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MS cheers as Amazon offers 'iPod killer' Media Centers

Store taking orders - but when will it ship them?

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In a desperate bid to drum up early enthusiasm for its 'iPod killer' Personal Media Center handheld video player technology, Microsoft announced that Amazon.com has begun taking orders for the devices.

And, indeed, enter 'Creative Zen Media Center' into the website's search box and up will come the company's $500 20GB video player. What you won't get is any indication as to when your order - should you click the 'Pre-order this item today' button - will be fulfilled.

The online store can't say when it will ship its other PMC offering, Samsung's $500 Yepp YH-999. There's no sign of iRiver's PMC-120, the other PMC Microsoft has touted in the past.

Samsung Yepp YH-999 Portable Media CenterWill the PMCs end up like Fossil's ill-fated Wrist PDA? The Palm OS-based wristwatch was announced in November 2002, and appeared on Amazon.com mid-2003. Well over a year later, the product is still not available. Amazon.com held out until September 2003, but finally decided it wasn't going to be able to satisfy pre-orders in the foreseeable future and quietly dropped the product.

We're sure 'early adopters' will leap on the PMC, but we doubt that the platform will displace the iPod any time soon. As we've noted before, it's easy to listen to music while you're doing something else - driving, jogging, cycling etc. - but that's not the case with video, which requires just too much concentration. Consequently, there are far more opportunities for iPod user - and owners of other MP3 devices - to listen to their gadgets.

Some will argue that the PMCs can play music too. But there's no way a 14 x 9 x 3cm block can be compared with a compact, pocket-sized iPod or Creative Zen Touch. No, a PMC is not (yet) a music player that can happens to be able to video too - it's a portable video machine first and foremost. If it's former you want, there are plenty of compact MPEG 4 units about to come out of Taiwan. ®

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