Did you know Microsoft was working on a powerful PC hybrid digital gateway to form the centrepiece of everyone's home entertainment hub? Well, I'm not talking about the Xbox. Confused? You should be, we were. According to the chaps at PC Format, Microsoft is secretly working on a home entertainment device codenamed HomeStation. It's a PC/Xbox hybrid actually, and it will apparently go further toward the idea of 'digital convergence' than the Xbox has. It will be non-upgradeable, sealed set-top box, featuring a system board once again based on NVIDIA's nFORCE, meaning GeForce graphics, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and advanced networking. Apparently HomeStation will be one of those 'home gateways', that deals with plenty of online and offline activities, presumably driving digital media including music and video, not to mention web-surfing. It will include a sizeable hard drive to facilitate the above, broadband compatibility and a Media Player 8-derived compression technology. The Xbox will be an excellent litmus test for a lot of these ideas. PC Format's sources claim that a .NET server will allow HomeStation owners to stream movies, music, messaging, games and TV, so the hard drive will presumably function ala TiVo. Wireless interfacing via HomeRF or Bluetooth is expected, giving the device plenty of connectivity (digital cameras, PDAs, MP3 players, phones etc). The idea of 'home automation' has been mentioned again, too. HomeStation is expected to play PC and Xbox games, and the company is keeping the blighter tightly under wraps. That said, a lot of people we've spoken to seem to think it's the worst kept secret in the industry. Either way, Microsoft haven't said a word, preferring to keep schtum in order not to damage the Xbox's launch potential. Apparently Xbox isn't the critical move into the living room for Microsoft though, it's just a stepping stone to bigger and better things. It's all about convergence, and helping Microsoft to move away from its roots as a PC developer/supporter and onto bigger playing fields. Assuming this isn't just a competitor treading the rumour mill to spoil Xbox sales.
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