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December 03, 2004

Walter Mossberg on Personal Media Players

Walter Mossberg, who runs a highly regarded personal technology column in the Wall Street Journal, published an article on PVPs (Personal Video Players) such as the Creative Zen. His message to the average American:

"So unless you're a techie or a hopeless gadget freak, stay away from the Portable Media Centers for now. If you want a portable video device, you're better off buying a portable DVD player. They can be bought for half the price or less, come with larger screens, and are able to draw from an almost unlimited selection of content."

He describes on how difficult it still is to get legal video content on one's computer, and even then, how difficult it is to get it on to a player. His point is generally valid unless you are one of the growing users of home built DVR users where content can be created much more easily. Mossberg tried downloading legal copies of movies and baseball highlights and had very little success. Even with the introduction of TivoToGo, I am going to guess that it will be difficult to move them on to a standard PVP because of the DRM limitations involved.

At this point, I agree with Walter Mossberg on the cost and ease of use of using a portable DVD player. DVD recorders and DVD media are already stunningly cheap and the software to build a DVD from a MPEG2 stream (or to copying a DVD) is fairly straightforward. It would be nice to see software titles like BeyondTV and SageTV incorporate this feature directly into their product like MP3 software did ages ago, but even without a one button interface, it's trivial to burn a DVD from the MPEG2 recording. If it's twice the price and perhaps more difficult to transfer to the PVP, what is the point?

I haven't given up on the value of PVPs as a useful product category, but they need to do a better job at making it an easy choice. I'd love to have all my music, photos, and a few videos all on one gadget when I travel; it would make business hotels and cross country flights a little more palatable. Unfortunately, Walter Mossberg may be right when he says, "It's not ready for prime time yet."

Additional Info:

TVHarmony Product Tracker: Personal Media Players

(Hat Tip: atmaspheric endeavors)

Posted on December 03, 2004

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