Microsoft announced today that four new PC-maker partners will sell Media Center PCs running Windows XP Media Center Edition (MCE). ABS Computer Technologies, Alienware, Cyberpower, and Gateway will unveil new Media Center PC designs this week at COMDEX Fall 2002; the new PCs will be available immediately or within days. Coming just weeks after the XP MCE launch, this announcement is somewhat of a surprise. Microsoft previously said that it was working with other partners on Media Center PCs, but I hadn't expected this many new partners so quickly. And perhaps even more exciting is the news that many of the new Media Center PCs will ship in innovative form factors and a wide range of price points, making the products accessible to more users.

"\[These companies\] recognize the potential of the Media Center PC, and we're pleased at their commitment with Microsoft to deliver a compelling new way for consumers to experience the home PC," said Mike Toutonghi, vice president of the Windows eHome Division. "With the addition of innovative hardware designs and configurations, consumers will be able to enjoy an incredible digital entertainment experience from an expanded selection of media center PCs."

Gateway's Media Center PC is a standard tower design, similar to the machine Hewlett-Packard (HP) released late last month. But Gateway is pushing the envelope with a high-end bundle that features a Media Center PC and a 42" plasma screen for $4000; the PC will be available late this week. Alienware is using the tiny, cube-shaped Shuttle PC form factor, a truly compact design that might be more appealing to consumers than a standard tower. The Alienware system is available now.