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This week in Media Center news

Although Apple's combo of iTunes and iPod has proved popular, Microsoft is betting that people want to do more with their music and that they want to be able to move video and pictures around as well.

Although Apple's combination of iTunes and iPod has proved pretty popular, Microsoft is betting that people want to do more with their music and that they want to be able to move video and pictures around as well.

Chairman Bill Gates made that case at a press event in Los Angeles, showing off a host of gadgets that use various types of Microsoft technology to access movies, music and video.

At the center of Gates' case is Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005--an update to Microsoft's entertainment-oriented operating system. As earlier reported, the updated version of the operating system adds a number of new features, including support for multiple television tuners. A new MSN utility lets customers schedule TV recordings over the Internet.

Helping to support Microsoft's vision, PC makers launched a slew of new Media Center PCs. Dell, Gateway, Hewlett-Packard, Sony and Toshiba all introduced their latest Media Center PCs, wrapped around Microsoft's operating system.

While the latest Media Centers are PCs at heart, the manufacturers say the machines will function more like entertainment devices that can play and record TV programs, and play DVD movies or music CDs. However, unlike before, the machines will be more adept at acquiring and sharing files with other devices around the home. A design company called One & Co. created its new prototype PC with those functions in mind. The idea, the company says, is a computer attractive enough that you might actually want it in the living room.

Despite all the changes Microsoft is touting with the new version of Media Center, the biggest change may be the price drop. Microsoft had priced the first two versions of Windows XP Media Center edition, which is targeted at consumers, even higher than its professional edition of Windows, which is sold to businesses. This time, Microsoft has priced the software somewhere between Windows XP Home and Windows XP Pro, CNET News.com has learned.