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The Media Center Revolution

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Back in 2003 Microsoft launched Windows XP Media Center Edition in an attempt to shoe horn the PC into consumer living rooms. The results were mixed at best - with most consumers still running CRT televisions, the Media Center experience was never what it should have been. Even though the Media Center interface was designed to run on lower resolution screens, rather than high resolution PC monitors, the TV-out performance of most graphics cards simply wasn't up to the task of making Media Center attractive in the living room.

The other problem with Media Center was control - although the Media Center shell was designed to be used with a remote control, accessing any of your living room PC's other features required a keyboard and mouse. This would generally mean trailing wires across your living room floor, assuming that your eyesight was good enough to even read what was on the screen in a Windows environment, due to the awful picture quality provided by the, at best, S-Video TV out from your graphics card. Basically, good as Media Center was, it found itself relegated to traditional PC users, rather than opening up a new PC market in the consumer living room.
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Windows Media Center brought a simple and effective interface that made using a PC as a media device in your living room a reality.

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Thankfully, the introduction and mass adoption of high definition TV has made a living room based Media Center PC a far more compelling proposition. With Full HD screens sporting a native resolution of 1,920 x 1,080, for many consumers their TV has more pixels than their computer monitor! The other advantage of the HDTV resolution, is that the vast majority of screens come equipped with connection options that are compatible with the PC, whether that be analogue D-SUB or digital HDMI or DVI. Whichever connection option you go for, you'll end up with a sharp and steady image that's a million miles away from the shaky and fuzzy mess that CRT TVs used to pump out when connected to a PC.

Not only do these high resolution TVs make the Media Center environment look great, they also offer the option of traditional Windows based computing from the comfort of your sofa. Whether that be browsing the web, emailing your friends or knocking up a document in Word, the fact is that with a decent high definition TV and a Media Center PC in your living room, you can do pretty much everything that you do at your desktop, with the advantage of being able to watch and record TV shows, view your photos and play your DVD collection. The only problem is that the traditional way of communicating with your PC is using a keyboard and mouse, which generally work best on a desktop.

Luckily, peripheral manufacturers like Microsoft and Logitech are well aware that consumers need to be able to interact with their living room based PCs, and as such, many products have appeared and developed over the past few years to address this market.

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