Microsoft Follows Dell Into Portable Media Device Market

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Microsoft is jumping into the portable media market, launching software for a new line of mobile devices designed to free digital content from a computer and play music, videos and photos on the go.

The software company announced its Portable Media Center on Monday, the same day Dell Inc. said it would begin selling a new Dell Digital Jukebox to play digital music.

Both gadgets are aimed at Apple Computer Inc.'s popular iPod digital music player.

The Microsoft devices will support both the company's Window Media standard and the common MP3 format. Manufacturers such as iRiver International, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., SANYO Electric Co. Ltd. and ViewSonic Corp. have said they will build devices to run on the Microsoft software.

The devices are designed to allow people to take all the digital media content on their Windows XP computers - including digital videos and music, television shows, home movies and digital photos - with them.

"Digital media technologies are radically changing how, when and where people experience and share their entertainment," said Scott Horn, director of marketing for the Embedded Devices Group at Microsoft.

Portable Media Center devices are expected to be available in the second half of 2004, Microsoft said. The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant did not suggest retail prices.

On Monday, Dell said it would begin shipping the Dell Jukebox, with software by the online music site, Musicmatch. The devices come with 15 GB and 20 GB of storage space and sell for $249 and $329, respectively. The Dell device supports the MP3 and Windows Media formats.

Dell is selling downloads with the help of Musicmatch, which allows users to download songs for 99 cents. It has a catalog of 250,000 tracks and expects to double that by year's end.

That effort also follows Apple's iTunes Music Store, which led the widespread effort this year to make legal downloads available online and has helped boost iPod sales.

The iPod is compatible with both Macintosh and Windows computers and the top-selling hard drive-based portable music player, according to market research firms IDC and the NPD Group. The iPod comes in three models, ranging from $299 to $499, depending on capacity.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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