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Microsoft Extends Windows XP Media Center

Microsoft Corp. is hoping to expand the market for Windows XP Media Center, a version of its Windows operating system that aims to integrate the desktop with a variety of consumer media experiences.

Just as regulators in the European Union are stepping up their scrutiny of Windows' multimedia capabilities, the company announced Wednesday that it will be expanding its distribution of its Windows XP Media Center Edition to the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China and Japan.

Microsoft has created versions of its software for each of the new global markets and will enter those countries with both the operating system and its electronic TV guide service bundled together through deals with PC hardware manufacturers.

Several PC makers, including Hewlett-Packard and Fujitsu are making media-centric personal computers, which will run the XP Media Center edition. The software was originally introduced ten months ago in the U.S., Canada and South Korea.

In a press release, Microsoft said that "more than 30 new PC manufacturers to deliver Media Center PCs to France, Germany, United Kingdom, China and Japan."

In France, Microsoft said it is working with Absolut Technology, Elonex, Granville Services France, HP, Kesa Electricals PLC, Packard Bell, PC City, Peristyle, Toshiba, UNIKA Computer and Yakumo GmbH.

In Germany, Microsoft is working with 4MBO International Electronic AG, Actebis International Distribution GmbH, Fujitsu Siemens, HP, GERICOM AG, Hyrican Informationssysteme AG, Medion AG, Packard Bell, TAROX Systems & Services GmbH, Toshiba, Vobis Microcomputer AG, WORTMANN AG and Yakumo GmbH.

In the United Kingdom, Microsoft is partnering with Centerprise International Ltd., CFL Media Center Systems, Elonex Plc, Evesham Technology, Hi-Grade Computers Plc, HP, Hugh Symons Group plc, iQon Technologies Ltd., MESH Computers PLC, Packard Bell, PC World, Quantum Microponents Ltd., Time Group Ltd., Toshiba and Yakumo GmbH.

While in China, Microsoft's media center strategy extends to HP, Toshiba. In Japan, its partners, include Fujitsu Limited, Hitachi Ltd., NEC, SOTEC CO. LTD. and Toshiba.

To help speed the development of electronic programming guide services, Microsoft is working with two providers: Nikkan Hensyu Center Co. Ltd. in Japan and Broadcasting Dataservices Ltd. in Europe.

"Media Center PCs represent the evolution of home computers into digital media hubs, allowing consumers to easily integrate their digital entertainment experiences -- including live television, personal video recording (PVR), digital music, digital video, DVDs and pictures -- all with the freedom of remote-control access," Microsoft said.