Windows' Home Entertainment Convergence

In September, Microsoft released the first details concerning "extender" devices being developed for its Windows Media Center platform — a content delivery system that the company asserts will shatter the "PC-to-TV barrier."

Naturally, one has to take the claims of any company talking up its own products with a healthy dose of skepticism, but if Media Center lives even halfway up to the hype, early adopters will have plenty of nifty new features.

While Microsoft has kept some details close to its vest, what is known is that a number of the leading manufacturers in consumer electronics already are developing Media Center extenders, including Linksys (a division of Cisco Systems), DLink and Niveus Media. Some of these extenders reportedly will include support for the high-speed Wireless N protocol, enabling enough capacity to deliver high-def content throughout your home without having to route Ethernet cables under your carpet or behind your couch.

So, will Media Center turn out to be a watershed technology in the much-anticipated convergence of broadcast and online content? That's probably a little bit too lofty a notion, especially given that the technology as it has been described amounts to a means of sharing online content via your TV and other compatible devices — something that is already possible, just not in as convenient a form as the system described by Microsoft.

What Media Center does represent, however, is Microsoft's intent to be at the leading edge of home entertainment convergence — intent originally signaled by way of the Xbox, the company's major foray into the interactive home gaming market. History suggests that once Microsoft has thrown its hat into the ring, it has to be considered a major market share contender in the long haul.