First Australian Digital Tuner Card for MCE

Pioneer Computers are claiming a world first with the development of a television digital tuner card for the Australian version of Microsoft Media Center (MCE).

"With the release of Microsoft's Windows XP MCE in mid-October a major concern surrounding the operating system was its compatibility with digital television tuners," Pioneer CEO, Jeff Li, said.

To overcome this issue, the whitebox vendor worked in conjunction with Microsoft engineers to create a software driver for its DreamVision TV tuner products which allowed them to run on MCE, Li said.

Pioneer has been distributing its DreamVision cards, which retail for $199, over the last few months to resellers including Harvey Norman and homeware retailer, Domayne.

The new model will give MCE owners the ability to receive and record free to air digital television while skipping advertisements.

The good news for existing card owners and resellers was that they could simply upgrade the card's driver by downloading a new one from the Pioneer website, Li said.

However, the software giant said it did not officially support the digital TV card from Pioneer.

"The Australian release [of MCE] supports up to two analogue TV tuners only," Microsoft senior product marketing manager, Danny Beck, said. "We do not officially support Digital TV tuners in the local market at this point in time. It is too early to speculate when official support might be available."

Pioneer hoped to capitalise on being one of the early players in the whitebox MCE market, Pioneer's Li said. The company has already been approached by a hotel chain that intended to put MCE-based systems in guest rooms.

"This is an important breakthrough that will accelerate the uptake of digital home technology," he said.

IDC analyst, Landry Fevre, said the launch of the MCE-compatible card demonstrated the flexibility of whitebox companies over their badged counterparts to create specific products for local market conditions.

Fevre said the product would also have ramifications on the television advertising industry, and force advertisers to revise their marketing models.

This emerging trend in the television market could have parallels with the way the music industry failed to respond to new technology enabling music downloads.

"With the introduction of TiVo personal video recorders in the US around 40 per cent of viewers chose to skip the adverts," Fevre said.

Meanwhile, other local hardware distributors are also working on similar tuner cards as a way of cashing in on the digital growth of the CE market.

Director of Lako Pacific, Evan Kourambas, said it would soon launch its Dvico digital TV card, which would also be compatible with MCE.

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