LAS VEGAS, Jan. 7, 2004 — Today at the 2004 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Microsoft Corp. announced Windows®
Media Connect, technology designed to enable hardware manufacturers to easily develop devices such as Digital Media Receivers (DMRs), which have rich functionality for playing digital media files stored on personal computers over home networks. A broad range of industry leaders have announced their support of this upcoming technology, including leading PC OEMs and consumer electronics device manufacturers including Arcadyan Technology Corp., Creative Labs, Dell Inc., Mediabolic Inc., PRISMIQ Inc., Rockford Corp., Roku, Simple Devices Inc. and Toshiba. Leading content service providers such as LAUNCH Music on Yahoo!, MusicNow (formerly FullAudio), and Napster also endorsed Windows Media Connect for its ability to extend the reach of their content and services to a new range of consumer devices. Available in 2004, Windows Media Connect technology will overcome two critical hurdles faced by networked media devices today: compatibility between proprietary devices and ease of access to content stored on the PC.
“With the growing popularity of legitimate music and video services and the exponential growth of digital media collections on Windows-based PCs overall, Windows Media Connect solves a looming home networking problem for consumers,” said Amir Majidimehr, corporate vice president of the Windows Digital Media Division at Microsoft. “The industry support we’re announcing today is evidence of the benefits that Windows Media Connect will provide to manufacturers and consumers alike.”
Eighty-two percent of home PC users in the United States already use their PCs for digital media activities,* leading to the emergence of a new class of related networked devices, such as DMRs, in the home. For these devices to best meet the needs of consumers, they must be able to automatically discover supported content on the PC and provide seamless playback of that content. Windows Media Connect helps these devices find and access digital media on Windows XP-based PCs — something the devices are often not well equipped to do out of the box.
Leading DMR manufacturers Arcadyan, Creative, Mediabolic, PRISMIQ, Rockford, Roku and Simple Devices, and consumer electronics (CE) manufacturer Toshiba are announcing their support for Windows Media Connect in future versions of their products.
“The ability to offer consumers access to their photos, music or videos anywhere in the home has been talked about before, but doing it in a way that is seamless to the consumer is really the focus here,” said Takashi Kamitake, general manager of Core Technology Center at Toshiba Digital Media Network Company. “Toshiba’s strategy is that CE devices and PCs are harmonized by Home Network, and given an inventive new usability. Windows Media Connect helps harmonize CE devices and PCs without adding any complexity to a consumer’s familiarity with their PC or their home network.”
PC OEM Dell Inc. also announced support for Windows Media Connect and is encouraging consumer electronics manufacturers to make standards-based networked media products that are compatible with Microsoft’s new technology.
“We are committed to offering our customers simple yet effective ways to integrate digital content that resides on their PCs with other devices in the home,” said Tim Mattox, vice president of the client product marketing group at Dell. “With standards-based technology like Windows Media Connect, we can provide our customers an intuitive way to share digital content throughout their homes, bringing them closer to our vision of the digital home.”
In addition, leading content service providers LAUNCH Music on Yahoo!, MusicNow (formerly FullAudio) and Napster see Windows Media Connect as a key technology to enable their customers to enjoy music anywhere, because it enables streaming and playback of protected content from Windows Media®
Audio (WMA)-based music services.
“We are supportive of Microsoft’s initiative to enable legitimate music services to work with home networks and allow consumers to enjoy their music in any room of their house,” said Laura Goldberg, senior vice president of operations at Napster.
Windows Media Connect supports interoperability standards such as Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) and HTTP, and is planned to conform to the guidelines under development by the Digital Home Working Group. This will make it easy and cost-effective for consumer electronics companies to build support for Windows Media Connect into their products while following industry standards for home networking products. Windows Media Connect supports popular media formats including WMA, MP3 and PCM for audio; Windows Media Video (WMV), MPEG-2, MPEG-1 and AVI for video; and JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP and TIFF for images.
In addition to Windows Media Connect, consumers have other choices for enjoying digital media in the home. For example at CES 2004, Microsoft also announced the Windows Media Center Extender Technology and Xbox®
Media Center Extender Kit, which will enable consumers to enjoy the rich Windows XP Media Center Edition experience and Windows Media Audio and Video content throughout the home.
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and Internet technologies for personal and business computing. The company offers a wide range of products and services designed to empower people through great software — any time, any place and on any device.
* Source: Microsoft internal research
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