MS to increase support for local Media Center builders

In an effort to drive up sales of locally produced Media Center PCs, Microsoft has undertaken to work more closely with systems builders, third-party technology developers and the non-mass merchant channel.

"Our research shows that people will only buy a Media Center system after seeing it demonstrated several times in different places," product manager for Windows at Microsoft, Danny Beck, said. "We want to make it so that when someone sees a Media Center PC on show in a Harvey Norman store they can turn around and buy a similar system from their local IT reseller."

According to Beck, increased support will come in the form of end-user education and retail sales programs, as well as an increased focus on Microsoft's systems builder team, which supports local manufacturers.

"Our initial focus in terms of training and marketing support was on the mass-merchant channel but they were really only the head of the charge. We see smaller resellers as critical to our overall business," Beck said.

Describing Media Center as a bit of a disappointment, Altair managing director, Brian Madden, welcomed Microsoft's renewed efforts. But the IT and AV retail boss said the systems offered in Australia so far had been difficult to integrate and failed to live up to performance expectations.

"A lot of hardware was promoted as Media Center compatible when it wasn't. It was released without a compatible digital tuner," Madden said. "However you look at it, Media Center PCs are not yet a complete enough product for the home environment."

Having worked closely with Microsoft during the development of Media Center compatible digital tuner cards, Darrell Vanderwols, sales and marketing manager at New Media, is also keen to see concerns about hardware compatibility cleared up.

"A lot of information was made available about compatibility in a series of roadshows when Media Center was first launched," Vanderwols said. "But many resellers and consumers still don't really get it."

Nonetheless, Madden and Vanderwols welcome Microsoft's undertakings to improve sales support and education. Both said they expected customer interest to pick up as complementary products hit the shelves.

"Microsoft is really about to go through a bit of a boom with Media Center sales, especially once more hardware is made available so consumers have more access to the software's functions," Vanderwols says. "Education is the major challenge."

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