Alienware Creates High-End, Dual CableCard Media Centers for the Channel
From the Alienware Web site: Alienware offers a highly competitive Hanger 18 reseller program designed to meet the needs of both small single install shops and large national resellers. If you are interested in joining this exciting new program please call 1-888-253-4355 ext. 3.”
We've been wondering for quite some time what Alienware would do in the Media Center department.
The notorious gaming PC developer was in and out of Media Center for a few years until it launched Hangar 18 last year. The product was the first one built on AMD's Live! Media Center platform, with 5.1 surround sound including amplification of 200 watts per channel. (For the history Alienware Media Centers, view the slide show.)
Wonder no more. The response to Alienware's Hangar 18 was "overwhelmingly positive," says Derek Kaminski, product manager for Alienware's Digital Home group.
He's not exaggerating. Alienware exhausted its supply of $1999 Hangars in a few days just selling over the Internet.
Soon, Alienware will offer CableCard support for the Hangar 18 through an external OCUR (OpenCable Unidirectional Receiver) box. Here's the hitch: OCUR will only be available through professional home technology installers/resellers. "We feel that OCUR is a solution that requires the expertise of a reseller and installer to perform an optimal customer experience, which does not warrant direct consumer sales of OCUR-equipped products," says Marc Diana, product manager for non-mobile products.
High-End Alienware with Dual OCUR
Shortly, Alienware will be delivering a higher-end Media Center product with CableCard capabilities and other premium features that are best sold through specialists.
The product has yet to be named but we know it will come standard with four swappable hard drive bays for up to 4 TB off storage. A Blu-ray option will be available, as well as an option for distributing audio to four separate zones.
Leaders in Media Center Coverage
Read more Media Center articles on CEPro.com and CEDIAnews.com.
"You could put it in a party mode where all rooms get the same audio," says Kaminski.
The high-end Media Center will accommodate two CableCards via internal receivers.
At CEDIA, Alienware is demonstrating product at the Lifeware house, but it isn't yet clear how Lifeware automation software might be incorporated into its high-end machine. The PC maker isn't sure if it will include some version of Lifeware on all of its channel-oriented products, but "we'll definitely have an option for Lifeware," Kaminski says.
What he is certain is that the Media Centers will be Lifeware-ready, indicating that they are optimized for digital entertainment, rather than for Word processing and Web surfing.
While many Media Center makers populate their machines with junkware that confounds the Media Center Experience, Alienware chucks all that stuff. "No way, that's not us," Kaminski says, drawing analogies to Alienware's high-performance gaming PCs.
Media Center Boot Camp
Learn more about CableCard and Media Center at theElectronic House Expo, Nov. 6-9, Long Beach, Calif.
"We really want the customer to stay in the Media Center environment," says Diana. For that reason, he says, Alienware's PCs will have extra features not found in run-of-the-mill Media Center PCs.
For example, Blu-ray discs can be accessed and controlled from within Media Center. Typically, users have to exit Media Center to launch Blu-ray from the PC desktop. Similarly, Alienware "most likely will integrate iPod collections" into the Media Center's music library, says Diana. "Other Media Centers won't import iTunes songs. We will have an add-on to view iTunes in Media Center. We really want the customer to be in Media Center 99 percent of the time."
Pricing for the high-end products have not been established, but "we will be very competitive with some of the mainstream guys out there," Diana says.
Channel Selling Breaks Alienware Mold
Selling through specialty channels seems to break the Alienware mold (not to mention that of its parent company Dell).
The PC maker built its empire on direct sales to avid gamers.
But Diana says Alienware has done a lot of reseller business "behind closed doors," for example to government agencies. "It hasn't been too public," he says. "We have people on board that are very knowledgeable in that area."
Alienware is gearing up for the practice of selling only to qualified dealers, and the company is not discriminating. "We will sell all the way from distributors to mom and pops," says Diana. The only exclusions, for now at least, are big-box retailers.
"We could try to finagle something with the big boxes," says Diana, "but we really want to make a push in the reseller market."
Alienware will have reps at its booth, "ready to take reseller order," he adds.
First, Alienware will have to learn the lingo. What it calls a "reseller" is what we in the custom electronics business call an integrator, specialty retailer, distributor or, in a word, the channel.