Microsoft will launch two new editions of Windows XP in the coming weeks, capping off a year of improvements to the best selling Windows version ever. Windows XP Media Center Edition, designed for home-based Media Center PCs, will launch on October 29, with two PCs makers--Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Samsung--signed on, and more to follow in 2003. Windows XP Tablet PC Edition--aimed at a new class of notebook computers--will launch November 7, with a wealth of third party support. Both launches are taking place in New York City, and both products will only be made available with the special types of PCs they target.

Windows XP Media Center Edition (XP MCE, code-named "Freestyle") adds a remote control-enabled digital media interace and Digital Video Recording (DVR) functionality to XP. The product was originally designed with Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies, which would have prevented customers from sharing recorded TV shows with other Windows users. But Microsoft recently responded to customer concerns by removing DRM from the product, freeing users to copy recorded shows across a network or write them to recordable DVD. XP MCE only runs on Media Center PCs, which feature high-end video cards and certain brands of TV tuner hardware.

Windows XP Tablet PC Edition (XP Tablet) requires special notebook PCs or tablet computers with an active digitizer that allows users to write directly on the screen using a stylus. Tablet PC hardware will come in two varieties, a tablet design that can be used with a keyboard and mouse while docked on a desktop, and a convertible laptop design whose screen can be twisted around to offer two modes of operation: a normal laptop and a true tablet. XP Tablet ships with a new stylus-enabled application called Journal, as well as several supporting applets and on-screen aids, such as a software keyboard. Analysts expect the product to be a huge success with mobile workers.

I'll be attending both product launches, but in the meantime, you can read my reviews for XP MCE and XP Tablet, available now on the SuperSite for Windows.