Recently, Microsoft has been taking on much more of a leadership role in the realm of computing, rather than just specifically in OSes. It wasn't too long ago that all we could expect from Microsoft was a new OS every handful of years, and maybe a new revision of their keyboards and mice. The past several years have seen dramatic changes at Microsoft; needless to say, the transition from just an OS company to a company that's driving new applications and usage models into the industry is now complete - the success of Microsoft's new role, however, has yet to be truly seen.

Some of Microsoft's endeavors have done quite well, while others have been met with mixed reviews. While the Pocket PC has taken off by storm, the Tablet PC is still not far from where it was when it was launched two years ago. With the release of Windows XP Media Center Edition, Microsoft began a clear effort to venture out of the offices and bedrooms and into the living room. Now with the Portable Media Center, Microsoft is making the living room Media Center proposition even more tempting.

When Microsoft's Portable Media Centers were first announced at CES, the immediate response was that Microsoft was finally taking on Apple's iPod. Everyone seemed to disregard the fact that Microsoft did not even in the slightest degree intend for the Portable Media Center to compete with the iPod. Instead, everyone viewed it as an iPod competitor that could play movies. The initial reaction to the devices was foreshadowing enough for what was bound to come.

All was quiet on the Portable Media Center front from the time it was announced until it was finally released on September 2nd, but even after the release, there was not much talk about the little devices. Today, we're bringing you our look on the new devices and will attempt to shed some light on these expensive little devices; if you've found yourself asking why you would ever use a Portable Media Center, this article will help answer that question.

What is a Portable Media Center?
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  • val - Monday, September 27, 2004 - link

    Pjotr: no you cannot use it as VCR, because you must anyway have it on computer available (TV, video out, not counting the quality,...) Reply
  • val - Monday, September 27, 2004 - link

    this is again some discovering of the wheel. Can anybody explain me what this single purpose device can offer me when i have e800 PDA (USB + VGA output)? Wouldnt be better to work on making PDAs yet more cheaper? I can play DivX, WMA, WMV, MP3, XviD and i have usefull computer and gaming console with screen ten times better than this one. HDD i have 1 GB (more than 5 movies in XVID) and i can connect USB HDD to it too. Maybe if price will compete with MD player or MP3 player and not be compareable to notebooks or top line PDAs Reply
  • Pjotr - Monday, September 27, 2004 - link

    Well, you can basically replace your VCR with one of these. It has scheduled recordings and you can view them on your TV instantly. Also, you don't need to manage cassettes, DVDs etc, only files on a HD. It is also a lot smaller than your typical VCR/DVD-recorder. Reply
  • icarus4586 - Monday, September 27, 2004 - link

    Portable video players seem to me to be of limited usefulness. Definitely would be handy for long trips, but otherwise it seems like the only function you'd use would be the audio player. And there are smaller, less expensive, more battery efficient music players. Reply
  • Pjotr - Monday, September 27, 2004 - link

    Oh, forgot, the AV400 also acts like a regular USB 2.0 hard disk, no special software needed to transfer files. Reply
  • Pjotr - Monday, September 27, 2004 - link

    Sorry, Anand, but you make it sound like Microsoft invented a new type of product. There is no mention at all of non-Windows portable media centers. Archos ( http://www.archos.com/ ) have had this kind of device available for almost a year now. Their second generation model (AV400) seems a lot more attractive than the Creative device: Video input for recording, longer battery life, remote control, docking cradle for easy hookup to your TV, online scheduling of recordings via Yahoo, support for various codecs including DivX. (BTW, why wouldn't you want support for varying codecs on a portable device?) Reply
  • Reflex - Monday, September 27, 2004 - link

    Windows Media Player 10 was not a 'choice' Microsoft made to get data to the devices. These devices, and virtually all future MP3 players, digital cameras, and other 'media' peripherals are now using a protocol known as 'MTP' which stands for Media Transport Protocol. It is an attempt to standardize the method of transmitting and recieving data to media devices of all types, so that you do not need to have a custom driver for every little doodad you plug into your PC.

    Furthermore, down the line it could allow devices to communicate with each other, and it makes it so that any MTP aware application should be able to sync and send/recieve data from any MTP compatible device, ending the days when you are stuck with a custom app that a company wrote for their particiliar device.

    Right now the only application that is MTP aware is WMP10, however that is to be expected since the protocol is brand new and was developed by Microsoft. However there is an API and any other application can become MTP aware and sync with such devices, and I am certain that Real, MusicMatch, and virtually everyone else is working on it right now.

    So my point is that while currently WMP10 is the only way to sync with such devices, this is not by design, its merely a byproduct of the introduction of MTP as the new standardized interface for portable devices. It won't be the case for long and is not a true drawback. Its also not exclusive to PMC's, as MP3 players and other devices are all going to soon be using this standard.
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  • Novaoblivion - Monday, September 27, 2004 - link

    Very interesting read as I was looking at this earlier. I might get one since I do have plenty of video content to take with me on vacation. However does anyone know if it has problems displaying languages other then english? A lot of things seem to display other languages as squares which I find really annoyying. Thanks! Reply

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