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Microsoft hits play on entertainment group

New business unit will consolidate all of the company?s efforts around home entertainment technologies.

Microsoft has created a new business unit dedicated to strengthening its relationships with the media and entertainment industry, the company said Monday.

The software maker said it hopes the unit, which it calls the Media/Entertainment & Technology Convergence Group, will help it tap new opportunities created by the cross-fertilization of personal computers with other electronic devices. Microsoft said the unit will consolidate all the company's efforts around home entertainment technologies, specifically in regard to its work on creating new media policies and industry standards.

The media and entertainment sector is an area where Microsoft is pushing hard to become a larger player as devices become more complex and demand the sort of multifaceted operating system that the company has long delivered for PCs. So far, Microsoft has focused most of its efforts around its Media Center software, a specialized version of its Windows XP operating system that has an extra interface designed to make it easier for people to view photos, music and video on a television hooked up to a PC.

Earlier this year, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates detailed his idea for the home PC of the future, a machine running on Media Center with a remote control that features a built-in LCD screen for programming recordings. The PC, known as the Windows Home Concept, would support Internet telephony, dual high-definition TV tuners and biometric security, and it has a built-in cable modem.

Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft said it hired Blair Westlake, the former chairman of media giant Universal Television & Networks Group, to run the new unit. Microsoft also announced an expansion of its strategic relationship with media consultant Lieberfarb & Associates to further support the unit's efforts.