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Editorial: Better late than never

Editorial: Better late than never

At last, more than two years after hitting shelves across the US, Microsoft has announced that its Windows XP Media Centre edition will arrive in Australia later this year. Not before time.

While the ‘localisation’ and ‘customisation’ excuses offered by the software giant’s local executives as an explanation for the lengthy delay were vague and difficult to swallow, the news that Media Centre will arrive before Santa is great news for any resellers operating in the local home and SOHO markets.

Microsoft is undoubtedly the best marketer of technology in the world and if anybody can commoditise the domesticated digital opportunities that the consumer electronics and IT markets have been talking about recently, it is the boys and girls from Redmond. Most people with even the slightest interest in technology agree that the consumer electronics products that make up the digital home are cool, but the Microsoft publicity machine looks certain to play a big role in making sense of it all for the mass market and converting vague interest into tangible desire.

Corner store resellers across the country must be licking their lips at the potential up-selling opportunities that will be on the menu this Christmas.

Taking the McDonalds line, they will be able to offer every customer buying a desktop or notebook PC a ‘regular’ Windows package or the ‘super-size’ XP Media Centre edition.

And it would be simply unforgivable to allow customers that do purchase Media Centre with their Christmas PC to walk out of the shop without ensuring they have all the other hardware gadgets and gizmos needed to take full advantage of its capabilities — MP3 players, digital cameras, surround sound speaker systems, camcorders, plasma screens and consumer storage spring readily to mind.

The announcement is also good news for hardware vendors — Acer, HP and Toshiba have already declared that they will be bringing out new models designed to entice the Christmas shoppers looking for a new machine to act as the lounge-based hub of their new digital home. Getting consumers to upgrade domestic PCs can often be a difficult job because the one they already have does what they need it to and that makes it tough to create need — especially when many domestic PCs are used for little more than school homework and an occasional game of Solitaire. Media Centre edition and the Microsoft marketing machine that stands behind it could just be a big enough differentiator to drive a significant refresh.

And then there is broadband, a drum that has been getting banged pretty hard in recent times with little success. Wide uptake of Media Centre edition would mean more people needed high-speed Internet, and broadband prices are now low enough that it has become a viable option in the mass market. This could give it just the nudge it needs.

Of course, this is all speculation and it is unhealthy to let hype get too far ahead of reality. But this week’s announcement is a significant one and could well be looked back on as a turning point in the delivery of the digital home. What do you think?

Brian Corrigan is Editor of ARN. Reach him at brian_corrigan@idg.com.au


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