Microsoft Names, Delays Media2Go Platform

Microsoft this week quietly unveiled and delayed Windows Mobile software for Portable Media Centers, formerly codenamed "Media2Go," broadening its Media Center family beyond the desktop.

Portable Media Center ferries digital media content such as videos, music, television programming, pictures and photo stories off the desktop. Several OEMs have already partnered with Redmond to produce devices centered on the code.

Microsoft showed off early prototypes of its Media2Go platform at the Consumer Electronics Show last January. The company initially planned to launch Media2Go devices in time for the 2003 holiday season, but Microsoft now says Portable Media Centers will arrive in late 2004 - a year late.

Since its public preview, the product has blossomed into the latest workable implementation of Windows CE .NET. Windows Mobile software for Portable Media Centers is lashed together with features of Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition, which was recently refreshed for the holidays.

Early adopters of the technology include Tatung and AboCom Systems on the design side, while iRiver International, Samsung Electronics, SANYO and ViewSonic have agreed to manufacture the hardware.

Summing up the release, Scott Horn, director of marketing for the Embedded Devices Group at Microsoft said, "Just as Windows XP Media Center Edition set a whole new standard for enjoying entertainment on the PC, Portable Media Centers will do the same for portable devices. Digital media technologies are radically changing how, when and where people experience and share their entertainment."

With established devices such as Apple's iPod already nestled into the marketplace with their kinks worked out, Microsoft can only afford to get it right the first time.

"The delay could create an opportunity for Apple, which quickly is turning iPod into a mobile media platform. A recent upgrade added support for third-party microphones and card readers. Should Apple ever add a color screen to iPod, these same developers could extend the device's capabilities to video playback," Joe Wilcox, senior analyst for Jupiter Research, told BetaNews.

Adding to the fray, Dell has also recently unveiled plans for its own branded portable media device that will debut well before licensed Microsoft products hit the market.

Microsoft has yet to detail any expected pricing for devices running Windows Mobile software for Portable Media Centers.

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