Without question, the process of choosing a standard, pre-built PC or building one yourself has become almost trivial over the last few years. Given the caliber of hardware on the market, even with just a little bit of knowledge, it is difficult to purchase a system today which would not be suitable for nearly any standard application. Granted, there are certain constraints when choosing a system that will be specifically aimed at a given application. For example, when selecting a gaming PC consumers clearly must devote a great deal of attention towards processor speed and the graphics card. However, when talking about a home theater PC or a media server, there is a laundry list of considerations which must be made in order to ensure the system will be suitable for the applications at hand. Such a list of hardware criteria is daunting to say the least for the general consumer. To ease this pain, hardware and system vendors have created a number of different product categories and marketing campaigns in an effort to simplify the product selection process.
Although system vendors have made great strides over the last few years to push home theater specific products, they cannot help but miss certain portions of the market. Much like anything else, there are fans which are loyal to a specific brand and vehemently against any of that brand's competitors. As a result, even a system vendor as large as Dell would have trouble truly penetrating into this market, as there will always be consumers who either refuse, or choose to not go with that specific vendor. In order for the home theater PC to successfully segue into the living room, the marketing muscle will likely come from a hardware or software vendor and not a specific system vendor.
Despite somewhat limited success, Microsoft has certainly managed to generate quite a bit of momentum for this market with their efforts in launching the Media Center line of operating systems. By nesting multimedia functionality directly into the operating system, the company was able to ease the transition to a new user interface by keeping with the traditional Windows paradigm nearly all consumers are used to. Unfortunately, the software had to contend with some issues along the way and is ultimately at the mercy of the hardware it is tied to. Realizing how critical hardware would be for the success of Media Center and home theater PCs in general, both Intel and AMD have launched their own respective marketing campaigns to promote their platforms in this new relatively new market. With the arrival of Intel's VIIV and AMD's LIVE!, consumers are able to simply look for one of these "certifications". By having a particular branding, a system with either of these two logos is ensured to provide the multimedia capabilities and performance required by a home theater PC. In short, the long and arduous process of purchasing a home theater PC becomes much simpler.