Sub-$200 Portable Video Device in 2006

With all the rumors surrounding a possible video-enabled iPod launch this week, at least one company is taking advantage of the heightened attention on portable media center devices.

San Francisco-based Handheld Entertainment announced on Monday plans to offer a PlaysForSure compatible portable media player next year, but remained mum on exact details of the player itself.

The company expects to be the first to offer a PlaysForSure device for less than $200 USD, a key price point for many consumers in the portable media device market.

The unit, dubbed ZVUE, would carry a retail price of between $149 and $199 USD, and will be unveiled at CES 2006, BetaNews has learned. Handheld already sells another device of the same name at select Wal-Mart locations and Discovery Channel stores for a price of $99 USD, however it only plays MPEG video files.

"Since price is still a concern for most young consumers, you can be sure that when the next generation ZVUE hits store shelves, it will still cost a lot less than any potential video-iPod," said Jeff Oscodar, president and CEO of Handheld Entertainment.

The company declined to provide any clue as to the success of the original unit, saying as a private company it does not announce quarterly sales. However, the original unit received positive reviews from several media outlets.

One of the drawbacks of the original ZVUE was that it had no internal storage, and used a SD/MMC card to store media. Handheld said the new device would have the card slot as well as an internal disk drive or flash memory for storage, but declined to specify capacity.

Russell Page, spokesperson for Handheld Entertainment, told BetaNews that while price was the key feature of the unit, the company would be adding features likely not in the rumored "vPod."

"Apple is known for charging a premium on their products and making consumers pay for it," he said. "We have some additional features in store that I can't discuss quite yet, but they are likely to make Apple turn its head."

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