Gates Sees Fivefold Growth In Media PC Sales

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In launching the third version of Windows Media Center OS on Tuesday, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates said he expects sales to exceed by four or five times the 1 million copies of Windows Media Center previously sold by the company.

Gates called the Media Center operating system the centerpiece of Microsoft's "digital entertainment anywhere" vision, a vision that also included various single-purpose devices and the growth of an ecosystem of service providers, vendors and system builders.

"It will really be the multifunction product that will be the high volume," he said referring to Media Center PCs as opposed portable devices.

Gates also noted at the event that Microsoft, for the first time, was making the OS available to what he estimated were 800,000 system builders worldwide.

A number of system builders were in attendance at the Shrine Auditorium presentation in Los Angeles, where about 1,500 attendees occasionally clapped during the demonstration of the Media Center PC's features.

One of the builders in the audience, Jonathan Wang, general manger of Private Label PC, City of Industry, Calif., told CRN he was planning to put together a barebones Media Center PC system for solution providers. He said there was a lot of opportunity for custom solution providers to differentiate their products by offering larger drives and better video cards, for example. "The whole white-box channel has an opportunity to compete with the tier one," Wang said.

Another system builder, PC Club, Industry, Calif., which operates 16 stores, is planning to dedicate a section in each store to a Windows Media Center PC showroom, said Caren Lin, a marketing program manager. "I think this is going to be a very big product for the holidays," she said.

Gates said one of the priorities in the new version of Media Center was its support for dual TV tuners. He said that while digital music was now exploding, bringing video and photos into the experience was critical. "The vision has to go well beyond music," he said.

"Video today is where music was five years ago," Gates said. "Video, we think, will take its place along with music and photos."

He said that digital entertainment anywhere concept will both reduce the complexity of home entertainment systems and provide a "unified experience" across devices and media types. "If you set up a play list, you should be able to have it anywhere," he said.

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