Would you buy a TV from your local computer hardware shop? The
major computer companies are betting that you will. Microsoft has
been pushing hard to break Windows out of the PC box, with Smart
Phone editions, Pocket PC editions, and the much talked about Media Centre
edition. Of the whole bunch, the Media Centre edition is most likely to come
to a device near you. It is a version of Windows XP with software that makes
finding and using digital media simple. It drives the Media Centre PCs that aim
to take over the prime spot your TV currently occupies.
Digital technology pervades entertainment, and all of that digital content is
accessible to a PC. A PC provides the most flexible way to control and manage
content as well, so naturally it is increasingly the common touch point for that
content. This is where PC vendors smell opportunity. As always, the changes
are early to the US, and then flow out to the rest of us.
That the PC hardware industry has plummeted over the last couple of years is
no secret. While Dell and HP command large shares, both have poor profit
margins. High-value consumer electronics, on the other hand, is a growth area.
Would you buy an HP digital camera? How about a Dell MP3 player? They both
connect to a PC, so they could simply be accessories like a printer. Consumer
electronics companies are already selling you these devices, and barring Apple,
no PC manufacturer has managed the transition. Dell specialises in entering
markets and winning primarily on price wars.
Coincidentally, that is the core strength of the Asian 'unknown' brand manu-
facturers. The technology for VCD and MP3 players is quite commoditised,
with very little variation in the basics, so it may not be surprising that Chinese
and Taiwanese exports dominate the entry-level markets everywhere. In India,
these low-cost players simply own the VCD and MP3 player markets. Asian
manufacturers make the devices that are branded by the MNCs and sold world-
wide. Next up, are low-cost digital cameras from Taiwan that wil