Intel, Microsoft pitch portal video player

Digital video will become as portable as MP3 music files if a portable media player being developed by Intel and Microsoft catches on.

The two companies are working together on a "mobile entertainment device" that would allow users to take videos, still pictures and music with them. The portable media player (PMP), with a four-inch (10-centimeter) screen and a 30G-byte disk drive, would be small enough to fit in a coat pocket and would play video and music downloaded from the Internet or a PC. The devices would transfer video or music from PCs through high-speed connections such as USB (Universal Serial Bus) ports.

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and ViewSonic Corp. are among the hardware companies that will develop PMPs incorporating Intel's XScale processors and Microsoft's Media2Go software platform, which is based on the Windows CE .NET operating system, said Bryan Peebler, market development manager for Intel's Emerging Platforms Lab. Hardware partners are expected to offer products based on the reference design by the end of the year, Microsoft's Bill Gates announced Wednesday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The PMP devices were envisioned after extensive market research in the U.S., Peebler said. Intel asked if consumers would prefer using PDAs to play video or use dedicated video-playing devices instead, and the research revealed a demand for dedicated video devices.

Some users saw PDAs as business devices with functionality they didn't need, and PDA owners didn't want to share their devices, Peebler said.

"The PDA people said, 'I'd really like for a device like this to be a family device, and I'd never hand my PDA to the kids in the back of the minivan,' " he said.

The devices will use the MPEG-4 Part 10 video codec (compressor/decompressor), with resolution at about 30 frames per second, Peebler said. The price range for a full-featured PMP should be US$399 and up, but devices without integrated hard drives or smaller screens could cost as low as $199, according to Peebler. The reference design will allow for a wide range of options.

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