“The first handheld gadgets to play music and movies on Microsoft Corp.’s ‘iPod killer’ software will be available in Europe in the second half of 2004, the world’s largest software company said on Thursday,” Bernhard Warner reports for Reuters. “The gadgets will run on Microsoft’s yet-to-be-unveiled Portable Media Center software in a direct assault on iPod, Apple Computer Inc.’s hot-selling digital music player.”

“Working with a host of manufacturing partners, Microsoft is introducing a device that plays movies and stores digital photos as well as songs in a bid to grab a share of the fast-growing digital media player market,” Warner reports. “‘We think this is going to be one of the hot devices for Christmas 2004,’ said James Bernard, product manager for Portable Media Center.”

“The U.S. software giant has enlisted Creative Technology Ltd. and Korea’s Reigncom Ltd’s iRiver International unit to develop devices for the European market. The Creative players will be sold with 20 gigabytes or 40 gigabytes of storage capacity, the latter would provide 175 hours of video playback or 10,000 songs, Microsoft said. The devices play MP3 files as well as audio and video content recorded in Microsoft’s digital format. The devices run on the Windows CE operating system,” Warner reports.

“The Creative player weighs in at 330 grams (11.5 ounces) — roughly three times as thick as an iPod and roughly twice as long to accommodate its television-quality colour screen. It has a USB port and comes with audio and video outputs cable to play media on a television or stereo hi-fi. Microsoft’s Bernard envisaged a scenario where the owner of a Portable Media Center gadget would be able to store hours of their favourite music and movies on the device. They could then download from a news-oriented Web site a round-up of the day’s news to watch on the train,” Warner reports. “To that end, Microsoft is busy assembling media partners to provide content including movies, music videos and news. It has signed up music label EMI and digital music outfit Napster.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Here comes the “Cavalry of the Mediocre” to try to save the day for Microsoft in the digital media arena. Let the battle begin!

SPOILER: don’t tell anyone (we wouldn’t want to miss this impending dustup for the world), but when all is said and done, this time the Indians win.