What is Windows MCE?
For most of us, our computers and our TVs exist in separate worlds - separated by walls between rooms as well as form, function, and ease of use. But what if your computer could do the same things your TV, maybe even your whole home entertainment system, does? What if you could have TV on your computer... or what if you could have computer on your TV? Well, the answer to those questions and more is here: Windows Media Center Edition 2005.
What is Media Center you ask? Well, the short answer is that it is another version of the Windows XP operating system (like Home or Professional) with extra features for viewing digital media. However, that simple explanation fails to fully convey the capabilities that Media Center brings to the table - or in this case the living room.
Perhaps it would be best to start with what Media Center is not. It is not Windows XP Home - it has all the capabilities of that operating system, but it also has many more. It is also not Windows XP Professional; although it has several of the more advanced features (like Computer Management) it is also missing some large-scale business stuff, like Active Directory support.
So, viewed purely as an operating system, Windows MCE's features fall in the same place as its price - between the Home and Professional editions. However, that viewpoint ignores the main advantage of this version of WindowsXP: the Media Center application. It is a program, tightly integrated with Windows and Media Player (the standard music/video player from Microsoft), that provides a smooth interface for viewing and listening to DVDs, videos, music, and pictures - and on fully equipped systems TV and FM radio as well! That's right: a Media Center computer, if properly designed, can provide all the functions of your existing home theater system - and then some. The rest of this article will cover how this software provides that functionality, as well as what hardware is best suited to a Home Theater PC.