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Microsoft says handheld digital entertainment devices running its Portable Media Center software can now be ordered from Web retailer the gadgets won't be delivered until late August at the earliest.

Player Specs

Consumers are being offered two choices: the Creative Zen from Creative Technologies of Singapore, or the Samsung Electronics Yepp YH-999 Portable Media Center. Both of the devices are designed to allow users to watch digital videos and reordered television as well as listen to music and look through photographs. The new Yepp was previewed at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. The Zen is a sibling of other Creative MP3 players.

For those who have preordered, the Creative Zen device will be available in late August and the Samsung offering will be out in late September, Microsoft says. Both machines have a storage capacity of 20GB and retail for around $499.

The Samsung device has a 3.5-inch TFT LCD screen, and measures 3.8 inches by 4.2 inches by 0.83 inches. The Creative Zen device, on the other hand, boasts a 3.8-inch blue backlit LCD screen, and measures 5.7 inches by 3.2 inches by 1.1 inches.

Eyeing IPod

Microsoft has been touting the Portable Media Centers as its next foray into the mobile media market. The devices run Windows Mobile software and users transfer digital media to them from PCs running Windows XP. They play back files in the Windows Media Video, Windows Media Audio, MP3 and JPEG file formats, and are compatible with other file types including MPEG, MPEG2, MIDI and WAV, according to Microsoft.

The devices are aimed at winning some of the market presently dominated by Apple Computer's IPod digital music players, which have seen robust sales. The Portable Media Center devices go beyond music, however, adding playback of digital video and photos. The 20GB devices will allow users to store up to 5000 songs, 80 hours of video, or tens of thousands of pictures, Microsoft says.

Microsoft also says users of the new devices are being offered subscriptions and pay-per-view service from The site provides Major League Baseball game footage, highlights, and games that can be downloaded and transferred to the portable players.

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