What does it mean for HDTV owners with a home theater PC?
Media Center Edition started out as its own product, a special version of Windows XP that only a computer manufacturer (OEM) could install and ship to stores and customers. Windows Vista saw the main product line add Windows Media Center (WMC) to the higher end Premium and Ultimate editions.
Now in Windows 7 , WMC brings a whole new set of features to simplify the home theater PC and make Windows7 “the Best Way to Watch TV on Your PC”. It starts with greater codec support
Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate editions include integrated H.264 for both Abode Flash and Microsoft’s Silverlight. On the audio side there is support for AAC “as well as Dolby® Digital Plus to deliver next-generation surround sound.”
From a content perspective, Windows 7 provides Netflix subscribers with Instant Play. That is a great addition, but requires additional external components. One of the more exciting new features is the upgrades to WMC’s Internet TV support.
Previously only a beta in Windows Vista, Internet TV is now a full-fledged component of WMC and included select clips from the major networks for one stop over the top (OTT) viewing with Microsoft’s guide
Putting this all together, it is now possible for a DIY-er to build a HTPC that can have, in most cases, full digital video recorder (DVR) control over:
- OTA ATSC HD programming
- cable HD programming available in Clear QAM
- HD PayTV over cable
- HD OTT
And now that you have all this great content in your home, you can use another new feature, HomeGroup, to move it around your home network, or with Remote Media Streaming place shifting, the technology made popular by Slingbox. However, if you believe the internet
According to a Slingbox executive, 70 percent of users use Slingbox as a home networking device. What is odd is that they use it only that way, ignoring its outside-the-home possibilities.
Sure, XBox 360 makes for an excellent media extend, but so will other Windows 7 machines. At this writing it is not clear how Windows Vista works with this ecosystem. If media sharing on Windows Media Player is any indication, then only Windows 7 machines will be able to play back what Windows Vista streams out. Let’s hope that is not the case.
So this really is simple, isn’t it? Get a HTPC with Windows 7 and you will get all those nifty new features, such as OTT with DVR capability. You can record any type of OTA or cable, with the proper hardware. And with Homegroup you can move it all around your home network. At this point your only question should be: When does Service Pack 1 come out?