Microsoft releases Media Center in Australia

Microsoft today launched its long awaited Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, which is designed to converge the home entertainment centre into a single software program.The Australian release is the updated version of the Media Center product that was first released in the US in 2001.

Microsoft today launched its long awaited Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, which is designed to converge the home entertainment centre into a single software program.

The Australian release is the updated version of the Media Center product that was first released in the US in 2001.

The technology comes installed in a laptop or PC which is connected to a monitor or television as well as the Internet. Users control music, recording, photo and live TV functions through one remote control that scrolls through the Media XP operating system.

However, Microsoft spokespeople admitted today that the highly debated Electronic Program Guide (EPG) function is not available on the Australian version.

According to Microsoft it has been "lobbying" the media industry to allow the technology to go forward, but they said the final decision on it was out of their hands.

"It's an initiative that will be put together by the media industry, it's not a Microsoft initiative," a spokesperson said.

A Toshiba spokesperson added that the EPG has been delayed in Australia because various media organisations cannot agree to a standardised platform for the technology.

Media Center was released in 2003 in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, China and Japan with the EPG function installed. Microsoft touted the feature as enabling consumers to "search television listings to select, watch and record favourite TV episodes, movies or sporting events".

However, the Microsoft spokesperson said the EPG is "something that does not exist in Australia so people will not miss it".

Microsoft also announced that the Media Center will support "on-demand" media services called "Online Spotlight", to allow users to get Internet content such as games as music from the companies content provide partners ninemsn and Telstra Bigpond.

Acer, Hewlett-Packard, Optima and Toshiba are among the hardware vendors releasing a Media Center product, with Creative Labs also releasing a Portable Media Center for consumers to tote around TV, music and internet data downloaded from the program.

Prices range up to AU$5,999 for the Toshiba 17 inch laptop with 160GB hardrive.