Backstage: On the Portable Media Center backlash | iLounge Backstage


Backstage: On the Portable Media Center backlash

If registration weren’t required (or you wanted the hassle), you could read a reporter for a reputable publication opining on Microsoft’s Portable Media Centers at this link that “there just aren’t that many places where you can make use of” portable video devices, and how “other passengers… [would] think of anybody lugging around such a clunky gadget: ‘loser.’”

Frequent Backstage readers already know that iLounge’s editors (a) love their iPods and (b) don’t exactly love Microsoft, but (c) aren’t closed minded to non-Apple innovations or cool new gadgets. Given these factors, it should only come as a partial surprise that we remain intrigued by the Portable Media Centers and won’t dismiss them out of hand, despite the fact that they’re not receiving the warmest of welcomes from the press these days. We think that if portable video had the right software package - read: TiVo, a legal DVD ripper, and access to a cheap pay-per-view TV library a la iTunes - the recipe would have the missing ingredient (or killer app, in Silicon Valley terminology) it needs to be a breakaway success.

We’re really curious, though, what you think about these portable audio, video and digital photo devices. Is it worth our time to pursue them for Backstage reviews, or should we ignore them altogether until Apple gets off its rear and joins the fray?

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I personally find these things useless. If you want to watch a show or something on a PMC, it’s fine. But they’re no good for feature-length films. There’s more to watching a movie then just looking at it (and hearing it). But they can defenitely be good in situations. For instance, if you’re waiting for something… I guess.

Posted by dino in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada on September 26, 2004 at 6:02 PM (CDT)


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Posted by Chaz on September 26, 2004 at 6:44 PM (CDT)


I’d say “Hold off until someone comes remotely close to ‘getting it right.’”  Whether it’s Apple or not, I don’t care… but these portable video devices do indeed remain goofy/clunky/etc enough that I won’t consider buying one even a little bit.

Now… If Apple has long-term plans for H.264 content (iTunes Music Store-ish TV-show/movie store, anyone?), and a good product to carry it around with… that’d be a little better, although I’m still one of many that can’t imagine themselves having much time in a typical day where a portable video player (active participation) would get used as much as an iPod (passive participation).

Again, it doesn’t have to be Apple that does it first, but the mild fan-boy in me suspects it will be.

Posted by Jerrod H. in TX on September 26, 2004 at 6:53 PM (CDT)


The main problem is PVP technology isn’t there yet for what people want from them. The current PVP products are too complicated. They have little storage and poor battery life you can only play 90 - 120 min of video before battery dies.

PVP needs to have simple features that lots of people will want at a reasonable price with reasonable battery life for watching video (5 hours commute to and from work).

OLED tech needs to become cheaper. Flash memory needs to get cheaper as temporary storage. Mini hard drives need to get to 100 - 200mb size. Firewire 800 needs to cheaper and available.

Apple and most others know that the can’t make a good PVP now so that are waiting. Why can’t people making Microsoft Personal Video players see that. Simple Microsoft sees a another way to get you paying a monthly subscription.

Posted by SouthPaw in PV, NY on September 26, 2004 at 9:51 PM (CDT)


I think it would be nice to see the players reviewed.  I always enjoy seeing what the competition is trying to do to kick the ipod off its throne.  Whether its a PMP or a DAP, all gadgets are fun to hear about.

I would welcome the reviews, but based on the no-real-life-application issue, i don’t think i’ll be plopping down $500+ for a PMP.  unless Apple solves the whole useless factor…...

Posted by StinkieDMB in Pittsburgh, PA on September 26, 2004 at 9:57 PM (CDT)


I have to agree with dino above.  I would have little or no use for a PMC.  I just can’t see myself with the opportunity to spend that much time watching a movie anywhere than at home, a friend’s house or a movie theater, and when I’m there, I’m getting the “full” experience of good sound and a large picture.  If I’m anywhere else, I’m usually too busy to be watching a movie.  Having the ability to look at digital pictures on a small device would be handy since you could use it as a portable picture album to show to friends wherever you might be.  One could also display the album covers for the music that is playing if this were to be someday incorporated into the iPod.  Those would be an instances where one would have to be actively participating, but only for a few moments.  These would also allow a device to be more useful than the current iPod whether it’s made by Apple or anyone else.

Posted by Lindan in Las Vegas on September 26, 2004 at 10:43 PM (CDT)


A PMC just demands too many “degrees of freedom” to be generally useful. Not only do you need to use your eyes and ears in most cases you would need your hands or knees to position the screen correctly. As well a certain amount of time needs to be set aside to watch a complete video (unless you want to stop in the middle). So a PMC running a video has four degrees of freedom required which I will call visual, auditory, kinetic and temporal. An iPod has only a single degree of freedom (auditory) so can be used while performing other activities (reading, walking, jogging, texting on a phone, etc). A PMC has a much more limited range of usage (commuting, travelling and .... ?????) and therefore is consigned to being a niche product.

Posted by Ross on September 27, 2004 at 3:05 AM (CDT)


I agree, Lindan. For me, the compelling feature of portable tech is to allow you to do something else while using the device, and to be able to use the device in bursts.

I think there will be a niche market for these things that may include film students, movie editors, performers who want to bring samples to auditions, and the like. In the absence of a killer app like “TiVoGo” there’s not much reason for the average person to own one.

I think Jobs has it right in focusing on music. It’s been a good business since the debut of the transistor radio in the 1950s, and is likely to stay relevant and interesting to more consumers.

Posted by Aceon6 in New England, USA on September 27, 2004 at 11:02 AM (CDT)


I’m not too excited about these things. A few people complained that the 4G iPod didn’t have a colour screen which could, in the future, enable picture of video viewing. But imho things like colour screens add little function to a music player while increasing price and decreasing battery life. As for the PMC….. I would rather have one device that is really good at one thing than a device that is only mediocre at a bunch of things. But I would read reviews if you guys posted them, I’m always interested in reviews by non manufaturer supported parties.

Posted by thume in Hungary on October 2, 2004 at 7:37 AM (CDT)


before i get excited about it and based on the reviews i’ve read, i would need:
1. larger screen - at least 7”, and better resolution than 352x288.
2. more storage capacity - either larger hard drive and/or good-quality efficient encoding (H.264).
3. more seamless/quicker transfer from recording device to player (no transcoding) (and/or an ability to record directly to player).

if someone were to give me one today (for free), I might find a use for it storing and viewing photos on-the-go instead of bringing my Powerbook. Strike that; I’d still rather have the extra capabilities of the Powerbook - DVD player, Web access, etc.  So, I might give it to my kids who could take turns watching a short movie in a back seat (before the battery runs out).

Posted by kevin on October 4, 2004 at 11:19 AM (CDT)


If you wanted video badly enough buy a laptop.  I’m here for the music and think you should hold off on these indefinitely or until there is a reasonably priced, reasonably sized and reasonably simple.  Just my.02.

Posted by supercarrot900 on October 13, 2004 at 6:18 PM (CDT)

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