Microsoft has announced that its Windows XP Media Centre software will finally reach Australian shores by the end of the year.
Senior manager of strategic development planning for Microsoft Australia, John Gillhespy, said there was no official shipping date yet but it would be available by Christmas.
He blamed delays in rolling out the entertainment hub software on localisation and customisation issues.
“Australia’s a big country and very different from the US and Europe,” he said. “Each country has its own issues that need to be resolved so that all the standards are supported.”
Gillhespy confirmed that personal video recording would be supported by the local version of Media Centre, but could not confirm details of partners for the provision of an electronic program guide or for online entertainment content at this stage.
He claimed the channel was excited about being able to integrate multiple entertainment experiences through a PC and insisted the software giant was not deterred by the digital home solutions that had been created in its prolonged absence.
“This is a very new market,” he said. “In terms of the stage of development, many products will be released and it’s up to the consumer to see which one they prefer.”
Media Centre would differentiate itself from its competition by providing an experience that was fully integrated within the operating system, according to Gillhespy.
IDC research manager, Landry Fevre, who has headed up the analyst firm’s investigations into the digital home market, said the announcement was good news.
On the face of it, he said, this would be the democratisation of the digital home.
Marketing manager at Acer Australia, Raymond Vardanega, said he was relieved that Media Centre was finally on its way.
“Having a product [such as Windows Media Centre] to enhance the experience that users have in the home will be a great boon for everyone,” he said.
While waiting for Media Centre, Acer had been shipping the Aspire home entertainment system for nearly a year and would continue to run the product.
Fevre suggested that Microsoft’s decision to get out of home networking — the main way of streaming content around the home — was an interesting development because it could mean taking up Media Centre was no longer a strong value proposition for consumers.
Gillhespy said there was a possibility that Media Centre and Xbox extenders, designed to distribute content around the home, would be made available in Australia.
Though mainly positive about Media Centre, Fevre said the product was a PC-centric solution.
“That the PC will be the repository for all digital content may not be the case — it could be a set-top box, a dual TV receiver or a standalone hard drive,” he explained. “It’s not a full suite of products — it’s pushing for the centre market.”
Both Gillhespy and Vardanega were positive about the uptake of broadband in Australia.
Vardanega suggested high-speed Internet and Media Centre PCs could drive higher uptake of each other.
“People who take up broadband are enhancing their PCs within months because it offers so much and they want to take advantage of that,” he said.