Microsoft Corp. today announced that the first Windows Mobile™-based Portable Media Centers from Creative Labs Inc. will be available to the public tomorrow at Best Buy and Creative.com and in the coming weeks from Amazon.com Inc., CompUSA Inc., Fry’s Electronics, Good Guys Inc. and other electronics retailers nationwide. Portable Media Centers from Samsung Electronics and iRiver International will be available later this fall. Microsoft also solidified content sources for Portable Media Centers, with the first online offerings from MLB Advanced Media (MLB.com) and CinemaNow Inc., as well as support from four digital TV tuner card manufacturers and software company SnapStream Media Inc. These announcements give people an increasing range of choices for video content they can watch any time, any place.
Portable Media Centers are a new category of multimedia players that allow people to enjoy all the digital entertainment they store on their PC—recorded TV, music, movies and pictures—on one device. Portable Media Centers are one of three new digital entertainment products being introduced by Microsoft tomorrow, Sept. 2, including Windows Media® Player 10 and the MSN Music Service. Windows Media Player 10 lets consumers easily discover, play and transport digital media around the home, on the PC or onto portable devices. MSN will launch a preview release of its MSN Music service in the United States tomorrow, offering music fans access to more than 1 million tracks licensed from all five major labels and more than 3,000 independent labels. Tracks from MSN Music will be available for playback on Portable Media Centers in Windows Media Audio format.
“Portable Media Centers are vanguard devices that will change the way we think about digital entertainment on the go,” said Todd Warren, corporate vice president of the Devices, Services and eXperience Group at Microsoft. “Today we’re seeing just the tip of the iceberg in how content companies are envisioning a future where people can take their digital entertainment wherever they go—on vacation, while they commute, to the gym.”
Creative Zen Portable Media Center Retail Availability
The Creative Zen Portable Media Center will be available at retail for the first time tomorrow. Features of this Portable Media Center include the following:
—A 20GB hard drive model that will be sold for an ERP of U.S. $499
—A replaceable, rechargeable battery capable of seven hours of continuous video playback and 22 hours of continuous audio playback
—Storage capacity that allows up to 85 hours of video, 9,000 songs and tens of thousands of photos(1)
—A vivid, 3.8-inch, thin-film transistor (TFT) LCD screen
“Today, people can go to the store and buy the first Creative Zen Portable Media Centers, marking a turning point in handheld entertainment,” said Sim Wong Hoo, chief executive officer at Creative Technology Ltd., a subsidiary of Creative Labs. “These devices will let people not only enjoy their favorite music, but also recorded TV, video and photos—all on one small device. Creative is excited about the possibilities for this industry and this new technology.”
Online Content Available
Online movie site CinemaNow and Major League Baseball online source MLB.com also announced details of their services for Portable Media Center owners. Starting tomorrow, both companies will make content available in a format that is ready to be transferred to a Portable Media Center immediately upon downloading. Microsoft is working with several additional content companies to make a variety of digital entertainment available for consumers to download to their PCs; more details will be released in the coming months.
The MLB.com service will put subscribers in touch with their favorite baseball teams. Baseball footage available to watch on Portable Media Centers will include fans’ choice of any or all of the following daily game coverage:
—Full-game downloads. Full-game replays of Major League Baseball games
—Condensed games. All the action, in a fraction of the time! Complete game replays, minus the pitching changes, between-inning breaks or long at-bats; all the action of an MLB game in about 20 minutes
—Extended game highlights. Extended, hosted highlights package from any MLB game in a daily highlight reel
—Weekly bloopers and home-run reels. A specially produced weekly wrap-up of the best home runs and bloopers from around Major League Baseball
—The Leadoff Show. A hosted preview showcasing the best upcoming MLB player and team matchups
—Classic footage. Baseball’s greatest moments in full video and audio game rebroadcasts from classic MLB games
“Every day, millions of fans visit MLB.com to follow their favorite teams,” said George Kliavkoff, senior vice president of business development of MLB.com. “Starting today, fans can take baseball content with them on their Portable Media Centers, allowing them to watch the best plays and most exciting events in baseball when and where they want.”
CinemaNow will make up to 200 titles available for Portable Media Center playback at CinemaNow.com, with more to follow later in the fall and on an ongoing basis. The pricing will be $2.99 to $3.99 for a pay-per-view rental and $9.99 to $14.99 for download-to-own titles. Other features of the CinemaNow service include these:
—When a movie is rented or purchased for playback on a PC, the Portable Media Center version, if available, will also be available to rent or buy for only 99 cents.
—A page explains what Portable Media Centers are and how to use them to sync and watch movies.
—A special Portable Media channel is part of CinemaNow’s normal site navigation and will present all Portable Media Center content.
“One of the keys to furthering CinemaNow’s success is the ability to provide our users with portability and flexibility in their viewing experience,” said Bruce Eisen, executive vice president at CinemaNow. “With the added viewing scenarios away from the PC that Portable Media Centers offer, we expect even more interest from consumers in using their PC as an entertainment hub.”
On average, transfer from the PC to the Portable Media Center using Auto Sync, a new feature of Windows Media Player 10, will take less than 60 seconds for a 30-minute clip and less than three minutes for a two-hour movie. The content from these online services is protected by Windows Media Digital Rights Management (DRM) 10, the next generation of digital rights management technology from Microsoft that is enabling new scenarios for subscribing to and purchasing digital entertainment.
TV on the Go
In addition to online video suppliers making programs immediately available to transfer to the Portable Media Center, Windows® XP Media Center Edition PCs have a built-in personal video recorder (PVR) that lets consumers record TV directly through a television signal connected to the PC. The TV shows will appear in Windows Media Player 10 and can be transferred to the Portable Media Center using Auto Sync. Consumers who don’t have a Media Center PC can record TV directly onto a PC using a TV tuner card and third-party software.
The TV tuner card industry is supporting Portable Media Centers and video on the go. Anyone who has a compatible TV tuner card in their PC can record television directly on the PC and transfer it to their Portable Media Center. TV tuner card companies ATI Technologies Inc., Hauppauge Computer Works, NVIDIA Corp. and Pinnacle Systems Inc. have announced that their platforms will support Portable Media Centers with future software releases. SnapStream Media unveiled its Beyond TV 3.5, software that works with TV tuner cards to turn PCs into personal video recorders. Any Windows XP-based PC can support TV tuner cards and SnapStream technology to record TV content and transfer it to a Portable Media Center using Windows Media Player 10.
This fall, all these companies will make it possible for consumers to record TV content into a Windows Media Video format that is automatically ready to be transferred to a Portable Media Center, removing the need to transcode content for faster transfer from the PC to the device.
Portable Media Centers: A Complete Entertainment Package on the Go
Portable Media Centers are the result of integration within Microsoft and with hardware companies and the content industry. The 20GB Samsung YH-999 Portable Media Center will be available at retail later this fall and also will be sold for $499 (ERP). This fall, iRiver will release its 20GB and 40GB iRiver PMC-100 series, which is expected to range from $499 to $599 (ERP), respectively.