In an effort to start the blood flow again in the PC market and in some respects reinvent the wheel for a new generation of PC users and their multi-media needs, Palo Alto, Calif.-based Hewlett-Packard Co. and Microsoft Corp. announced plans to release a PC crossover product by the end of October in more than 1,000 retail outlets nationwide.
The HP Media Center PC runs on Windows XP Media Edition and is aimed at integrating the PC into the realm of the home entertainment center as an all-in-one multi-media product, where many major PC makers and market analysts think the market is slowly migrating.
October's release of the HP Media Center is in keeping with HPs post-merger strategy of focusing the HP brand name on in-home entertainment, and using the Compaq brand name for more traditional PC products.
"Increasingly we're seeing the PC market explore the possibility of combining PC technology with consumer electronics," said Charles Smulders, a PC analyst for Gartner. "These are referred to as hybrid, or crossover products, and their success depends on targeting particular types of users."
Windows XP Media Edition, formerly known by the code name "Freestyle," is a new member of the XP family and was previewed by Bill Gates in July at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
HP is describing the new Media Center as a black, sleekly designed digital entertainment center that is designed to be viewed from across the room, unlike the standard PC.
The Media Center comes with live television programming capabilities via remote control or keyboard and mouse, a built in Personal Video Recorder (PVR) for playing and recording television programs, gaming options, DVD and CD burning features, and a feature for editing and storing digital videos, photos, music, and data. All combined with more traditional Windows XP applications like Word, Excel, Microsoft Messenger, and Internet Explorer.
The Media Center also comes with an Electronic Program Guide for television programming selections, and a "Now Playing" window that enables viewers to multi-task with other features while watching a particular show.
The XP operating system, in the form of XP Pro, elevates HPs former home PC offering, the HP Pavilion, into a more all-inclusive product than the former model, said HP spokesperson, Tiffany Smith.
The XP media interface creates a high-resolution television and entertainment experience, which Smith describes as similar to watching a DVD.
"It gives you more of a feeling of being in a television and entertainment environment," said Smith. "You don't have the standard PC interface."
The HP Media Center is based on Intel Pentium 4 processors and slated to retail between $1,400 and $2,000, not including the price of the monitor, said Smith.
HP expects the Media Center to attract the college/teenage crowd, and any other individuals who live in small environments that cannot accommodate all the separate gadgetry the HP Media Center combines.
"We'll begin to see several categories of products emerge that meet the needs of different users out there, becoming far more specialized than the horizontal PC market," said Smulders, who had not yet had a chance to review the Media Center.