In its latest push to dominate the home entertainment space Microsoft has quietly announced support for the popular DivX and Xvid video formats.
The company plans to include these formats in a range of media extender hardware devices being readied for launch later this year.
The thinking in Redmond is that releasing a bunch of new extenders with support for the codecs will lead to more people adopting Windows Media Centre as the hub of their digital home entertainment systems.
Currently if you want to operate your Media Centre PC remotely and stream video to a television you need an Xbox. The new devices being built by the likes of Linksys and D-Link will give consumers some more options.
It’s a little unusual for Microsoft to pre-announce such products but the move shows just how fiercely competitive the home entertainment sector is becoming. No firm date has yet been given for when the new devices will hit the shelves.
Microsoft says the new boxes are the first examples of its Extenders for Windows Media Centre platform and promises more devices will appear over time. Other features to be supported initially include High Definition television and wireless networking.
Media Centre has so far failed to set the world on fire primarily because there is considerable consumer resistance to having a dedicated PC sitting in the lounge room. Extenders overcome this by allowing people to stream content from another room.
The announcement follows the recent release-to-manufacturing of Microsoft’s Home Server operating system however the company is quick to point out that the two products complement rather than compete with each other.
In Microsoft’s vision for home entertainment nirvana television will be recorded onto a Media Centre PC with archived content – movies music and photos – being stored on the home server and fed to the media centre as required. Extenders will then feed all the content to TVs around the house.
It remains to be seen whether this latest extender strategy leads to such a vision appearing in more homes any time soon.
Ironically the DivX format was originally an underground pirated version of a beta Microsoft MPEG-4 version 3 CODEC. It has since been rewritten and legitimised.