Microsoft Eases Rules on Selling Media Center

By Wayne Rash  |  Print this article Print


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Directron is selling Windows XP Media Center to resellers and end-users in single-unit quantities with Microsoft's blessing.

At least one reseller has been quick to act now that Microsoft has relaxed the rules about how its Windows XP Media Center can be sold. Michael Chang, president of Houston, Texas-based Directron.com, said his company has worked with Microsoft to make Media Center available to end-users in single-unit quantities.

"It was never distributed that way in the past," Chang said, adding that the Media Center edition is now sold in exactly the same way that any other version of XP is sold.

"In the past, only the big players were able to take advantage of Media Center for their systems," Chang said. The change in Microsoft's policy allows resellers and "white box" vendors to include that version of XP.

Chang noted that this doesn't mean an end-user could just go onto his company's Web site and order a copy of XP Media Center by itself. He said that because it's an OEM product, it must be sold in conjunction with a major hardware purchase, such as a motherboard, processor or hard disk.

"This is good for the consumer," Chang said, pointing out that almost all resellers will be able to sell the Media Center software. "The price for Media Center PCs will go down. It's good for the technology," Chang said. "And if it's not widespread, it won't survive." Chang said he thinks the additional feedback from a wider customer base will bring improvements and new features to the product as well.

While Chang's company will sell Windows XP Media Center to an end-user who's building a computer or who is buying a computer built by Directron.com, his primary customers are resellers. Chang said his typical reseller buys systems preconfigured by Directron.com. Those resellers comprise about 70 percent of his business.

Kurt Kolb, general manager of the worldwide system builder channel at Microsoft, explained, "This software is designed for and supported by OEMs. End users would be essentially orphaned from support, integration assistance that a system builder provides as part of building a new PC with components that are tested for Media Center."

In other words, Microsoft means for the Media Center operating system to go to resellers, not end-users building their own computers.

Kolb spelled this out. "Our licensing and channel policies are designed to allow our product to flow through OEM distribution along with the hardware for new PCs, but not leak to end users where their experience may be compromised. Any System Builder that sells this to end users for use with hardware or components not compatible with Windows XP Microsoft Media Center Edition 2005 is doing the end user a huge disservice."

Kolb concluded by quoting from the Microsoft OEM System Builder License. "We grant you a nonexclusive right to distribute individual software licenses for desktop operating systems or hardware units to another system builder if the software and hardware are distributed with a nonperipheral computer hardware component; provided that the other system builder accepts this license." And, "You are required to keep records of any distributions pursuant to this section to show that its requirements were met."

Read more here about Directron's sales of the Media Center.

Chang's company has about 50 employees and operates out of a 100,000-square-foot building in Houston. He said that by one measure, his company is the sixth-largest reseller in the United States.

"We worked very closely with Microsoft," Chang said, noting that he even ran the Web pages where XP Media Center would be sold by the company first. "It's a good thing that Microsoft is making this available to everyone," Chang added. He said he has been able to sell Media Center directly only for the past couple of days.

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Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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