Death Knell Rings for Portable Media Center
Unbeknownst to many, Microsoft put the nails in its Portable Media Center coffin last year, telling licensees it would no longer develop the platform, opting instead to focus on Windows Mobile. The final word came in a public newsgroup posting Friday.
"With the re-investment of resources in media experiences on connected Windows Mobile powered devices, Portable Media Center 2.0 is the last version of our Portable Media Center software under the Windows Mobile brand. We do not plan any future Portable Media Center software upgrades or marketing activities," wrote Microsoft's David Bono.
Portable Media Centers first made an appearance in early 2003 under the name Media2Go. Although a number of devices and partners were shown off at the time, the platform was plagued with delays and the first PMC devices failed to hit the market until late 2004.
The idea behind the wordy "Windows Mobile software for Portable Media Centers" was to bring the Media Center experience from Windows XP to handheld devices. But low battery life and bulky form factors turned off consumers, and price tags topping $500 failed to help the effort.
In addition, more media-capable smart phones and smaller laptops drew most consumer interest - although that hasn't stopped Microsoft and Intel from pushing the new Ultra Mobile PC form factor, which is struggling to take off in the marketplace.
Microsoft did release a second revision of the PMC software in early 2006, which brought about a new user interface and enabled manufacturers to build smaller and less expensive devices. However, the platform's future was thrown into question following news that Microsoft would build its own portable media player, Zune, on a completely different platform.
"As a former supervisor who often mixed metaphors might say, the non-PlaysForSure OEM-hating Zune really 'threw a fork into the wrench,'" remarked digital media guru and Sling Media product manager Dave Zatz. "Microsoft’s PMC interface and functionality were decent, so hopefully we’ll see the evolution of this technology bundled into Windows Mobile 7."
Microsoft has yet to detail its media plans for the next major upgrade to Windows Mobile -- version 6 is expected to hit handsets this spring -- but customers have complained audio and video features are substandard on the platform. Apple is hoping to take advantage of this shortcoming with the iPhone, due at the end of June.