Q&A: “Media2Go” Platform Puts All Digital Media Onto One Portable Device

LAS VEGAS, Jan. 7, 2003 — Its one thing to have a number of media devices in the home. There is typically space for a PC, television, CD/MP3 player, DVD player, and so on.

Out of the home is a different story. Sometimes one wants to play MP3 music files on the bus to work, share digital video or photos with family and friends, or watch a movie of one’s own choice on that cross-country flight. These, however, require a variety of devices to carry around, each performing one of the above-listed functions. Few people like to juggle multiple devices, not to mention the expense of buying several pieces of electronics. Whats more, getting digital files to and from the devices and the PC (or other source) can often be laborious, challenging or time-consuming. And while a notebook could play many of those media formats, few people want to carry around even the latest slim models, particularly when exercising.

Microsoft, however, envisions a single portable device that can play any of those digital media formats. Building from its Windows CE operating system — a version of Windows designed for small and mobile devices — Microsoft is developing a software platform code-named
“Media2Go,”
designed to enable just such a device. Touted by Bill Gates this week in his keynote address at the 2003 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES),
“Media2Go”
will bring to portable devices the multimedia capabilities of Windows XP, including high-quality Windows Media Audio and Video.

Microsoft is already working with hardware partners to develop the devices that will run this software; prototypes are being shown at CES, and the first consumer devices are expected to reach store shelves toward the end of 2003. Todd Warren , general manager of the Embedded and Appliance Platforms Group at Microsoft, talked to PressPass about
“Media2Go”
and the devices it enables. He said they not only offer complete digital media experiences in a convenient form factor, but also will strongly resist obsolescence caused by technology evolution.
“Because these devices are software driven, there is the potential for them to be more future-proof,”
he says.
“That means when a new media format comes out, there is a greater possibility for the device to accommodate it. Its just a matter of a software upgrade.”

PressPass: What is


Media2Go


?

Warren: “Media2Go”
is a platform that enables next-generation, portable, handheld devices that enable entertainment-on-the-go by providing consumers with an easy and complete solution to download, store and play back all their favorite digital media content including video, music and photos. Today a lot of people have media players, such as a portable music player, that they can put in their pocket and listen to their favorite songs wherever they go.
“Media2Go”
is designed to provide people with a player that is more complete — that plays more digital content, not just music but also video and even digital photos. I might have all those capabilities on my PC, but Im not always at a PC when I want to access those media files. Plus, if I go on a cross-country trip, I might want to take my music or movies or photos along with me.

From a more technical standpoint, its a software platform built on Windows CE that enables Microsoft technology partners to build portable media players that have rich media capabilities using technologies such as Windows Media. Additionally,
“Media2Go”
provide seamless integration with the digital content stored on a PC that’s running on the Windows XP operating system. It’s important that
“Media2Go”
devices are complete and easy to use, but what is also critical with these devices is the integration back to the Windows XP PC. If its too complex to synchronize with the PC, then people arent going to do it. Synchronization of the
“Media2Go”
device is automatic. Consumers can quickly download their favorite digital content from their PCs to a
“Media2Go”
device using fast connections, such as USB and IEEE-1394, giving them the freedom to experience the digital media they edit and organize anywhere, any time.

PressPass: What will a


Media2Go


device do for consumers?

Warren:

Media2Go”
enables a number of user scenarios. Most people are familiar with playing music on a portable device today.
“Media2Go”
extends that same mobile scenario to video playback and picture-viewing in a single seamless experience. People today buy portable DVD players to watch commercial movies or digital home videos in the car, on a long plane ride, or to show while visiting Grandmas house for the holidays.
“Media2Go”
means youve got a way to transport your own home movies and show them, whether on the device itself, on a PC or even on a regular TV screen.

Theres another important scenario. More and more people are using digital video recorders (DVR), which have the capability to record TV to a hard-disk drive. Wouldnt it be cool to take all that content and synchronize it to my
“Media2Go”
portable media device? Then I can catch up on the shows I missed on the bus to work, or on the plane, or anywhere else. DVR is very appealing with this kind of device — it has the power of a PC, and it brings an ability to use that power to the portable media device.

