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Portables Microsoft Hardware

What A Portable Media Center Might Look Like 143

An anonymous reader writes "From the Redmond's answer to iPOD dept... While wandering the exhibitor aisles at Embedded DevCon, we were drawn to this slick looking reference design board in the Freescale (formerly Motorola Semiconductor) booth. The Portable Media Player Reference Design, a.k.a. "Jazz", is based on a Freescale i.MX21 embedded processor, runs Windows CE, and is compliant with Microsoft's Portable Media Center (PMC) standard. PMCs, Microsoft's answer to the iPOD, will initially support digital music and videos, digitally recorded television shows, and digital photos."
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What A Portable Media Center Might Look Like

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  • Not an iPod killer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by StraightTalkExpress ( 792144 ) <straightalkexpress AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday July 01, 2004 @05:16PM (#9586155)
    There are several reasons this is not an iPod killer per se. Mostly because it does not beat the iPod in any of the areas in which the iPod excels: being a very small, very light, fairly durable, tightly enclosed music device with good battery life and a nice interface. MS's stuff is going to be necessarily larger, necesarily heavier, necesarily more precarious unless they ruggedize the HELL out of those LCDs and reinforce the plastic grating over the speaker. Battery life will probably be about the same as a portable DVD player, and if the interface is anything like Pocket Media Player, it's got NOTHING on the iPod.

    In short: this looks like it has exactly the same features and price point as the device I traded in for my iPod, a Toshiba PocketPC. And just like the PocketPC, it'll have limited appeal which becomes even MORE limited when Joe Q. Fancydevice realizes how hard it is to get first run movies onto it...i mean, how fast can the processor be in these things and still keep battery life?

    Still, competition is good for the industry. The market pressure will force Apple to make iTunes even better (and there's room for that). But I don't think they have too much to worry about...a bigass laptop wannabe is NOT in the same league as a tiny little music device.
    • by Timesprout ( 579035 ) on Thursday July 01, 2004 @05:18PM (#9586179)
      I dont think this is designed to complete with the iPod at all. Looks like they are trying to create a whole new device market here.
      • by ivan256 ( 17499 ) *
        That's funny. Looks to me like they're trying to bulid competition for the Playstation portable. Seems like an ages old market...
        • Im thinking you're alot clser to the mark than the parent. Although to be truthfull, PSP isnt out yet, and the market for this device hasnt really been defined yet (for the media aspects anyway, im not sure if this windows thing will have console-esque gamers) so theres still alot of freedom there. Looks to me like the perfect type of thing to take on long bus/train/plane rides.
    • by 0racle ( 667029 ) on Thursday July 01, 2004 @05:20PM (#9586206)
      Why would a media player from MS be "necessarily larger, necessarily heavier, necessarily more precarious." All you'd have to do is buy a iPod and look at it and you'd have an idea what has to be done. The iPod was cool, but its not like you have to be a rocket scientist to understand it.
    • by kevlar ( 13509 ) on Thursday July 01, 2004 @05:27PM (#9586266)
      This isn't supposed to compete with the iPod. The LCD screen alone is the size of a PocketPC screen, but has incredible resolution, so much to the point where you look at it and you FEEL like you're looking at a much larger high-res screen. (I am speaking from personal experience).

      Yes it plays MP3's, VCD's, etc etc and uses hard drives for storage (they might have a CF version, I don't recall), but its definately not an iPod competitor based on its dimensions alone. It is still _VERY_ cool, and I wonder if their intention is to turn this into some sort of Game Boy Advanced device a-la XBox Embedded or something to that effect. That would be pretty cool....
    • by pherris ( 314792 )
      There are several reasons this is not an iPod killer per se.

