Windows XP Media Center Edition: Exposedby Anand Lal Shimpi on January 8, 2003 2:55 AM EST
- Posted in
A Series of Simple Attempts
It became very clear early on that a home PC was not the ideal machine for a PVR, the main limitation being an easy to use interface to harness a PC-PVRs power.
Out of all of the hardware manufacturers, ATI came the closest to truly offering a solution that could transform your PC into a full-fledged PVR that you could rely on to capture those priceless Simpsons memories. Compared to 3dfx, Matrox and NVIDIA, ATI had considerably more experience in video capture functionality built into their consumer cards. Both 3dfx and NVIDIA were late comers to the game, 3dfx with their Voodoo3 3500TV and NVIDIA with their Personal Cinema, both being released in the past few years. Matrox had much experience with professional video editing and eventually brought some of that expertise to the home with their Marvel line of graphics cards, but ATI had been bridging the gap between home PCs and TVs for quite some time.
Dating back to their PC2TV line of cards that boasted fairly impressive (for their time) TV output quality, ATI has been focusing on developing the hardware and software to make this dream of an intelligent VCR come true. ATIs latest All-in-Wonder line comes extremely close; closer than any previous attempt, but ATI is still bound by the tragic flaw of a PC based PVR the Windows interface.
Companies like SONICblue and TiVo were not bound by this tragic flaw; instead they attempted to introduce the PVR as a set-top box, much like the VCR. TiVo introduced their aptly named TiVo PVR as a concept in 1997 and once product started shipping, received strong support from the market. Through acquisition, SONICblue became proprietor of the ReplayTV brand TiVos primary competition. Both solutions offered all of the intelligent features we just mentioned including a very easy to use interface, but they were bound by the small amount of dedicated resources these set-top boxes had.
Todays PCs on the other hand are infinitely more powerful than current set-top boxes, and in theory could duplicate any of their functionality. The hardware is here today, all we need is someone to step forward and provide an easy to use interface and bring it to the masses. For that we turn to a company that is quite possibly the single most influential in the computing industry, Microsoft.
Microsoft has stepped forth and provided an enabling platform for transforming the PC into a PVR; they call this platform Windows XP Media Center Edition. As the name implies, Windows XP Media Center Edition is designed to turn your PC into no less than a media center. A device you can use to watch TV, record the shows you want, store your videos, and create a picture album and more. It is Media Center Edition that will supposedly turn your PC into an uber PVR; finding out whether or not Microsoft has accomplished that is the focus of this review.