ViewSonic Inc. is hoping Canadian VARs will be as enthusiastic about its new digital home entertainment products as a select group in Alberta that got to see them in the summer.

“We had a sneak preview of the products in Calgary at the CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association)

show in Calgary,” said Colleen Browne, general manager of ViewSonic Canada.

“They fell in love with it. They couldn’t wait to get their hands on it.”

However, association members – who design home theatres – as well as traditional PC resellers will have to wait until November, when the units are released.

The new Linux-powered devices include two of what ViewSonic calls media gateways, 802.11g wireless router-storage combos with print server capabilities. The WMG80 has an 80GB hard drive, while the WMG120 has a 120GB drive.

Also coming out is the WMA100 wireless media adapter. When connected to a display it detects and scales transmitted video content to the screen. It includes DVI, composite-video, component-video S-Video and VGA outputs as well as analog and coaxial audio output with Dolby 5.1 pass through.

It has a one-touch autosync setup that finds networks and then detects photos, music and video files stored in a PC’s folders.

While the WMA100 will be available separately for a list price of $399, it will also be bundled with the gateways in packages costing $939 and $1,069.

They’ll be available through Ingram Micro Canada, Tech Data Canada and Synnex Canada to traditional and home entertainment resellers.

“This compliments our digital display strategy,” said Todd Greenberg, the company’s director of product management for wireless.

“As we put more effort into our large screen displays we’re looking for more sources of quality digital content.”

However, the gateways reflect a switch in company strategy. It’s first product in this area was designed around a Windows XP Media Centre-powered PC. Now ViewSonic wants to be “less PC-centric,” he said.

Once content is moved from a computer to the gateway’s hard drive there’s no need for PC, Greenberg explained.

“The PC is not necessary, and as more content is on the Internet we’ll be able, as part of our long-term strategy, to download content directly from the Internet through these devices. As digital convergence happens everyone’s going to move away from the PC.”

It isn’t clear yet who is buying digital entertainment systems in Canada, nor how many PC resellers, ViewSonic’s traditional outlets, are moving into this market.

“Early adopters will gravitate to this product at this time,” said Browne.

But she also said there is no Canadian research measuring potential demand for the products.

“However,” he added, “there is an absolute growth in home entertainment displays, and that’s our primary market.”

She refused to predict sales for the new products for their first 12 months.

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