What is a Portable Media Center?

Much to Microsoft's intent, the name "Portable Media Center" is designed to draw a parallel between the new devices and Microsoft's recently released Windows XP Media Center Edition OS. The basic premise is that you have a PC at home that is, effectively, a "center of media" and a Portable Media Center allows you to take that media on the go with you.

The Portable Media Center (PMC) basically allows for the storage and playback of three major types of "media": Pictures, Music and Videos. The music aspect of it is very similar to an MP3 player, which is what garnered Microsoft all of the direct comparisons to Apple's iPod that their marketing team must have loved debunking. It is the pictures and video support that set the device apart from what the PC and consumer electronics industries have seen in the past, not to mention Microsoft's PMC interface.

The premise to the PMC is this - Microsoft provides the basic hardware specification and the OS for the Portable Media Center devices, while manufacturers such as Creative and Samsung will actually produce the devices. It's the closest thing that Microsoft's business model will let them get to being their own PC/hardware manufacturer.

The PMC itself is a hard drive-based device. Currently, all PMCs feature a 20GB hard drive, but there is constant talk about future 40GB models. The device also features a colored screen and a set of playback and navigation buttons for getting around the OS and actually viewing your media. The devices are all battery powered and currently only interface to Windows XP. Microsoft wasn't foolish enough to make the devices require MCE and they don't even work any better with MCE than they would with XP and any other PVR software. The PMC devices don't actually have their own special interface to XP either; all synchronization and content management occurs using Windows Media Player 10 - an unlisted system requirement for getting PMC to work properly.

Windows Media Player 10 is required in order to synchronize content with your Portable Media Center.

Index The PC-Link: Windows Media Player 10


View All Comments

  • Reflex - Thursday, September 30, 2004 - link


    Thats the announcement on MTP. Its an open standard and anyone can support it. Its NOT tied to Windows Media Player 10.
  • crepticdamion - Wednesday, September 29, 2004 - link

    Hello, it seems some people know more than AnandTech concerning this article.

    There are other MUCH better solutions that are not from Microsoft. I don't have anything against Microsoft (even had a lot of PocketPC generations and still have 2 PocketPCs) but when the Microsoft product is worse than the others, well I won't have it because is Microsoft. With me, the better product (overall) always wins.

    Put that apart, this PMC is completely so MUCH weaker than Archos AV400 product, that my heart screams with indignation regarding this article. The diference in Size, Weight, Performance, Capacity (AV480 has 80GB, while AV420 is 20GB as PMC), and what Archos does more is infinite. Microsft ALWAYS looses.

    I advise everyone that read this article to go search on Yahoo or Google for an Archos AV400 Review. Your mind will be boggled with its capacities and it is already available.

    Archos AV400 is several years ahead of everyone else in these products and they deserve it, they've been working on this for almost a decade.

    Good Hunting and always compare the alternatives.
  • Pjotr - Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - link

    #14, That's why the Archos is so much better. Reply
  • Wizkid - Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - link

    That hard drive is capable of 16MB/sec minimum. The rediculously slow transfer rate must be a software or implementation issue. Reply
  • mindless1 - Monday, September 27, 2004 - link

    Transcode the video?
    I think I'll wait for a non-crippled PM player.
  • ViRGE - Monday, September 27, 2004 - link

    At 320x240 and 10MB/min needed for the best video quality, it seems Microsoft is working way too hard here. Those specs are right around the sweet-spot for MPEG1 of all things, which is fast & easy to encode and decode, and at such a low resolution would return very similar results. Obviously MS is planning for the future here, and on that note, these devices will be much more notable once they start using full VGA screens instead of QVGA. Reply
  • michael2k - Monday, September 27, 2004 - link

    Hmm, I call.

    This thing can only do 2MB/s with USB2.0 on video transfer? And you blame the laptop drive for that?

    My laptop (PowerBook 400) can field 16MB/s, and my iPod 2G with it's PCMCIA sized drive can field 12MB/s.

    Of course they were both using the FireWire interface, and they were talking to other, faster, hard drives, but still...
  • Reflex - Monday, September 27, 2004 - link

    Pjotr - I have nothing against the Archos or anything, however no special software is needed for the Creative product. The only reason WMP10 needs to be installed is to add MTP support to Windows, but you are free from then on to use any MTP aware software to transfer data, or you can do so simply through explorer if you wish, its browseable through there(something Anandtech forgot to mention).

    Not saying anything bad about Archos, just pointing out that MTP devices are just as easy to transfer to and from.
  • val - Monday, September 27, 2004 - link

    9: yes but think about use case, i do not want to watch movies so often somewhere to buy such a device. PDA makes much more fun on long trips, holiday or waiting for the bus. And if i would watch them, i like to record them in full quality and than convert from PC. Reply
  • Pjotr - Monday, September 27, 2004 - link


    Maybe for the Windows PMC device, but not for Archos. Archos AV series are fully stand alone with video input for recording straight into MPEG-4 to the device HD for later playback to the video output. Read the product info on the link I posted above. There is no need to transfer movies from a computer, or record onto a computer, or covert into formats readable by the device.

    I think the Archos is light years ahead of the Windows version in practical applicability.

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