I know the novelty of having a dedicated portable audio/video device that lets you take your PC?s media content with you on the go is appealing, but so is taking your contact and calendar information. From my understanding both devices are running a variant of Windows Mobile, so why would I want to carry two separate devices (both roughly about the same size and using the same processors) when I can carry one? In reality all Microsoft would need to do is give the Pocket PC a hard drive and expand the personal information management (PIM) software to include a Media Center option (think of it like launching Excel or Word in the Pocket PC environment) that would have all the functionality of the upcoming Portable Media Center (PMC). Another option would be to just beef up the already included Windows Media Player (that by the way already plays audio and video files) bundled into Pocket PC and dump the Media Center affiliation. If Microsoft thinks I am off base here, then maybe they should have a look at the Archos AV500 that does everything I just mentioned and some.
It also makes sense to merge the two platforms for mobile gaming purposes. According to recent press releases, Microsoft has no intention of developing a Portable Gaming Device like the Nintendo Game Boy or the Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP). Microsoft?s focus will be to port PC and XBOX games to their Pocket PC and Smartphone platforms. Not a bad plan, but how much fun can people have with a game that?s designed to fit on an SD or Compact Flash card? Again, making use of an integrated hard drive will push the mobile gaming platform further, and give it a strategic advantage over Game Boy, PSP, or whatever comes next.
On another front, consumers have also expressed the desire to use Pocket PC or Palm devices as universal remotes. There are several software apps on the market that can do this, but wouldn?t it be nice to have a hybrid Pocket PC/PMC as a remote for all your consumer electronics and your Windows Media Center Edition software? Sounds like a new app Microsoft should be jumping on to me.
The last area that Pocket PC has addressed but is lacking from any of the PMC devices due to come out this year is Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi is important for several reasons: one, Pocket PC/PMC devices would be able to sync, upload, download, and stream content without ever having to connect to a docking station or PC port; two, consumers would be able to walk into stores and wirelessly purchase audio, video, and game titles; three, users would be able to exchange digital media easily between other interoperable devices?not to mention Internet related activities.
All in all, Microsoft may have a winner in Portable Media Center but time and consumer demand will determine if the two devices will ever merge. If not, I am sure that we will see PDAs with integrated hard drives on the shelves by the end of the year. And when that happens, companies like SnapStream will see an opportunity to bring their Media Center-style software (Beyond TV) and universal remote technology (Firefly) to the Pocket PC.