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Microsoft's XP Media Center launched

Software giant partners with HP to offer digital entertainment

Microsoft has teamed up with PC maker Hewlett Packard to launch a new computer package which will turn the humble PC into a state-of-the-art entertainment system.

The Windows XP Media Center Edition can be operated via remote control, allowing consumers to use their PCs as the nerve centre of their multimedia equipment. The operating system will let users watch DVD movies, manage digital audio and video files, and play, pause and record live television.

The software was shown off on three HP machines at a press conference in the US.

The HP Media Center PCs come with Intel Pentium 4 processors and nVidia GeForce4 MX420 graphics cards and special keyboards for access to select entertainment applications. The PCs also feature five USB (universal serial bus) 2.0 ports and two IEEE 1394 ports for peripheral and video downloads, respectively.

Microsoft has been readying PCs to support its new OS for some time. The launch of the first XP service pack in September 02 outfitted the operating system to work with its new Media Center technology — then codenamed Freestyle.

The HP Media Center PC is likely to be a niche product, appealing to college students and those seeking consolidated multimedia features, said IDC analyst Al Promisel, based in Framingham, Massachusetts. "We're not going to see big sales volume."

An HP spokeswoman declined to comment on HP's sales forecast for the Media Center PC.

The HP Media Center PC isn't the first to target technophiles seeking a home multimedia nexus. Last year, Sony released a high-end Vaio desktop also aimed at media omnivores, with an array of built-in features and devices. Priced at $2,800 (£1,800) without a monitor, the Vaio MX has since been discontinued, although a Sony representative said the model's sales exceeded Sony's expectations.

The HP Media Center PCs are not yet available in the UK, but a launch date is due to be announced soon. More information can be found at www.hp.com.

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