Microsoft has given manufacturers the tools to make Windows the operating system for a host of consumer-oriented devices -- from video game consoles to TV set-top boxes that serve as full-blown home entertainment centers. It's not clear, however, exactly when consumers will be able to purchase these devices.
Windows Embedded Standard 7 is the proposed platform. Microsoft announced the release of a "componentized and customizable" version of the operating system to equipment manufacturers at the Embedded Systems Conference Silicon Valley, taking place this week in San Jose, Calif.
Adding Windows Media Center to Windows Embedded Standard 7 will drive growth in the home entertainment market by allowing both OEMs and service providers, such as cable and satellite TV companies, to "explore additional revenue streams by providing unique content through a central media hub in the home," said Kevin Dallas, general manager of the Windows embedded unit at Microsoft.
Windows Media Center -- which allows users to create libraries of music, video and other forms of media from multiple sources, including the Internet -- is a standard feature in most PC-based versions of Windows 7.
It appears that consumers, indeed, have an appetite for devices that offer wide access to various forms of content. They spent roughly US$74 billion on connected media devices such as game consoles, TVs and set-top boxes in 2009, according to ABI Research, and the firm expects that figure to reach $94 billion in 2010.