Microsoft announced today that its upcoming digital-media interface, code-named Freestyle, will ship later this year as a new Windows XP version called Windows XP Media Center Edition (XP MCE). Microsoft designed XP MCE for a new generation of Media Center PCs that digital-media enthusiasts, teenagers, college students, and families will use as centers for home entertainment. Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Samsung will ship Media Center PCs in late 2002, and NEC will launch a Japanese model in early 2003.

"The PC has evolved from a tool for productivity to a device capable of entertainment, communications, and so much more," said Michael Toutonghi, vice president of Microsoft's Windows eHome Division. "Consumers desire more fun and enjoyment from their PC and want it to contribute to their lives even more creatively than it does today. The time is right for Windows XP Media Center Edition; it maps to our vision of realizing potential with technology in ways people may not have thought possible."

XP MCE is a superset of Windows XP Professional Edition that includes a new Media Center application that lets users watch TV and digitally record TV shows, listen to music, view and organize photos, watch digital videos, and watch DVD movies. In a briefing last week, Toutonghi told me that XP MCE won't be available separately from Media Center PCs because end users wouldn't get a good, seamless experience on a typical PC. "We're doing a lot of work pushing what graphics cards can do," Toutonghi said. "The MCE interface renders at 60 frames per second (FPS) with adaptive interlaced video. It's really high quality and much more immersive and exciting \[than the Freestyle demos that were available previously\]. We're really pushing the hardware to the limit." Toutonghi also noted that Media Center PCs will ship with an integrated infrared (IR) interface, a special remote control with a Start button, and a TV interface card.

For more information about XP MCE, visit the SuperSite for Windows.