In August, Microsoft will dramatically expand the reach of its Windows XP Media Center Edition (XP MCE) software by providing it to custom PC system builders for use in so-called white box PCs. To date, customers could obtain XP MCE from select tier-one PC makers, such as Dell, HP, and Gateway, and only on special Media Center PCs, which have historically been higher-end, multimedia-capable boxes.
   "We've recognized that our work with Media Center going only through our large, predominantly multinational OEMs is something that we could actually take further if we were to directly engage the system-builders channel," Microsoft senior vice president Will Poole said Monday during his keynote address at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto. "System builders can now ship this \[product\] in 13 geographies. It means that we're going to have a partner support kit available. We're working very closely with ATI \[Technologies\] and NVIDIA to create a single kit that's going to give you what you need in terms of a tuner card, the right graphics card, a remote control, IR \[infrared\] receiver--everything you need to put together a Media Center PC in the specific configurations that your customers want. And, we're going to create this new design for the Window XP Media Center Edition logo program so you know what products are certified to work in those Media Center configurations."
   Several systems builders, including Able Computer Systems, AdvanTec Computer Company, Micro Standard, and PC Club are demonstrating XP MCE-based PCs at the partner conference this week. The companies say that they'll have products available for customers in time for the 2004 holiday selling season.