      I'll bet that Apple already has an answer to that thing anyways. Somewhere deep in their R&D department has to been an iPod with a color screen that plays Quicktime video files. It wouldn't surprise me if Jobs hasn't already started talking to video production companies asking them for the rights to distribute their shows. Want a copy of Frontline, Simpsons or "Good Eats"? It will cost you a $.99 for a 30 day copy. Remember, DRM can be adde

    • good battery life

      You're kidding, right?
  • Not widescreen (Score:4, Interesting)

    by YetAnotherName ( 168064 ) on Thursday July 01, 2004 @05:17PM (#9586165) Homepage
    Nice looking board, no doubt about it, but to really make a splash they ought've made it 16:9 instead of 4:3. Just like the old car commercial says, "Wider is better."
  • starts with an 'i' and is about the size of a 'note'book. Highly portable, 4 hour battery life, runs OS X, and can even interface with the Internet and an iPod! Screw Microsoft. What more could you want out of a PMC?
  • Ogg support anyone? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by John the Kiwi ( 653757 ) < minus cat> on Thursday July 01, 2004 @05:19PM (#9586192) Homepage
    Anyone know if this will support Ogg? I'm still regretting putting my whole music collection into OGG format. IRiver is still a little expensive for me.
  • Video Screens (Score:4, Insightful)

    by blankinthefill ( 665181 ) <blachanc@gmail.cDALIom minus painter> on Thursday July 01, 2004 @05:21PM (#9586213) Journal
    Until the size, weight, and power consumption of screens that display video and photos are both reduced, and show an increase in quality, I don't believe that a device such as this will win out over the Ipod. It will be either too bulky, or it's screen will be too small for any real use, or the batteries won't last an acceptable amount of time, or a million other problems. Sometimes it's better just to do one thing, and do it well, than to try to do many things, and do all poorly.
  • "feature" (Score:5, Funny)

    by dirtmerchant ( 162306 ) on Thursday July 01, 2004 @05:22PM (#9586225) Homepage
    The reason for the largish size:

    When the weight of the stack of EULAs equals that of the product, Microsoft releases.
    • speaking of size... What are the dimensions on this thing? For all we know it's about 2ft X 4ft (or .6096m x 1.2192m for the metric among us (they're everywhere!))
  • by bairy ( 755347 ) * on Thursday July 01, 2004 @05:23PM (#9586229) Homepage
    Real-time, pre-emptive multi-tasking kernel

    What the hell is pre-emptive in this case.. it does something before you tell it to? That's not so much clever as scary

    Also, "Real-time".. er, isn't it supposed to be realtime? Would be a tad annoying if it did it 5 mins after (aka Windows ME)

    Lastly, just cos everyone else has and I want a go...:
    Yes, but does it run linux?

    • What the hell is pre-emptive in this case.. it does something before you tell it to?

      How about a pre-emptive DRM that works in real time? It pre-empts you from doing something before you do it.
    • Re:Pre-emptive?? (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      To answer your question, read this [] In a nutshell, pre-emptive multitasking is where the OS decides how much processor time programs have to complete their work, in contrast to co-operative multitasking where a program has to relinquish the use of the processor.
      • Ahh. Now I see where it got the name, thanks.

        I wonder how much processor time is given to deciding how much processor time should be given to each process? (note: this is a joke, not a serious question)

    • I'm fairly sure pre-emptive in this context means that the kernel is capable of pre-empting certain tasks in order to maintain the proper performance level for more important commands.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 01, 2004 @05:24PM (#9586236)

    Before everyone gets in an uproar over the word 'Microsoft', remember that this device simply follows the standard Microsoft created.

    It's based on an ARM processor, so should this device ever take off, the ARM Linux port could easily be customized to take advantage of all the features.

    This could also be used as a MP3/video player for your living room stereo and TV, connected to the server via the built in ethernet.

    Also, if you look carefully at this larger view [], notice the device could make a really cool portable gaming device. Imagine running MAME on this...

    Of course, if Linux were loaded on the device we would not need to worry about silly things such as DRM (included in the Microsoft specification.)

    • It's based on an ARM processor, so should this device ever take off, the ARM Linux port could easily be customized to take advantage of all the features.

      And at least some of the onboard devices will also be supported in Linux. A port of the i.MX21 ADS board is in the works, which has a fair amount of overlap with the Jazz board.

  • by csirac ( 574795 ) on Thursday July 01, 2004 @05:25PM (#9586248)
    I had a bitter experience with Motorola's 9S12DP 1K79X defects (SCI interrupts, PLL registers, BDM bugs, CAN freakiness, etc).

