, which is supplying many of the TV cards for companies such as HP. ‘The next stage must be that there will now be a battle between traditional technology companies and those in the consumer electronics market.’
Published London Evening Standard 19th of August 2003