Although most Media Center PCs pass their days at home in the living room or study, a few have begun taking office jobs.
The desktop and notebook PCs, which come with Microsoft Corp.s Windows XP Media Center Editions specialized user interface for handling multimedia and are operable via a remote control, were created with consumers in mind.
However, a small number of businesses have been purchasing the machines to handle multimedia in internal meetings or customer presentations, some PC makers say.
Corporations often spend extra to spruce up front offices and meeting rooms, purchasing big-screen televisions, stylish computers and other technological accoutrements.
Thus, despite their consumer bent, companies using Media Center machines to help show videos or present other multimedia isnt much of a stretch, those companies said.
John Samborski, vice president of Ace Computers, an Arlington Heights, Ill., computer maker, said hes looking to offer Intels forthcoming Viiv-brand gear, which incorporates Media Center, as way to better tie together the audio-video equipment, including plasma TVs and projection screens, with the multimedia files and corporate presentations, including slide shows and PowerPoint sessions, his business customers make.
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“Id like to see businesses adopt it for there use,” he said in a recent interview with eWEEK. “There is a tremendous demand out there for all of these functions in an office setting. Businesses want more than just a conference room, they want corporate Media Centers.”
Representatives at big-name Media Center PC makers Gateway Inc., Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. all said the companies have no immediate plans to offer business Media Centers.
However, Gateway has seen at least some interest in business Media Centers for use with AV equipment, a spokesperson said via e-mail. Although despite describing demand for the machines as “minimal” relative to other business PCs, he said such business Media Centers were on the table for examination by the company in 2006.
Currently Gateway, of Irvine, Calif., serves customers who request the Media Center OS on its business PCs with its Custom Integration Services arm, whose services include installing specialized software on PCs, the spokesperson said.
But the concept of business Media Centers holds little sway at either Intel or Microsoft at the moment.
Intel, which plans to make a huge splash in 2006 with Viiv—Viiv incorporates specially designed, multimedia-oriented PC platforms paired with Microsofts Media Center OS—is focusing those efforts on consumers.
Viiv for business is “not something that we are looking at the moment,” Kari Skoog, an Intel spokesperson, said.
“Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 is truly a consumer product,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in an e-mail. “Microsoft offers other products designed for business use, such as [Windows XP] Tablet and Professional.”
Intel will monitor the situation, however, Skoog said.
When it comes to smaller manufacturers and resellers, “we tend to see those guys look at things earlier,” she said. “So its not something were ruling out completely, but its certainly not something were looking at initially.”
Even if they were to come to market from numerous vendors, corporate Media Centers arent likely to be used in large-scale deployments, where they replace standard desktops or notebooks, analysts said.
A Market for the
But there does appear to be at least something of a market for the platform as an audio-visual aide, said Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates Inc.
“It makes sense in the boardroom,” Kay said. “I could sort of imagine that in Ogilvy & Mather style ad companies, high-end financial companies, the corporate headquarters of pharmaceutical and oil companies—I could see that as being a cool thing to do. This would be part of your impressive corporate image.”
Thus the key features of a corporate media center would include the ability to quickly access multimedia and launch applications using a remote control, while making a presentation. The machines would be particularly useful in an area where numerous people were assembled and the data could be projected onto a large screen or shown on a big television, Kay said.
Although its unclear if business Media Centers might catch on, some of the reasons Media Centers increased in popularity among consumers could resonate with corporations, another analyst said.
Last summer, for example, Microsoft dropped a requirement that called for PCs sold with the operating system to also include a TV tuner.
The change allowed PC makers to cut the price of Media Center desktops. The move also placed more emphasis on the multimedia management aspect of Media Center, versus its ability to show and record TV programs, said Richard Shim, an analyst with International Data Corp. of Framingham, Mass.
Thus entry-level Media Center desktops, which once cost thousands, now sell for around $600, sans TV tuners. The lower prices make them more appealing to consumers and possibly even businesses, Shim said.
“Truth be told, you probably dont need a TV turner [in the boardroom], but at least you have the OS that allows for media to be centrally stored and distributed an accessed,” he said. But, he cautioned, “Its hard enough to walk into a boardroom and expect your PowerPoint presentation to work. This adds another layer.”
Despite Microsofts current view on corporate Media Centers, the machines might eventually get a boost from it.
Vista, the forthcoming new version of Windows, is expected to offer a major update in Media Center capabilities, developers have said. A version of the OS that includes a mix of corporate and multimedia features, combining things like beefed-up support for networking with Media Center capabilities, is also expected to come out.
Some PC makers will offer that version of Vista to businesses, in effect setting them up with corporate Media Centers, a PC industry observer predicted.