Microsoft has announced that the first Portable Media Center (PMC) device, the Creative Zen Portable Media Center, is now available for purchase from Best Buy and Creative.com. The product will also be available from many other retailers, such as Amazon.com, CompUSA, Fry's Electronics, Good Guys!, and other electronics retailers nationwide in the near future. Other PMC devices from Samsung and iRiver America will soon be available as well. PMCs are portable devices that let users enjoy digital audio, video, photos, and recorded TV shows on the go.
"Portable Media Centers are vanguard devices that will change the way we think about digital entertainment on the go," said Todd Warren, corporate vice president of the Devices, Services and eXperience Group at Microsoft. "Today we're seeing just the tip of the iceberg in how content companies are envisioning a future where people can take their digital entertainment wherever they go--on vacation, while they commute, to the gym."
The Creative Zen Portable Media Center costs $499.99, which might limit its success in the marketplace for the short term. However, Microsoft has been pretty clear that the first generation of PMC devices will target early adopters and technology enthusiasts; the PMC likely will quickly outstrip other video-capable portable devices.
Microsoft also announced two related services that might make the PMC more valuable to potential customers. The first, dubbed the MLB.com service, will "put subscribers in touch with their favorite baseball teams, anytime, anywhere, offering full game downloads, condensed games, extended game highlights, weekly bloopers and homerun reels, the Leadoff Show, and classic footage," according to Microsoft. Also, CinemaNow will have almost 200 PMC-compatible movie titles available for rental or retail, with more titles to follow. CinemaNow rentals are $2.99 to $3.99 for a pay-per-view rental and $9.99 to $14.99 for download-to-own titles.
PMCs work with any Windows Media Player (WMP) 10-equipped PC; however, you'll need Windows XP Media Center Edition (XP MCE) or SnapStream Media's Beyond TV to transfer recorded TV shows seamlessly to the device. For more information about Portable Media Centers, please read my exhaustive review on the SuperSite for Windows.