An Inside Look at Media Center in Windows 7

For computer owners, few things bring about the sea of change like a new operating system. And for the vast majority of us, the winds (Windows?) of change are starting to blow with Microsoft's upcoming Vista replacement, Windows 7.

While I'll not debate the merits or flaws of Vista - my Vista laptop has been trouble-free, so I'm neither a hater or a fanboy - Microsoft is looking to make some changes with their next OS rollout. And lest you think that Microsoft has gone all soft and given up on plans to move out of the office and dominate your living room just because BG (Bill Gates if you need to ask) is no longer at the helm, think again. In fact, they are more serious than ever. Microsoft launched the Media Center Integrator Alliance with partners Hewlett Packard, Niveus, LifeWare, Crestron, AMD, and Intel at CEDIA '08 to help promote Media Center installations and awareness. And Windows 7 will feature Media Center more heavily than ever before.

Several weeks ago, Microsoft invited myself and several other journalists out to Redmond, Washington for a corporate tour and to give us a glimpse into Windows 7 and the work that goes into Media Center. As a tech geek, this was like getting a Golden Ticket to go inside Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. (And I mean the original one; not the creepy new one with Johnny Depp!)

This was my first visit to "The Campus," and I was awestruck by the sheer size and enormity that is Microsoft. Intellectually, I understand that they are one of the largest companies in the world. However actually seeing the size and scale of their operation was another matter. It is not much of an exaggeration to say that Microsoft owns the city of Redmond. Microsoft owns a fleet of buses and vehicles to shuttle employees from building to building.

My takeaway from the visit - besides a price-slashed copy of Visio Professional and Office - was that Microsoft means business in the A/V space, and they have devoted a ton of resources to make Windows the media portal of the future.

Click through the photo gallery for some images and highlights of the visit . . .