Media Center Friend or Foe?
Are C-tailers and Microsoft's platform hitting it off, or does the relationship need more time to flower?
By Nancy Klosek
These days, practicality must often eclipse passion when it comes to the decision-making of specialty/custom entrepreneurs. Though their involvement in the A/V business may be rooted in love for music, it is money, stability and continuity that have, of necessity, become the drivers.
Such are the reasons behind C-tailers' budding relationship with the Windows XP Media Center platform, which parent Microsoft and its licensees have begun promoting among specialty installers and retailers. The Media Center initiative has been afforded the hard sell in the past few months at industry conferences, including this spring's PARA Conference, where Bill Mannion, director of Windows XP consumer product marketing for Microsoft and a former Panasonic executive, predicted Media Center would create "unprecendented, major opportunities for specialists.
"The PC is the most flexible, upgradable device in the home. The consumer sees convergence, but is just looking for a way to put it together. He wants solutions, not products, and you do that better than anyone," Mannion told attendees. Assuring listeners Microsoft wouldn't "dictate a business model," he pledged that Media Center is a platform for partnership with the custom industry, not a Microsoft-only initiative. He even proposed three levels of involvement for installers: "basic," "hip-wader" and "full immersion." "Pick one and start," he advised, "because this is going to happen."
Media Center is certainly not the first attempt by a computer-world entity to gain a foothold in the CE arena; let's not forget Apple's iPod and the slew of PC-branded flat-panel TVs. But given Microsoft's undeniable clout, could Media Center end up becoming the biggest and most successful of these attempts? That question served as our springboard for gauging opinion about Media Center among hybrid custom/retail specialists and integrators of different sizes and regions.