Microsoft expands Media Center availability

Microsoft is expanding the market for Windows XP Media Center Edition to 20 additional countries by year's end.

Microsoft is again expanding the market for Windows XP Media Center Edition. The premium version of Windows XP will be available in 20 additional countries by year's end.

The expansion means PCs running Windows XP Media Center Edition will be available in more than 30 countries and in 17 languages by the end of 2005. However, that does not equal worldwide availability. Windows XP Home and Pro editions are available in 49 regionalised versions in virtually every country, according to Microsoft.

The countries that Microsoft is now localising the operating system for are: Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan and Turkey, the company announced Thursday at the Cebit trade show in Hanover, Germany.

Windows XP Media Center Edition-based PCs are already available in Australia, Austria, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Switzerland, the U.K. and the U.S., according to Microsoft.

Windows XP Media Center 2005 is the centerpiece of a Microsoft marketing effort to revive interest in the 3-year-old Windows XP operating system. Without a new version of Windows scheduled until Longhorn in 2006, Microsoft is betting Media Center will move consumers to buy new PCs.

In January at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Microsoft said it sold 1.4 million copies of Media Center Edition. The company in October set an ambitious goal to sell 20 million copies by 2007.

Windows XP Media Center Edition is designed to make the PC the media and entertainment hub for the home. Media Center PCs come with a remote control, a TV tuner card and a large hard disk drive. Users can watch DVDs, manage digital audio, video and pictures, and play, pause and record live TV, in addition to using the PC for traditional tasks.

Microsoft has made its Media Center operating system available in different countries in stages. At launch in late 2002 the product was exclusive to the U.S., Canadian and South Korean markets. Microsoft added select European and Asian countries in August 2003 and more countries in October 2004.

Also, late last year, Microsoft made the superset of Window XP Professional Edition available to the system builder channel. This means that where Media Center is available white box makers -- the PC stores selling systems with no brand name -- can also build and sell Media Center PCs.

"We have always had this deliberate strategy not to overreach," said Microsoft Product Manager Tom Laemmel. "There is more to this version of Windows than just translating the screens," he said. Examples of extra work include supporting different TV broadcasting standards such as PAL and NTSC and creating electronic program guides, he said.

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Joris Evers

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