Electronic Design

RIP Media Center PC?

Entertainment PCs are becoming more popular—and cheaper—every day. So what will become of the media center PC?

The media center PC played an important role in advancing the digital age, according to Brian Jaquet, a spokesperson for Sling Media. But he also notes that one critical component was missing.

"The media center brought forth the idea that you can do a lot of things with your PC," Jaquet says. "But the thing about media center PCs is that most don't ship with the TV tuner card installed, and you need that card."

In Jaquet's eyes, the face of the media center PC is changing the same way that the face of the desktop is changing. As laptop prices continue to fall, he said, media center PCs are dropping to second place in terms of popularity.

So is the media center PC dead? Not quite. According to the NDP Group, 901,000 computers equipped with Microsoft's Media Center Edition (MCE) operating system were sold in 2005, compared to 210,000 in the year prior.

But the TV tuner still remains a question. The price of the media center PC is rapidly declining. But some of that price reduction can be attributed to the omission of a tuner. Gateway has decided to forgo the component entirely (for the time being, at least), on the assumption that most consumers are purchasing media center PCs for organizing music and photos, not for watching TV.

While the future of the media center PC is unclear, hybrid data/entertainment PCs may pick up where the media center PC drops off. In April, Avartec introduced its 7100 series infotainment notebooks. Powered by AMD Turion 64 mobile technology, the 7100 series features a bright 17-in. WXGA widescreen display, as well as an integrated Gigabit wired network.

The notebook's IEEE 1394 FireWire interface and three high-speed USB 2.0 ports facilitate fast digital video, audio, and data transfer. Consumers also can chose from Microsoft XP Home, Professional, or Media Center installed, appealing to consumers with varying degrees of interest in digital content.

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