Bonita Springs, Fla. — Toshiba will ship its new Gigabeat S series portable media centers based on Windows PMC software the first week of June.
The multicolored seven-model line from last year has been scaled back to two models with 30GB ($299) and 60GB ($399) hard drives, each available in either black or white.
Originally announced at International CES, the new Gigabeat line will handle video for the first time using the Windows Media Video format. Models are compatible with Windows Media DRM 10 secured content.
Playable music formats include WMA, WMA Lossless, MP3 and WAV file formats. Players will also store and play JPEG image files. Also added is a built-in FM tuner.
Battery life has been extended from last year’s F series to approximately 12 hours audio and 2.5 hours video for both the 30GB and 60GB models.
An A/V cable and output is also supplied to allow connection to most televisions for the viewing of 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 measure 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 video would grow in the number of devices that still also have audio, said Lou Masses, Toshiba digital A/V group business development director. “Toshiba over the last two years has taken bold steps to grow the category and target a very aggressive No. 2 market-share position,” he said.
Hard-drive models are expected to grow as more real video content becomes available to the consumer from services such as Starz!, MTV Urge and other services introducing video into the marketplace in 2006, Toshiba said.
Gigabeat S series models will be compatible with the new Starz! Vongo video download service of PMC and PC devices that debuted during CES.
Toshiba also announced partnerships with online music service providers RealNetworks and e-Music “for a market perspective and content availability,” Masses said.
Toshiba will also continue its relationship with Napster this year “to provide consumers with music choices and download capability,” he continued.
Advertising for the Gigabeat PMCs will be focused on product simplicity and the ability to choose from hundreds of content providers that support the Windows Media Player interface, said Masses.
Toshiba will partner with Microsoft and content partners to educate consumers and “seed the product,” he added. The program will also use extensive point-of-purchase displays with retailers.
In developing the new Gigabeat S series, Masses said Toshiba hired the services of The NPD Group, Port Washington, N.Y., for a consumer survey targeting iPod owners, non-iPod owners and non-MP3 owners. The survey indicated that the Gigabeat target consumer is the 25-54-year-old male demographic with a higher income level.
Focus groups said a key feature in the new Gigabeat S series line is the ability to connect to digital cameras to download JPEG images for viewing on the Gigabeat screen, the second most common. Other findings included: the ability “to do everything I need a portable media player to do,” strong partnerships and a good perceived value, Masses said.