Personal computers equipped with Microsoft-developed Freestyle technologies will turn an XP-based PC into an all-in-one remote-controlled TV, PVR, stereo shelf system, still-picture viewer and DVD player for use in college dorms, teenagers' bedrooms or small apartments.
"You won't need to be at your desk to enjoy your PC's digital content," said Mike Toutonghi, VP of Microsoft's eHome division.
A new onscreen user interface and IR remote will let consumers play back DVD movies, play music files, view still pictures, select TV stations and time-shift TV programs, which would be selected through a planned EPG and stored on the PC's hard drive.
The technology is expected to turn up in PCs sometime later this year from Hewlett-Packard, NEC and Samsung, although not all of the companies will market those PCs in the United States.
The next step, said eHome marketing manager Jodie Cadieux, is to distribute the user interface and PC content to other devices in the home, including TVs, and extend Freestyle to control lighting and other systems. This phase is three to four years out for the mass consumer, she said.
Making the Freestyle experience possible on a PC will add about $100 to a PC manufacturer's cost, excluding higher-capacity hard drive for PVR functions, Cadieux said. The additional costs will come from the addition of a TV tuner card, video encoder/decoder, remote and IR port.
Using Freestyle, consumers will be able to use their remote to select music files by album, title, song or cover art; select home videos stored on the hard disk or on recordable DVD discs, sorted by name or date; and select still pictures stored on the hard drive or on a connected digital camera. When a camera is connected, the user interface will prompt consumers to store, send or print the picture or publish it on the Web without having to download it to the hard drive, Microsoft said.
The remote's home button will launch the Freestyle experience, Cadieux said. The final version might let users boot up a PC via the remote, she added.