Windows XP Media Center sales are set to get a shot in the arm thanks to a growing interest in the networked home and developments such as Intel's Viiv technology, industry representatives claim.
Although the entertainment version of Microsoft's OS has been out since 2004, consumer interest for whitebox Media Center PCs has so far been low, despite growing success for multinational vendors such as HP, Dell and Toshiba. But all of this is expected to change by mid-2006.
Altech national sales manager, Kevin Hartin, said that less than 10 per cent of the distributor's PC sales were machines with Media Center OS installed.
"The market has picked up in past month or so which I put down to Intel and the Viiv platform initiative and the introduction of dual-core processors," he said. "Hard drives are also becoming bigger and cheaper. My Media Center at home has 700GB of space, which you need when you record so much live TV."
Managing director of Pioneer, Jeff Li, said a similar number of his machines were going out with Media Center installed.
"From November, sales have been up [on Media Center PCs]. It used to be about one to two per cent, now it's about 10 to 15 per cent," he said. "After Intel launches the Viiv platform, this will grow even more."
When asked where he'd like to see the percentage of Media Center-based PCs in six month's time, Li joked "100 per cent".
"There are good margins [on a Media Center PC] and they relate to a lot of products like LCDs, plasma screen TVs, speakers and cameras," he said. "When the Viiv platform comes in March, it will push interest in [the OS]."
Senior analyst for computing hardware at IDC, Michael Sager, said Media Center-based PCs were selling strongly for vendors such as HP and Dell. This would have a flow-on effect to the whitebox market.
"In Q4, a Media Center PC was the most expensive machine in Harvey Norman and it was difficult to tell if people were buying it because it had the highest specs or because of Media Center," he said. "Now that prices are coming down to $1799 -$1999, the market is growing. Multinationals are helping to grow market acceptance. It's no longer a nascent market."
Bing Lee general manager, Phil Moujaes, confirmed Media Center PCs were enjoying higher growth now that price points were not as high.
"We expect this growth to continue with the introduction of dual-core processors, the Intel Viiv platform and Microsoft Xbox 360 which will be an extender product for Media Center PCs," he said. Media Center PC sales account for about 10 per cent of all desktop unit sales for Bing Lee.
Although Media Center PCs would not replace VCRs - or their future equivalent - Altech's Hartin said there was significant growth to come in the year ahead.
"You will start to see Media Center on more home machines - even without TV tuners," he said. "People will see the features more and they will become more comfortable with the whole concept. This will lead to subsequent purchases for home networking environments, starting with a TV tuner." By mid-year, Altech hoped to see its Media Center sales reach 30-40 per cent, Hartin said.