The launch will be held simultaneously in Redmond, Wash.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; and New York City.
This summer at Microsoft's annual financial analyst day, Microsoft Group VP Jim Allchin told attendees that Microsoft would ship the next version of Media Center Edition — codenamed "Harmony" — before the end of Microsoft's fiscal 2004. (Microsoft's fiscal year ends June 30.)
The Windows Media Center product builds on top of the Windows XP Professional code base. It is sold via OEMs exclusively. Media Center is designed to turn a PC into central entertainment hub that is controlled by users via a remote control. It can play and record TV shows, digital movies and music. There are more than a dozen models currently on the market from vendors including Hewlett-Packard, Gateway and Toshiba.
While Microsoft hasn't talked much publicly about Harmony, testers who received Beta 2 of the product in May have been fairy vocal. The Tech-Critic Web site posted a number of screen shots of the forthcoming product at that time.
Media Center critics have voiced concerns that the first release of XP Media Center Edition stuck too closely to the traditional XP features and look-and-feel. Microsoft is expected tailor the operating system more toward its core audience with the Harmony release. They also have complained that Media Center PCs are too expensive, as base systems typically start at about $1,500.
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At the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) this year, Microsoft officials said the second, major version of Windows Media Center (release 2.0) would hit some time in 2004.
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