    Does anyone know what the roadmap is for their 16bit MCU lines? Perhaps I should be using Renesas or go 8bit AVR...
  • by GillBates0 ( 664202 ) on Thursday July 01, 2004 @05:25PM (#9586252) Homepage Journal
    From the screenshot []:
    My Music
    My Movies
    My TV Shows
    My Pictures

    They forgot to include :
    My MPAA lawsuits
    My RIAA lawsuits
    My upcoming jail terms
    DirectPay (TM) money transfer

    It's about time somebody came up with a Personal Lawsuit Origanizer.

    • It's about time somebody came up with a Personal Lawsuit Origanizer.
      Nah, then the lawyers would sue for interference with their business model....
    • Hey I NEED those folders. Back when those folders didn't exist, I would just randomly throw music anywhere. I had 302 mp3's on my desktop at one time. Thank god microsoft stepped in with this innovation.

      And Settings? Who needs to adjust settings? What are you? Some terrorist trying to run "linux"?
      • I used to keep things directories like C:\downloads or C:\pictures.

        I've finally given up and moved those directories into My Documents since all the dialogs keep resetting to look under My Documents first.

        I suppose the real problem is a lack of symbolic links.
        • I've finally given up and moved those directories into My Documents since all the dialogs keep resetting to look under My Documents first.

          God, that's annoying!!! I suppose there must be a registry hack for this, but I haven't really bothered to look for it. I simply gave up and now use My Documents, as well.
          • If you want to change where your mydocs folder points to (a network share, or just a shorter folder path), just right-click on it and pick properties, and its staring you in the face.

            If you want to actually customize the places bar, download the tweakui [] powertoy [], and go to "common dialogs"->"places bar", and enter your own folders. (if you don't want to download anything, just add Place0, ... PlaceN entries under HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Pol icies\comdlg32\PlacesBar)
            • If you want to change where your mydocs folder points to (a network share, or just a shorter folder path), just right-click on it and pick properties, and its staring you in the face.

              Except that it's amazing how many applications break or fail to install if "My Documents" isn't on the C: in the standard location. (I used to point MyDocs at a server share point so that all of the PCs that I use had a common MyDoc folder.)
  • It needs a better name. One that characterizes its functionality, and portability.

    Let me be the first to suggest "omni-pr0n-sent."

  • More of a PVR (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jzilla ( 256016 )
    Well unlike an ipod it plays video as well and audio. I personally can't wait until these type of devices become affordable to people like me. My personal favorite of this type is the Archos 400 [] which can also record video as well.
    • Question is, do I want to watch videos on a 2-4" screen?. If you say, I can connect it to a big tv, I can do the same with my dvd player, kind of defeats the whole purpose, doesnt it.

      Once a small video player comes with an equivalent to headphones for sound (goggles?), it may be practical. Im not holding my breath!

      • If you download lots of media, you can carry it around and show your friends. Also you can connect it to your friends tv in a snap. Yeah you could burn it to a dvd and use a dvd player, but that requires rencoding with a motly collection of software and a lot of cpu time. These things are better than dvds because they can play a wide variety of formats (which are upgradable), plus they are portable.
      • What if you are busy but like to watch certain TV shows? This would allow you to watch yor stuff during your commute, if you commute by train/bus/some_kind_of_public_transportation, that is. No?
        • Little bit of a niche market there. I'd say it appeals more to the 18-35 still living at home guys who need a portable device for all their pr0n viewing needs. In other words, the /. crowd.

          Come on, can't you nerds take a joke? :-P
  • Not impressed (Score:4, Insightful)

    by A. Pizmo Clam ( 779689 ) <<apismo_clam> <at> <>> on Thursday July 01, 2004 @05:28PM (#9586285) Homepage
    It seems to me that this has got to be an all time low point for announcements of innovation in consumer electronics. Why? Maybe its because of the down turn in the tech-market means new products are not being developed. Another possibility is that microsoft's moves into hardware production(x box,phones) and Hardware specification (palladium, watches, media player, smartScreens) is having a chilling effect on the electronics industry. Recently they (allegedly) tried bankrupt a phone maker and move his technology to a competitor. Shades of Stacker and all the other software companies microsoft co-opted, ruined then bought their technology.

