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Microsoft takes Media Center to more countries

The move won't have a huge impact on global sales, but expansion may help the product become a mainstream operating system.

Microsoft is sending its Windows XP Media Center operating system on a world tour.

The software maker plans to offer the entertainment-oriented operating system in 19 additional countries, as well as Hong Kong.

Microsoft will sell versions of Media Center in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, India, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan and Turkey. Those countries and Hong Kong will get the new operating system later in 2005.

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The news will likely please consumers in those countries who want a Media Center PC, as well as computer makers that want additional places to sell their products. Still, the move is unlikely to push the needle much further in terms of overall sales of the operating system. That's because Media Center is already available in most of the largest PC-consuming countries, including the United States, Canada, China, South Korea and several European countries.

"It's not going to tremendously boost sales, to be honest, because we are working our way down the list of big markets," said Media Center product manager Tom Laemmel. At the same time, expansion is important if Media Center is to evolve from niche product to mainstream operating system.

"It shows that trend of Media Center growing up and becoming a regular version of Windows," Laemmel said.

Media Center is similar to other versions of Windows XP, but it adds a second interface where users can display pictures, play music, watch videos or record television shows using a remote control.

In January, Microsoft said it had seen a 40 percent rise in sales since the October debut of the newest version of Media Center. As of that point, Microsoft had sold 1.4 million copies of the operating system.

Laemmel said he did not have an update on sales since then.