Consumer Vendors Boost Multimedia Support

Thanks to Microsoft’s new Windows XP Media Center Software Edition 2005 and a small battalion of new compatible products announced today from industry leaders Linksys , D-Link , and Netgear , there’s never been a better time to just stay home.

To boost the capabilities of Media Center PC users, the consumer Wi-Fi rivals have each announced products support for the newest Microsoft Windows Media Connect Technology hoping to advance the wireless home entertainment experience.

Microsoft’s Media Center, which was first introduced in 2002, enables users to hook their televisions or stereos to their PCs in order to stream digital media such as pictures, music, and movies simultaneously from room to room within the home. The technology enables a family of users to, for example, view a slideshow of digital pictures in one room, while also listening to downloaded music on the living room stereo and watching a movie (stored on their hard drive) in the den.

Linksys, a division of Cisco Systems, launched its Wireless A/G Media Center Extender (WMCE54AG), which enables users to wirelessly stream digital entertainment content stored on a Media Center PC throughout their homes. Using a Wireless-A, Wireless-G, or wired Ethernet connection, the Media Center Extender streams movies, digital photos or other content from a Media Center PC to TV’s around the home. It also allows users to listen to their digital music collection or an Internet radio station through their stereo’s speaker system, and to exert Tivo-esque power over television programs by pausing live TV shows or recording them digitally for viewing later.

D-Link made several related product announcements. Its line of MediaLounge Wireless Media Players now supports Microsoft’s Windows Media Connect software, including Windows Media Digital Rights Management 10 (WM DRM10), which enables networked devices to access content from online music and video services including all of the services available through the Digital Media Mall of Windows Media Player 10.

Essentially, the D-Link MediaLounge Wireless Media Player (DSM-320) streams on-demand entertainment over the Internet wirelessly to any digital television. It connects to the television and/or stereo using standard A/V or S-video cables. For users with high-end entertainment systems, it also supports component video, optical digital audio and coaxial digital audio connections. It connects to home networks via 802.11g wireless, or through standard Ethernet cabling.

To enhance the music options for its users, D-Link has partnered with Napster, the reborn Internet music service, which will broaden the scope of radio streaming and music downloads available to DSM-320 users. The Napster Network boasts more than a million tracks available for download.

Other D-Link products announced today which will support Windows Connect Now, include the D-Link DSM-622H, a new Wireless Central Home Drive which connects to a network over 802.11g wireless (or wired Ethernet) to provide users with centralized shared storage. It comes in 20 GB or 40 GB drive sizes, and is further expandable via its USB 2.0 connection. The D-Link DI-624S (not yet released), will be an 802.11g Wireless Router supporting Windows Connect Now and featuring 802.11g wireless connectivity.

The D-Link DWL-G710AP, an 802.11g Wireless Access Point supporting Windows Connect Now, will feature an integrated DHCP server, allowing the automatic assignment of IP address for wireless devices within the range of the wireless signal. The access point will feature WPA authentication to keep wireless intruders at bay. D-Link also says that its AirPremier AG Wireless Router (DI-784) is among the first wireless networking devices to earn Microsoft certification for the Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005. The 802.11a/b/g wireless router is a four-port, dual-band router that works simultaneously on both 5GHz and 2.4GHz channels. It utilizes both 802.11g and 802.11a, so users can share Internet connections with a wide range of other users and devices.

Netgear got into the Media Center game today saying it’s new Double 108 Mbps Wireless Router (WGU624), which was announced last week in a new push for the return of dual-band products to the home market, is certified by Microsoft for interoperability with Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 and Xbox Live. The router simultaneously establishes two 108 Mbps wireless networks: a 2.4 GHz 802.11g wireless network for Web access, e-mail, and downloads, and a 5 GHz 802.11a wireless network for more high-end traffic, such as high-quality video streaming and large file transfer.

News Around the Web