While everything discussed is part of the existing MCE available on current North American PCs, the new version available today (01/10/2003) is the first version to become available in Europe and Asia, with existing MCE only available in North America and certain regions of Canada.
To facilitate the availability in these new markets, along with being part of the natural evolution of MCE, there are some new features available, plus the usual round of fixes and updates to existing features to make it easier to use.
The 2004 version of MCE now supports radio signals, giving you all the benefits of MCE with your radio stations. Youâ€™ll get access to them from the MCE interface and youâ€™ll be able to record them to the MCE PC for listening later or burning to CD or DVD using the media authoring features. Hopefully, although unannounced or confirmed, radio programme guides will be accessible via MCE so that you can schedule your shows in the same way you can with TV.
MCE 2004 offers better support for plasma televisions, with the 16:9 native ratio support much improved, rather than just being O.K, as is the case with current MCE. MCE also offers better support for DVI equipped TVs, with many new plasma and digital TVs offering a DVI input.
The final big thing with 2004 isnâ€™t really consumer oriented, but software developers will now have proper access to MCE features via a dedicated software development kit, something previously unavailable. Third party extensions to MCE should become much more popular after the release of 2004.
The main point of the 2004 release is getting it out to many more new countries, rather than completely overhauling the feature set or user interface. To that end, Media Center Edition 2004 PCs will be available from retailers such as HP, CFL, Mesh, Evesham, Time, Toshiba and many others, from day one