Microsoft is expanding the market for its Windows XP Media Center Edition to include the UK, France, Germany, China and Japan.
Microsoft has localised the operating system and the electronic TV guide service for it and has partnered with a number of PC makers that will deliver systems running the extended version of Windows XP in those countries by the end of the year, Microsoft product manager Tom Laemmel said.
Windows XP Media Center Edition is made for a PC that Microsoft envisions as the media and entertainment hub for the home.
Media Center PCs come with a remote control, a TV tuner card and a large hard disc drive. A user can watch DVDs, manage digital audio, video and picture files, and play, pause and record live television, in addition to using the PC for traditional tasks such as word processing.
Because of the additional hardware and the expanded software, Media Center PCs are more expensive than standard PCs. Hewlett-Packard and Fujitsu are among the PC makers that will offer the systems, Microsoft said.
The market expansion announcement comes 10 months after the introduction of Windows XP Media Center Edition in the US, Canada and South Korea.
Though they make up only a small percentage of overall PC sales, Media Center PCs in the US have proved quite popular, said Roger Kay, vice-president of client computing for research company IDC.
"They were in short supply in the fourth quarter of last year and were moving relatively well in the first quarter this year, beating supplier expectations," Kay said. Expansion of the market is a logical move for Microsoft, he said.
Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service