Microsoft confirms Media Centre launch date

Microsoft will officially launch its eagerly awaited Windows XP Media Centre Edition (MCE) into the Australian market on October 13.

Hardware vendors, including Acer, HP and Toshiba, will launch PCs designed to take full advantage of its features to coincide with the launch. But systems builders are expected to get it several days earlier.

The local whitebox community were treated to a sneak preview of MCE at a digital home seminar hosted by ARN in Sydney this morning. Microsoft’s sales and licensing manager, Tim Schroder, showed attendees how MCE allows consumers to play music, view digital photographs and watch television or DVDs through a PC.

While television could be viewed live or recorded onto the hard drive, a 30-second skip feature that lets consumers flick through adverts has already caused a stir among the local media industry.

“The Australian media wants to manage its intellectual property rights and revenue streams,” Schroder said. “The skip function can destroy revenue streams so we need to work through digital rights management with those organisations.”

MCE has been available in the US for two years but Schroder said getting the timing right was an essential consideration for the local launch.

“Going into the market at the right time is critical and the recent acceleration of flat-screen TVs is a good platform to leap off with Media Centre,” he said. “It is a much more exciting proposition on a large screen.”

While worldwide PC shipments continued to show healthy growth, according to Schroder, commoditisation meant prices were continuing to fall and the IT channel needed to keep finding new opportunities.

MCE was a perfect example of a new opportunity, he said, having registered year-on-year growth of 121 per cent in the US.

The software giant is planning to hold a technical road show for its Australian OEM community during the last week of September and first week of October to go through the key points of pre-install training.

Further product details and a rebate program for MCE are available from www.microsoft.com/oem.

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