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Microsoft’s XP Media Center launched on new HP PCs

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Oct 29, 20023 mins
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Microsoft launched its Windows XP Media Center Edition operating system at an event in New York Tuesday, showing the software in PCs from Hewlett-Packard.

Windows XP Media Center Edition can be operated via remote control, allowing consumers to use their PCs as the nerve center of their multimedia equipment. The operating system will let users watch DVD movies, manage digital audio and video files, and play, pause and record live television.

The launch event marks the North American availability of the software in three new HP desktops. The HP Media Center PCs come with Intel’s Pentium 4 processors and Nvidia’s GeForce4 MX420 graphics card, and special keyboards for access to select entertainment applications. The PCs also feature five USB 2.0 ports and two IEEE 1394 ports for peripheral and video downloads, respectively.

The 873n model of the HP Media Center PC line will be available through retail outlets such as Best Buy and CompUSA. It comes with a 2.53GHz Pentium 4 processor, 512M bytes of double data rate (DDR) memory, a 120G-byte hard drive, and a DVD+recordable/+rewritable drive for an estimated retail price of $1,649.

The other models, the 863n and the 883n, are available direct from HP through its Web site. The 863n is the value-priced model, with a 2.4 GHz Pentium 4 processor, 512M bytes of DDR memory, a 80G-byte hard drive, and a DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive for $1,349. For consumers looking for a high-end option, HP is offering the 883n, which comes with a 2.66 GHz Pentium 4, 512M bytes of DDR memory, a 120G-byte hard drive, and a DVD+R/+RW drive, for $1,999. None of the systems include a monitor.

The HP Media Center PC is likely to be a niche product, appealing to college students and those seeking consolidated multimedia features, said IDC analyst Al Promisel, based in Framingham, Massachusetts.

“We’re not going to see big sales volume,” he said.

Still, Promisel praised the system’s ease of use, and said the price is reasonable for the range of features offered.

An HP spokeswoman declined to comment on HP’s sales forecast for the Media Center PC.

Though the system was officially introduced Tuesday, units have been available at some stores throughout the past week, as HP allowed retailers to begin selling the PCs as they arrived. The HP Media Center PC was the number one best-selling PC in Comp USA stores this weekend, HP and Microsoft executives said at the launch event.

The HP Media Center PC isn’t the first to target technophiles seeking a home multimedia nexus: Last year, Sony Electronics released a high-end VAIO desktop also aimed at media omnivores, with an array of built-in features and devices. Priced at $2,800 without a monitor, the VAIO MX has since been discontinued, although a Sony representative said the model’s sales exceeded Sony’s expectations.

Steve Louro, general manager of a CompUSA store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan that’s among the chain’s busiest, said shopper interest in the HP Media Center PC has been strong.

“It just stands out,” he said. Consumers tend not to pay attention to PC brands, but the HP Media Center PC “is really, obviously different” from other models crowding the shelves, he said.

While no other partnerships have been announced, HP isn’t the only device manufacturer that will be building machines around the Windows XP Media Center Edition, said Jodie Cadieux, marketing manager for Microsoft’s Windows eHome Division.

“They were the most enthusiastic about getting a product to the market,” she said. While Microsoft isn’t disclosing details on any other development deals or devices, more are on the way, Cadieux said.