    There is little doubt that MS stifled innovation in software. Just the fact that jobs could tweak an open source project to tripple the speed of a web browser over IE, when IE has had a clear field to innovate for five years or more, speaks volumes about the MS innovation stifle field. How could apple even dream they could technologically beat MS in the Power point market, but they did.

    Does anyone else find these MS offerings utterly tepid compared to Apple innovation the day before?

    M$ gates announces a recylced idea for a portable that shows sport scores, headlines, and plays RIAA/MPAA approved media. The debut the smartScreen, a 1500$ screen-only that hooks to your compute by wi-fi but cant play movies or mp3s, then they announce that anyone who already bought was is out of luck since that they will be changing the specs to use 802.11a to get better bandwidth for movies. then an oversized so-called "video" ipod that also cant show DVD movies, for more bucks than a ipod.

    The only thing I thought was interesting was that they decided to switch to 802.11a for the smartScreens and not 802.11g. I dont know much about these standards except what Jobs said. 802.11a is dead, because it is not backwards compatible with 802.11b hotspots whereas 802.11g is.

    How is it possible that one company can lead the entire market year after year going back all the way to the taming of dynamic memory. While the other company can lead the bussiness world and innovate nothing.
    • The last sentence of your post:

      How is it possible that one company can lead the entire market year after year going back all the way to the taming of dynamic memory. While the other company can lead the bussiness world and innovate nothing.

      Caused a funny paraphrasing to pop into my head...

      "If Apple did not exist, it would be nessecary for Microsoft to create them"

      (apologies to Voltaire)
    • "Does anyone else find these MS offerings utterly tepid compared to Apple innovation the day before?"

      Usually when I do, it's not because the product sounds stupid, it's because of my attitude about Microsoft. It's hard to give them the benefit of the doubt.
  • If they can get good battery life and video quality, they can sell on the digital video part

    Or maybe, just think, Jerry Springer on the run?

    Maybe they can make it interface with camera phones, and store them and stuff on a bigger screen than a phone
  • Pocket PC (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mschoolbus ( 627182 ) <> on Thursday July 01, 2004 @05:30PM (#9586300)
    My Pocket PC can play video and audio files, play emulated NES games, browse the web, and a whole lot more...

    You need to re-encode your mpegs or avis to a PPC friendly bitrate, but its not that tough.
    • My laptop does all that and more, but it's also a lot more expensive than these things plan to be...

    • My PocketPC plays Divx and Xvid encoded video files at full FPS on its 640x480 screen. (shrug) There are enough VGA PocketPC devices out there at this point, and PocketPC 2003se looks very nice at that res.
  • Right approach (Score:5, Insightful)

    by coolsva ( 786215 ) on Thursday July 01, 2004 @05:30PM (#9586305)
    iPod isn't popular because it can do a lot, rather, because it is simple to use and very limited in what it can do. But what I can do, it does it very well. I don't need 3 rocking buttons, 5 regular silver buttons, one jog dial having a zillion functions to play my music.
    Walkman, before this, was popular not because it offered equalizer (it didnt), radio (initially, it didnt), multiple headphone jacks etc. It was popular because it was simple.

    If you want to make a iPod killer, make a device that is simple to use, good 'OS' (that has AI like remember my favorites and gives them priority in random mode), practical capacity (not insane sizes like 40GB, who has or wants 10,000 songs on their palm?).

    Oh, it also has to look cool and not be a commodity. And, did I say, no DRM?

    • Re:Right approach (Score:2, Insightful)

      by stratjakt ( 596332 )
      Why's everything need to be an "iPod killer"?

      I don't want an "iPod killer". To me, iPod was stillborn. I can get an mp3 cd player for 20 bucks with all the simplicity you crave, and capacity I need.

      A portable audio/video media player is a wholly new market, and something I may actually be interested in. It's "something I don't already have", as opposed to "something that does exactly what the thing you already have does, but just a bit different, and for 15x the price".

