Great new features for Media Center in Windows 7

I have owned a laptop running Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 for several years. I was intrigued by the concept of being able to record television onto a hard drive for playback at a convenient time.  Media Center can also be used to organize audio and picture files into Libraries. I discovered, however, that TV recording required a hardware-based TV tuner.  I was also put off by the buggy “10-foot interface” in Media Center which was designed to be operated by a Television Remote at least 10 feet from a TV display. I was not prepared to buy a tuner,  and Media Center did not have much in the way of other  content.  I also did not have a Media Center Extender device such as the Xbox 360, which can be plugged into a TV anywhere on a home network to play content from Media Center. I used Media Player instead to play DVD and to watch Internet TV.

Fast forward a few years and after upgrading  the same laptop to Windows 7 I find that Media Center has entered the Internet age and has some terrific features. Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Ultimate and Windows 7 Enterprise Edition all include Windows Media Center.  Media Center was updated to InternetTV 3.2.1 through Windows Update in October, 2009. With Internet TV Media Center now has full episodes from PBS and CBS and Sports Scores from Fox Sports.  There is a subscriber- based Boxing channel and sports news from the NFL, NBA,NHL, PGA Golf and NASCAR. You can select your favorite players for your own Fantasy Football Team.  There is classic TV such as Star Trek and The Twilight Zone and zillions of Internet Radio channels.

A membership to Cinema Now will allow you to download movies to your hard drive permanently and burn them to a DVD. But the big news is the Netflix plug-in which allows Netflix subscribers to play movies from Netflix’s vast catalog on Media Center and Media Center Extender Devices.

With InternetTV and the new plug-ins Media Center has much broader appeal than ever before. The possibilities for the future are almost endless.  Maybe 3D TV?

Stay tuned.

-Mark

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