The struggle for control of the living room has traditionally focused on who gets the television remote control. But technology vendors are increasingly intent on making their products the centre of next-generation home entertainment. Three very different PC vendors have stated their cases with the introduction of new models tailored for multimedia applications.
Gateway, Lindows.com, and Apple Computer have released new models in the US catering to a wide variety of audiences. Gateway's three new desktops and new notebook feature Microsoft's Windows XP operating system and Intel's processors in high-end Digital Film Maker PCs. Lindows.com is partnering with Medialand Systems to bring the Linux-based Lindows operating system to consumers in a media PC priced under US$350. And Apple's loyal customer base will have three new Power Mac G4s to choose from, including two dual-processor models.
The recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas crystalised a trend that has been growing for some time: the emergence of PCs with sharp displays and multimedia CD and DVD drives as a viable competitor to digital entertainment devices. At the same time, consumer electronics devices are adding computing power to better compete in the entertainment market.
Research fellow at Giga Information GroupConsumer, Rob Enderle, said electronics companies generally operated on thinner margins than PC vendors, but did not understand the emerging technologies as well. The PC vendors were able to identify and incorporate those emerging technologies faster than their consumer electronics counterparts, but at a higher price.
Early adopters were usually willing to pay a premium for new technologies, but the current economic situation coloured that strategy, Enderle said. "It's a tough year to bring out a product like this, but you only have the time you're allotted. If you wait, the technology will have moved."
Director of client computing at market research firm IDC, Roger Kay, said beleaguered PC companies had claimed they were satisfied with the sales of PCs that use Microsoft's Windows XP Media Centre Edition operating system. However, not enough data was available yet to say whether the idea has been a success.