Remotely Possible

By Spencer F. Katt  |  Posted 2003-10-06

Hunkered before his TV, Spence felt more like a circus performer than a couch potato, as he juggled three remotes, a brewski and his customary extra-large bag of Cheetos. As suds splashed across the beleaguered Busybodys Broyhill, he wondered if Microsofts Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004 would be the savior of fellow fumble-fingered video viewers.

The Katt was back from the XP Media Center announcement in the Big Apple, where the Redmondites boasted of remote control access to a combination of PC applications and digital entertainment. With Dell, HP, Gateway and a host of other companies singing harmony with the product, its launch next year would seem a likely success.

But dont toss your collection of remotes just yet. A Tabby tattler at the event told the Regent of Rumor that to control multiple devices, the Media Center remote control must be a universal device that can learn the infrared remote codes of the various gizmos. During last weeks hoopla, some companies announced products with Media Center-compatible remotes, but to turn your TV on or off, youll still need a separate remote. "Arrgh," cried the Kitty, as he realized he had sat on his VCR remote and was taping a Revo Styler infomercial.

As the Katt checked out which movies were on pay per view, he recalled something else the tattler said: XP Media Center seems designed to bypass some advanced functions the cable and satellite folks are rolling out to retain customers. XP Media Center does offer an on-screen TV guide where you list your provider and ZIP code and get program listings—but not for your satellite or cable companys pay-per-view offerings. So, youd still have to use your cable or satellite remote to buy a movie directly through your provider. Microsoft claims that its current programming guide company doesnt provide that service. The source surmised that was an awfully convenient excuse if youre offering competing video-on-demand services Movielink and CinemaNow, which are integrated with XP Media Center.

Brrinng! His paws occupied, the Puss used his tail to pick up his portable phone. The effort was worthwhile. The caller, a Katt crony still digging out from Hurricane Isabel, said the storm and ensuing blackout have folks south of the Mason-Dixon Line thinking about backup. Talk about changing hands, Powerware, in Raleigh, N.C., may be considering a spinoff from its British-owned parent Invensys, the tattler intoned. Word is, General Electric would make an excellent parent for the Southern king of power backup and management.

"Darn!" Spence, in hitting the mute button on his remote, accidentally purchased "Real Wild Girls on Spring Break." "I guess Ill just have to suffer through it," groused the Grimalkin as he slowly dropped his remotes one by one.

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