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More details emerge about Vista-compatible Extenders

The Associated Press has a story about the coming generation of Vista-compatible Media Center Extenders that reveals a few interesting details:

These TV set-top boxes will connect wirelessly to computers running the Home Premium or Ultimate flavors of Windows Vista and enable users to use their TV sets to watch movies, TV shows and Internet video that is stored on their computers.

Microsoft planned to announce the prices and more details about the extenders Thursday at the DigitalLife trade show in New York.

The cheapest extender, from Cisco Systems Inc.'s Linksys division, will cost $300. Linksys will have another model with a built-in DVD player for $350, a price matched by D-Link's model, which lacks a DVD player but includes a USB port for viewing photos and other content stored on flash drives or hard drives.

Another extender is from Niveus and is aimed at home theater enthusiasts. No price was announced yet, but Microsoft product planner Hakan Olsson said it would be substantially higher than the other models.

Here's what this tells us.

First, Microsoft's partners have learned their lesson, somewhat, from first generation Extenders: Some will include DVD players, and the market can sort out whether that makes sense. Good.

Second, they're still WAY too expensive. You can get an Xbox 360 for less than $300. It plays DVDs, not to mention the world's best collection of video games, and you can access a growing library of movies and TV shows via Xbox Live (though you'll need a hard drive as well). Bad.

Oh, we also learn...

Somewhat surprisingly, the HP and D-Link extenders will be able to play video in the DivX and Xvid formats, which are competitors to Microsoft's own Windows Media format and are often used to encode movies that are shared illegally online.

... that the AP can't read press releases. This isn't surprising at all, given that Microsoft announced support for these formats in Vista-based Extenders last month.  Duh.

UPDATE: There's now a second press release available discussing this topic that provides more info about the new Extenders.

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