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Version 2 of Microsoft's PMC looks great, but...

Version 2 of Microsoft's PMC looks great, but...

Although we are looking forward to reviewing the upcoming Toshiba Gigabeat S, the LG PMC, and the Tatung PMC, all of which utilize Microsoft's version 2 of Portable Media Center software, we have made some observations that may piss off users of older models, such as the Creative PMC, the iRiver PMC, and Samsung's now defunct YH-999.

First, the positives: Version 2 of the PMC software is lighter and will offer very good battery life for audio and video (not that the Creative PMC didn't). As evidenced in the Toshiba Gigabeat S that everyone is raving about, the new OS will work with smaller form factors and screens. The Start menu on the Toshiba has been scaled down to fit the 2.4-inch, 260,000-color screen, which can be viewed in movie-friendly portrait mode too. The software will also allow for FM radio, line-in audio, and video recording (as seen on the new LG model), as well as native support for WMV, WMA, WMA Lossless, MP3, JPEG, DivX, MPEG-2, and others, plus cool new connectivity and control using the Xbox 360. The new OS will also be compatible with new subscription video services such as Starz Vongo, which will feature all-you-can-eat A- and B-list movies for less than $10 a month. Finally, the new devices will cost much less than the first generation, with the 30GB Toshiba coming in at less than $300 (older models were more in the $450 to $500 range).

Things are looking up for the new batch of PMCs and their users, particularly because Windows Media Player 11 will be much improved. However, those with older models will not be able to use Starz Vongo and many new services that will appear in 2006 and beyond. Worse yet, older models will not be able to update to the new version of the impressively intuitive software, according to Microsoft. Perhaps the old hardware is incapable of dealing with some of the modernized features, but if I were a Creative PMC owner, I'd be pretty upset.