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MS Portable Media Centers to ship mid-Sept

Creative Zen PMC arrives in US, coming to UK

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Creative Technology will today begin shipping its anticipated Zen Portable Media Center in the US, with a UK roll-out in the middle of the month.

Creative Zen Portable Media CenterThe £370 device sports a 20GB hard drive, 3.8in display, and a battery capable of driving video playback for seven hours and audio for 22 hours.

Creative launched the Zen PMC earlier year when Microsoft went into more detail about its Windows CE-based PMC platform - a rebrand of an older project, dubbed Media2Go. Hardware maker iRiver is also preparing a PMC device of its own, due to ship later this quarter. The platform essentially extends Windows XP Media Center Edition into the handheld arena, allowing users to carry around movies, recorded TV shows, photos and music.

The arrival of the hardware has been predicated on the arrival of the latest Windows Media Player 10 beta release, which was made available for download in the US yesterday alongside a beta release of Microsoft's MSN Music Store. WMP10 incorporates MS' 'Janus' DRM technology, which underpins the PMC's copyright protection mechanism.

WMP 10 features what MS calls the Digital Media Mall - a shopfront that ties into multiple content providers, including MS' own. The DMM is MS' way of avoiding claims that it's attempting to dominate the content market itself by using its own media player software to steer punters to its own music service. Napster, MusicMatch and MusicNow are included in the DMM today, though they're only available to North American users. So too is video content provider CinemaNow.

CinemaNow is coming to Europe in due course, presumably in line with a version of WMP 10 equipped with a Euro-centric version of the DMM. Creative's mid-September release date for the Zen PMC suggests a possible timeframe for the UK DMM. Presumably Napster will be in there, along with other Windows-based music providers, such as OD2/Loudeye's retail partners and possible Virgin Digital, which is believed to be waiting on US and UK availability of WMP 10 and Janus before launching.

Meanwhile, the Zen PMC is scheduled to go on sale in other Northern European countries during Q4, in time for Christmas. ®

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