Four New Windows Media Center PCs Ship
Microsoft is resuming its pitch for your living room, as four new vendors are releasing PCs based on the Windows XP Media Center Edition operating system. Gateway, Alienware, ABS, and Cyberpower join HP in offering systems that act like combination of TV, stereo, and home theater.
The Media Center systems are designed to capture, organize, and play back TV shows, DVD movies, music, photos, and other types of digital content.
But the newcomers aren't clones; they provide XP Media Center features in a broad range of shapes, sizes, and prices, says Murari Narayan, director of marketing for Windows eHome division.
"A year and a half ago we felt Media Center would let [vendors] innovate, and we're starting to see that happen in the industry," he says.
One of the new products has a huge plasma display. One looks like a audio component, and another is about one-third the size of an average tower system.
"We wanted to go our own way with this. Our customers expects products from us to be different," says Brian Joyce, marketing manager.
The device, called the Navigator, is a slick black box just 7.4 inches high by 7.88 inches wide by 11.8 inches long. Joyce expects its tiny footprint will be a plus.
"It should appeal to space-conscious users who want to have the TV and PC in the same room," he says. "We made it attractive, but its still a good gaming rig."
Alienware will offers two flavors of its Windows XP Media Center system. The $1699 Navigator includes a 2.53-GHz Pentium 4, 512MB of PC2700 DDR SDRAM, NVidia GeForce 4 TI 4200 graphics, an 80GB hard drive, and a CD-RW/DVD drive. The Navigator Pro version sells for $1999 and includes a 2.6-GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor, a 120GB hard drive, and a
Joyce expects Alienware's typical performance-minded buyers to show keen interest, and he also expects more mainstream users to take a peek. "Performance, form factor, Media Center OS--this will appeal to a great many people," he says.
Years ago Gateway offered an XP Media Center precursor called
"The Gateway Media Center PC with our plasma TV and digital display is the latest example of our ability to provide complete solutions that make it easier to take advantage of digital media applications in the home and in the classroom," says Greg van den Dries, Gateway senior vice president of digital solutions.
Gateway will release the Gateway Media Center PC in several configurations on November 22. A top-of-the-line model starts at $3999 and includes the
That broad range of prices is key to the success of the platform, says Microsoft's Narayan. "Consumers now have a great amount of choice going into the holiday season."
Smaller vendors are getting into the act, too. Both ABS and Cyberpower expect to begin shipping Media Center PCs immediately.
ABS's product starts at $1699 without monitor, or $2299 with an 18-inch LCD. It includes a 2.53-GHz P4, 512MB of PC2700 DDR, a 120GB hard drive, a Pioneer A04 DVD-R drive, and Nvidia Geforce4 MX440 graphics, all wrapped in a silver tower.
Cyberpower offers its device with a 19-inch LCD and a range of processors, from the 1.8-GHz P4 for $1499 to the 3.06-GHz chip for $2059 (you can also replace the LCD with a 42-inch plasma TV for an extra $2999). A silver box that looks like it could be a part of a high-end audio setup, the CyberPower's basic specifications include 512MB of PC2700 DDR memory, an 80GB hard drive, Nvidia Geforce-4 Ti4200 graphics, and a DVD/CD-RW drive.
For the time being, if you want to own a PC with the XP Media Center OS you'll have to buy from one of these four vendors or HP, says Microsoft's Narayan. The company has no immediate plans to offer the OS as an upgrade, although it could happen down the road.
"We made the trade off in version one--we wanted to focus on the experience," he says. "As we move forward and get feedback from consumers we'll make some decisions about that."