Microsoft Announce Partners for Portable Media Centers (nee Media2Go)

Microsoft has been talking about portable devices for a while that would enable owners to watch videos, view photos, play music, labelling them as Media2Go.

This week they have announced not only a new official name, but two companies that will help them create designs. AboCom Systems Inc and Tatung Co. will be the original design manufacturers (ODMs) of the now re-christened Portable Media Centers.

These designs will then be passed on the manufacturers, who are already lining up to get involved. So far Creative, iRiver International, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., SANYO Electric Co. Ltd. and ViewSonic Corp have thrown their hats in to the ring – others are expected to follow.

Intel has had this type of device, labelled a Personal Video Player (PVP), in development for a long time ($100 ZVUE!.

We imagine that Microsoft will hope to win the consumer, via strong integration of these devices with their operating system and the content owners, by highlighting their Digital Rights Management (DRM).

Archos Video AV320 information

Buy Archos Video AV320 at Amazon US and UK

Dell Announce their iPod Rivals

Dell have just announced their competitor to the Apple iPod. It is initially launching two models, the Dell DJ 15 Digital Music Player ($249) and the DJ 20 ($299), with 15Gb (~3,700 songs) and 20Gb (~4,900 songs) of storage respectively.

Both of the models work as music players and portable storage devices, enabling users to load content on to them. They also have a built-in microphone, giving the ability to record conversations – this can only be achieved by using an add-on for the iPod.

The Dell offering certainly loses on looks, it looks at-best functional and the use moving buttons, as opposed to the iPod touch-sensitive controls, may contribute to reduced life. It is rumoured that the devices are made by Creative Labs and just badged Dell.

Dell have done a deal with the online music service MusicMatch to allow owner to electronically buy music and transfer it to the devices via USB 2.0. MusicMatch is not well regarded and it is therefore thought to be a major weakness ,when compared with the iPod/iTunes combination. Music from the service comes in DRM-protected WMA format, but the devices can also play MP3’s.

The iPod is often criticised for its battery life. The current version runs for about eight hours, but the Dell is reported to run for nearly twice that.

Without having had our hands on the Dell kit, our instant reaction is that the $100 saved by going for the Dell will not be sufficient to sway US purchasers from the iPod. For users outside the US, who don’t have the benefit of the iTunes service, the choice would be less clear.

Dell description of DJ range

Dell sales page

Apple Hit 1m Windows Downloads of iTunes in 3.5 Days

In only three and a half days since Apple released the Windows version of their iTunes software, over one million copies have been downloaded. In the same period, one million songs have also been purchased, halving the time it took to reach same level when the Apple only version was released back in April.

Although the headline figure of songs downloaded initially sounds very impressive, we would assume the million songs must include ones bought by the current Apple users as well (Apple UK weren’t able to clarify this as they didn’t have this breakdown, Apple US were unreachable) – working out at an average of under one song per Windows user. This shows that people have been downloading the Windows version of the software and possibly not purchasing songs. We think it is likely that this is due to them currently being unable to buy music, as they live outside the USA.

Apple iTunes

Microsoft OneNote to be installed on Toshiba tablet PC’s & laptops

A while back Microsoft started talking publicly about a new piece of software that they called OneNote. It is an interesting application that lets the user to take any of their text document, graphics, audio recordings, or in the case of tablet PC owner’s drawings/scribbles that they make during the day, and connect they together in a logical structure.

They are attempting to provide the user the flexibility of a paper notebook, the power of digital note taking and a powerful way of retrieving that information. It sound like it is an extension of the priciples of a brilliant piece of software that died with DOS, called Lotus Agenda. Agenda’s developer, Mitch Kapor is also working on an updated version of his masterpiece code named “Chandler”.

OneNote is going to be officially released at the same time as the new Microsoft Office suite, due on 21 October, 2003 and Microsoft have added meat to this deal by doing a deal with Toshiba to have it installed on every tablet PC or laptop that is shipped after the released date.

Link: Early review of OneNote beta

Microsoft Official OneNote site


ZVUE! $100 Personal Video Player Causes a Stir

At a price point that is sure to create interest, HandHeld Entertainment are going after the Christmas “tween” market with the $100 ZVUE! Player.

Long suspected to be vapourware, until it was actually seen in an interview. The device is based around Secure Digital/MultiMedia Cards and an ultra bright 2.5 inch full-colour screen (still TFT based, not OLED). About the size of an iPod, the ZVUE! will play full motion videos, MP3s and display digital images. The media cards are being branded as ZCARDS! and will be priced from $5.99 upwards, depending on capacity and content. The player has no inbuilt user memory and needs a media card to function.

Connectivity is provided via a USB1.1 socket and it features, a rather sociable, two headphone sockets. The battery life of around eight to ten hours is provided through standard AA batteries.

Nathan Schulhof, president and chief executive officer of HandHeld Entertainment said: “The ZVUE! has the right combination of features, price and content to make it the ultimate, ‘must-have’ and ‘must-give’ device for the 2003 Holiday Season.” The device certainly sounds interesting, but we’re worried about the proprietary format – though since Schulhof is credited as the inventor of the portable MP3 player, he may just know what he’s doing.

The ZVUE only plays files encoded in the proprietary HHe format – so you won’t be able to play just any old media files on it. This system will live or die based on the quality of the content available for it.

Retail content packages are to include cartoons, music videos and extreme sports.

HandHeld Entertainment

CNet PVP Roundup

Service to locate UK mobile phones

A new service has been launched in the UK to enable willing participant to have the position of their mobile phone tracked. mapAmobile is currently working on the Vodafone, O2, Orange and T-Mobile networks.

It works by monitoring the strength of signal from aerials and triangulating between them. They claim accuracy within 50 metres but this will vary depending on the density of aerial, so rural locations will be less accurate.

Priced as ~£30 for a year for one phone, there is a charge of 30p each time the service is used, which is slightly strange given they’re selling it as an alternative to texting or phoning the person. Registration is either online or a voucher can be bought at Carphone Warehouse.

On signup, the target-tracked phone is sent an SMS asking for approval to be tracked, as well as regular reminders. The location can be interograted either online, via SMS or telephone and will be given as ‘Fred is in the vicinity of Bow Street, London WC2’ together with the date, time and accuracy of the location. You will also have the option to see a map showing street names and points of interest.