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Toshiba Gigabeat PMCs Set To Ship This Month

Toshiba will ship its new Gigabeat S series Portable Media Centers (PMCs) during the first week of June, the company said here at a dealer meeting.

The company is scaling back last year’s multicolored seven-model line to two models, one with 30GB of hard-drive storage at an expected everyday $299 and the other with 60GB of storage at an everyday $399. Each will be available in black or white.

Originally announced at International CES, the new Gigabeat line will play back video for the first time in the Windows Media Video or MPEG-4 video formats. Models are compatible with Windows Media DRM 10 secured content. They’re expected to be compatible with the Vongo video subscription-download service operated by Starz!

Playable music formats include protected WMA a la carte and subscription-based download, WMA Lossless, MP3 and WAV file formats. Players will also store and play JPEG image files. They also incorporate FM tuner.

Battery life has been extended from last year’s “F series” to about 20 hours for both the 30GB and 60GB models.

A supplied A/V cable and output allows connection to most televisions to view downloaded movies, videos and photos.

Images are scaled using Freescale technology to fit the unit’s 2.4-inch color screen. Resolution is listed as QVGA (320 by 240 pixel) supporting more than 65,536 colors.

Both models are 4 inches tall and 2.5 inches wide, and weigh 4.8 ounces. Upon pressing the power button, the new Microsoft Media Center menu appears.

“Toshiba recognizes that digital content is shifting from audio to video,” said Lou Masses, Toshiba’s digital A/V group business development director. “Toshiba over the past two years has taken bold steps to grow the category and target a very aggressive No. 2 market share position.”

Hard-drive models are expected to grow as more real video content becomes available to the consumer from services such as Vongo from Starz!, MTV Urge and other services introducing video into the marketplace in 2006, Toshiba said.

Toshiba has partnered with online music service providers RealNetworks and e-Music “for a market perspective and content availability,” Masses said. Toshiba will continue its relationship with Napster this year “to provide consumers with music choices and download capability,” he continued.

Advertising for the Gigabeat PMCs will focus on product simplicity and the ability to choose from hundreds of content providers that support the Windows Media Player interface, said Masses.