New Portable Video/Audio Player

Joining the mix a bit on the late side, Creative is finally releasing a portable video player called the Zen Portable Media Center. The device supports hard-drives from 20 gigs on up (probably up to 60 gigs on release) and is designed specifically to work with Window’s Media Center computers — much to its detriment. While the device does play audio files in the WMA or MP3 formats, video is limited to Windows Media video. No DivX or other video formats are listed as supported, though this may be a ruse to imply (as Microsoft often does) that all video codecs are really Microsoft codecs if they play on a Microsoft player. Price on the device is expected to start around $400, probably for release in Q2.

If you’re wondering what that smell is, it’s the smell of the 800 pound gorilla sitting in the corner picking its butt, while scheming to get a jump on Apple’s iTunes by setting up the video equivalent. Microsoft is almost certainly setting up a system for users to download individual television shows as well as on-demand videos for playing once or multiple times on a single Microsoft device, either desktop, X-Box or one of these portable video players. I’d like to say that the proprietary approach isn’t going to work in this case because consumers are far too savvy to ever buy something so locked to one media format, but that’s only StreetTech consumers that are so savvy. Most of the rest of the world will either volunteer or be forced to dance with this gorilla, and then we’ll never get rid of him ….