      The potential hackability of thi
      • The iPod actually did have some advantages over an MP3 CD player... Not the least of which was that it was a 20 GB FireWire hard drive in the palm of your hand. For me, it was always rather incidental that it played music.

        But, I think I agree with you that personal, portable media players will become an important mainstream piece of technology. Everything I've seen so far is trying to be an iPod. That's just silly. Nobody wants to hold Battlestar galactica at arm's length. Its a PITA. I think Head M
    • this seems like a side story to the PALM vs PocketPC.

      In the begining, one offered stability and simplicity, and the other features and integration.

      At very first, the features and integration is not reliable, expensive and bulky. But as technology improves, price drops, and becoming more and more reliable: useres are willing to adop these extra benefits for a small premium. The leader of the race is soon getting caugthup by the the bulky and slow turtle.

      however, unlike the PDA war, raging in both the busi
  • You know that they'd have to cross the thing with a Cell Phone. In theory, a device that I can carry around 4-5 movies, 20-30 hours of music, and huge amounts of pdf, html, and docs would be great. The down side, it will be nearly output only and battery life will be short. I don't think a full Windows platform should be needed for this too work. I think that the electronics folks could most of it in hardware.

    My thing is some one needs to get personnal mobile input down and quick. Entering any data on a c
  • That's what it's meant to cost [], isn't it?!

    By the way, for the funky Apple capitalization impaired, it's:

    iPod, iTunes, and iMac.

    Not iPOD, Ipod, or IPod.

  • ... Features are gr8 but look at the MMC card in the pics, this thing is HUGE. saying that maybe they could quite easily just shrink all the circuitary? isn't the iPod basically the size of the HDD inside it?
    • Re:OK... (Score:1, Troll)

      by Anonym1ty ( 534715 )
      isn't the iPod basically the size of the HDD inside it?

      Um think about what you just said. If the iPod were the size of the hard drive in it, the hard drive would have to be on the outside. The iPod is nearly as small as the hard drive, not the same size.

  • by CygnusXII ( 324675 ) on Thursday July 01, 2004 @05:40PM (#9586396)
    You think, they would do some additional market research to possible, names. JAZZ, is so closely associated with iOmegas' Jazz Drive, and their infamy is well, known. I wouldn't want to be even remotely associated to that company.

    Some kind of Name a little more media savy or Market Targetable.
    • Huh? This is a reference platform, not a consumer level product. The only people interested in this are the ones who will use it to develop said consumer products, and they know what it is. You could call it a VIC-20 if you want.

      At any rate, when IOMega's Jaz drive (only one z) came out, I immediately thought of the "Jazz 16" soundblaster clone I had in my computer at the time. My sound card was robust and stable and never gave me any problems.

    • The first thing I thought about was Lotus Jazz, especially with the Moto angle.
  • Sony U50 / U70 ? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Tensor ( 102132 ) on Thursday July 01, 2004 @05:41PM (#9586400)
    This functionality exists in these two devices. They are small, portable (0.5 kg) with a decent battery life (2.5~3hrs watching divx) have MStick and CF interfaces, USB 2.0 and touch screen, 256 (u50) or 512 (u70).

    True they are expensive at USD 1,500 and USD 1,700

    But they are a full-blown computer with a Celery M 900 o Centrino 1Ghz.

    I'd rather buy one of these.
  • While obviously it's hard to get excited about a screen and a bit of green circuit board, I still came away from that thinking "Why? When I could just get a PSP..."

    It's going to play movies, it will handle music, and it can play PS2 quality games (on a 16:9 screen), the only downside is it has no hard drive, but the UMD discs have a decent enough capacity for my portable media needs, and besides it looks sexy as hell!
    • The PSP is being marketed as a multimedia device anyways. I don't see how anyone can get all excited over this mock up board and not already know about the PSP which will be out early next year. As far as no hard drive, dont count that out - Sony is planning on releasing many add-ons and types of the PSP for various needs. It does also have the mini discs as well for movies and such that will start coming bundled with Sonys DVD movies. I am unsure if there will ever be writers for this for the public, but i
  • by zeitgeist_chaser ( 607006 ) on Thursday July 01, 2004 @05:47PM (#9586462)

    Does it come with a magnifying lens so I can see what's happening when I play my TV shows and videos? Maybe it's just me, but I find that any video screen smaller than about 10" is completely unwatchable. To make matters worse, mobile video is even more difficult to see on the go because of the variations in ambient light intensity and the jostling motion of walking/commuting/etc.

