September 11, 2004 A new era could potentially begin this week with the release of the AUD $999 Creative Labs Zen Portable Media Center (PMC), a tiny device with a 3.8” colour LCD screen and 20GB hard drive that will play Windows Media Video, Windows Media Audio, MP3, JPEG, and TIFF files.
It will synch with any Windows XP computer, but if you've got a Windows Media Center PC, you'll be able to record and transfer TV shows for on-the-road consumption.
Handheld audio/video players (aka Personal Media Players - PMPs - or Personal Video Players - PVPs) is an emerging market segment of portable devices with colour screens and the ability to play multimedia content.
Such devices have been coming to market from lesser-known manufacturers over the last 12 months but have not become mainstream as yet, largely because only the very earliest of adopters have embraced the concept.
Most of the devices released to date in this category have greater functionality at a lesser price, but none of them have the name Microsoft behind them.
The release of the PMC will enormously contribute to the overall trend to digital content and hence content portability. The portable content market will emerge this year and we can expect to see many new products with a vast array of features, design and price and we can expect the coming Christams season to be a digital content Christmas.
This is a viable, low-cost device extending the functionality of an MP3 player to video, and it carries the name of Microsoft and Creative Labs, so we think this will make a significant impact on the public psyche.
With major technology retailer Harvey Norman purchasing the entire first shipment of Creative’s PMC in Australia, there’s certain to be a big promotional campaign to kick things off, and Microsoft has two other OEM partners for PMC devices who will bring their machines to market in the near future: iRiver and Samsung.
Packing the features of a Windows Media Center PC into a cool glossy black pocket-sized player, the Zen Portable Media Center transfers video, music or digital photos from the PC via an ultra-fast USB 2.0 connection.
In addition, the Auto Sync feature in Windows Media Player 10 provides seamless content synchronization with the PC. Digital photos can be played back in a slide show, complete with a soundtrack compiled from the music library.
Users can watch TV shows downloaded from any Microsoft XP-based PC with a TV tuner card, home movies transferred from the PC, or movies and other video content downloaded from the Internet.
To share music, movies or video with friends and family, the Zen Portable Media Center includes a built-in speaker and a TV-out jack with audio, in addition to a headphone jack for individual use. The Zen Portable Media Center also comes with a stylish protective case that doubles as an adjustable stand.
Simple, ergonomic front and top-mounted controls on the Zen Portable Media Center are configured like many popular handheld gaming devices, making it easy to find, enjoy and share pictures, music and video.
Four preset buttons located on top of the device, designed to operate like presets on a car stereo, can be programmed to jump directly to favorite movies, songs, playlists or pictures.
A conveniently located green front-mounted Windows Media Center button provides instant access to the ‘Start’ or ‘Now Playing’ screens for quickly finding, playing or returning to TV shows, pictures, music and videos. With support for both WMA and MP3 music, the Zen Portable Media Center offers broad compatibility with a wide range of popular music download services in Australia, including BigPond Music, NineMSN Music, Destra and MuleMusic online stores.
The new Zen Portable Media Center is available now (September, 2004) at AUD$999 inc GST, comes with a rechargeable, removable Li-Ion Polymer Battery, a stylish protective case that doubles as an adjustable stand, an AC adapter, USB 2.0 cable, high-quality earphones, and a TV-Out cable.
Optional accessories, including a docking station, spare battery, FM wired remote, and an IR remote, are available for purchase separately when they come available.
For more information, visit http://www.au.creative.com or the US site http://us.creative.com/products/product.asp?category=3&subcategory;=169&product;=9882 Some early reviews of the new unit can be found here and here. http://asia.cnet.com/reviews/portable_av/0,39033456,39074382p,00.htm