PressPass: So the


Media2Go


device sounds like the next evolutionary step beyond portable media devices like the portable music player.

Warren: Definitely. The functions of a number of current portable devices will all be on this one device. In regards to music, the sound will be very high quality, and the amount of music you can store will also be extremely high — it looks like the typical device will store 8,000 CD quality songs. People are familiar with storing music in digital format in a PC, and this device allows me to store that many songs, organize them, and include
“metadata,”
such as lyrics, album cover art, or artist information. We can also imagine you could store music videos on this device as well. As for video itself, we expect these devices will support up to about 175 hours of VHS quality video content, meaning commercial films or content like home movies. Still photographs are a similar scenario to music; people are used to taking digital photography and storing the pictures on a PC. The Media2Go device allows you to take your pictures with you, create digital photo albums and show them, even on a large-screen TV.

PressPass: What will


Media2Go


devices do that today’s portable media devices don’t do?

Warren: The biggest thing they will offer over other devices is the convenience of having all your media with you wherever you want or need it. Lots of people like to carry notebook computers, but even the convenience of a notebook still wont match the convenience of the form factor of these devices, which are primarily optimized for audio and video. One key thing to think about is the completeness of the experience. Its not just audio, or not just DVDs and video — were thinking a more complete experience, with high-quality audio and the richness of metadata, but also the video experience, which we think will be of increasing interest. A second aspect is the ease of use and the ease of integration. Its not just easy to use, but its also very easy to get back to my PC to get new files.

PressPass: When will


Media2Go


devices be available for consumers?

Warren: Were unveiling the prototypes of these devices at CES, where were also announcing the initial technology partners, including Intel Corp, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., ViewSonic Corp., SANYO Electric Co. Ltd, and iRiver. We expect the devices will be available in time for the 2003 holiday season. As for the price, its a little early for our partners to have prices established, although we would expect the devices to be priced competitively to existing portable media. For example, portable DVD players generally cost upwards of US$500, and you can get a portable music player for a couple hundred dollars.

PressPass: What is your strategy for the platform over the next year?

Warren: Our goal is to enable those scenarios I described earlier, along with enabling integration points for online digital content. This could be things like MSN Music Service, as well as online content that other sources are providing — for example, digital movies from a video rental retailer. Were looking very strongly into this sort of integration into online services. Another potentially interesting feature to this software going forward is its upgradeability. The
“Media2Go”
device is basically a screen with local capabilities. Because it is software driven, there is the potential for it to be more future-proof. That means when a new media format comes out, there is a greater possibility for the device to accommodate it. Its just a matter of a software upgrade.

PressPass: How does it fit in the Microsoft embedded strategy?

Warren: The underlying software for the
“Media2Go”
platform is Windows CE, which is a great platform for building rich types of mobile devices with strong networking technologies and a friendly user interface. Windows CE is a tremendously versatile platform that is behind a lot of growing technology trends in consumer electronics. With Windows CE at its core,
“Media2Go”
will have a similar versatility, along with providing synchronization back into the PC.

PressPass: How does it fit into and use

existing Microsoft technologies?

Warren: Its very much in line with our digital home strategy, basically extending the media technologies of the home out into the world.
“Media2Go”
fully integrates with the PC,

and builds

upon the digital media capabilities of Windows XP and Windows Media,

such as the easy transfer of media from your Windows XP Media Library to the device, via Windows Media Player.

The PC is a great way to discover, download, create and enjoy digital media of all types, and the size of many digital media collections is proof consumers love digital media.

Through its support of Windows Media Audio and Video, and interoperability with Windows XP, consumers will find it easy and fast to bring their favorite media — photos, music and movies — onto their
“Media2Go”
device

at anytime and in anyplace.

PressPass: What kind of capabilities do you see opening up for this kind of platform in the future?

Warren: The
“Media2Go”
platform is very much part of Microsofts Digital Decade philosophy, giving consumers instant access to their music or visual entertainment files, no matter where they are. It is agnostic to the media formats the user has, and as digital media technology evolves, the
“Media2Go”
device will evolve with it. New media formats will simply require a software update, rather than forcing the consumer to buy a whole new device.

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