    These mini-video players look like a poor solution to a non-problem.

  • Name problems? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Doomrat ( 615771 )
    Jazz [] is also a MIDI sequencer. Naming issues?
  • Old news (Score:1, Redundant)

    This entire article should be modded -1, redundant. Several Portable Media Center devices were shown months ago, e.g. Creative [] and Samsung [].
  • I am tired of using "ported" version on any portable device, cant we just make them windows device, (well, linux fans can install linux) and make it portable?
  • by skermit ( 451840 ) on Thursday July 01, 2004 @06:10PM (#9586678) Homepage
    MEC Station Deluxe []

    6.5" 16:9 Aspect Ratio Screen
    20gb, 40gb, 80gb, flavors ($599, $699, $799)
    Compact flash support (so you can dump pics from a digicam card STRAIGHT onto the MEC, i.e. if you're on a vacation and need a lot of pic space but only have one card)
    ~4.5 hour battery life

    and for the supported media formats...

    MPG-1, MPG-2, MPG-4 (DiVX, XViD, RM), JPG, GIF, BMP, WAV, MP3

    and in the future...

    TXT, OGG

    Plus it runs embedded linux variant (not sure which one).

    I have one, and it's out NOW. []
    It rocks. It rocks...
  • If the Sony PSP lives up to the hype. It will be able to play movies and a whole lot more.

    I don't think any company apple, dell, M$ has ever come close to the success Sony has had with handheld devices. All the way back from the walkman in the 80s. Sony dominated.

  • Steve once said that there wouldnt be a video ipod because video is too compliucated and he wanted a simple user experiance, but what if he does the same thing he did with online music, a downloadable music service. there are already others so its feasably, and apple seems to have a strong relationships with ip powerhouses. also, if you look on the tiger preview for the looking glass preview, when steve searches for pixar, it looks like he has movies, not onyl trailers, I'm probably wrong about that I ddi
  • ... when something like iTunes for video becomes available. I have some extra $$$ in my pocket, and I've been eyeballing the Archos Jukebox thingamabob. Unfortunately, I'm having real serious trouble thinking of a good way to get content to it. My ReplayTV might be the answer, but .. well it's hooked up to my TV! Heh.

    • This will be great when something like iTunes for video becomes available.

      "iTunes for Video" has been available for many years and it's called Media Center []. Version 10 these days. Plays well with ArchosAV [] and ReplayTV []. You can even get an iTunes/iPod maxi/mini skin to make you feel right at home...
      • Does Media Center have a service where I can buy content? That's what I was referring to.

        Anyway, not trying to shoot you down here, I'm very glad you pointed these out. I appreciate it. :)
        • Does Media Center have a service where I can buy content?

          Good point, Apple blurred the difference between packaged software and rented software (music) quite well with iTunes.

          Media Center plays AACs, but probably not Apple's DRMd AACs unless you use VideoLAN or Hymn to open them up. If I want to play licensed music I suppose I'd use [] or similar. Let's hear it for global free trade!
  • Harddisk, SD ram slot, 64mb ram, color screen....aside for the ARM processor, this thing's a portable xbox.
  • "BullShit Acronym": PMC. I expect the M$ spec will revolutionize mobile media consumption the way their Multimedia Personal Computer (MPC) reference spec revolutionized desktops: not at all. As usual, it will be Apple which turns on masses of consumers to mobile media with a right way to do it, even if they wind up buying an inferior product from M$ instead.
  • More fucking DRM crippled crap I'll never buy.
    (Except maybe a used/broken one, specificly to crack the DRM).

  • I'd buy one of it could play Divx movies. But we know that'll never happen. The funny thing about DRM is that for the first time in history manufacturers are bending over backwards to NOT sell us the products we want!

"My sense of purpose is gone! I have no idea who I AM!" "Oh, my God... You've.. You've turned him into a DEMOCRAT!" -- Doonesbury