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Toshiba Unveils Video Gigabeats

Las Vegas — Toshiba will use International CES to expand its Gigastyle family of compact portable media players to include its first models that support video, its first models based on flash memory and its first hard-drive camcorder/still cameras.

Three new hard-drive-based Gigabeat models will be introduced with storage capacities of 30GB and 60GB. All are based on Microsoft’s new Portable Media Center platform, which will support new audio and video subscription download services.

Louis Masses, Toshiba digital audio video group business development director, said the models reflect a new partnership between Toshiba and Microsoft.

“These new models strengthen our partnership with Microsoft. We believe their Portable Media Center is the platform of the future,” Masses said.

Hard drive models will be more media rich than prior versions, offering the ability to play back movies and videos in Windows Media Video or MPEG-4 video formats, in addition to digital music and still photos.

Toshiba will ship the hard drive Gigabeat models this spring in 30GB MES-30VW (white) and MES30VL (blue), which will carry suggested retail prices of $299 each, and the 60GB MES-60VK (black), which will carry a $699 suggested retail. Model numbers were changed after TWICE’s national edition (Jan. 5, p. 36) went to press.

Models will include a 2.4-inch color LCD screen, an FM tuner, A/V output for connection to a television, capability with MP3, WMA, WMA lossless, WMV, MPEG-4 and JPEG file formats. Both models will support a per charge battery life of 20 hours for audio and around three hours for video.

“Since the interface is Windows Media Player 10, the software can take other video formats, such as AVIs and MOVs, and convert them to play on the device,” said Masses.

The models are based on the Windows Portable Media Center interface, which will support a new class of subscription download services for movies and video, Masses said.

Also added to the Gigabeat personal media player family are the first Flash-based units, which will be sold under the Gigabeat Flash designation. Toshiba will offer two ultra-compact Gigabeat Flash devices with 512MB ($129 suggested retail) and 1GB ($179) of internal storage capacity. Both units ship in February and will include 1-inch color LCD screens and digital photo file playback capability.

Toshiba’s new Gigabeat models drop the proprietary Gigabeat Room software in favor of standard Windows Media Player.

The players are compatible with most music file codecs, including WMA and MP3, and the newly added WMA lossless format.

“Since the device is designed for users with an active lifestyle, these models will have a voice recorder and FM tuner built in,” said Masses.

The Gigastyle family will also add two hard-drive-based Gigashot digital hybrid camcorder/camera models this spring in the 30GB GSCR30 ($799 suggested retail) and the 60GB GSCR60 ($999). Both models feature built-in two megapixel digital still photo capability.

The models will allow users to shoot video and take still photos simultaneously, without the need to purchase recording media.

Video is recorded in the MPEG-2 format for image quality compatibility purposes. The format will allow users to burn recordings onto a DVD without having to transcode a format.

The 30GB model will record approximately seven hours of DVD quality video at a 6.5Mbps rate. It will store up to 33 hours of video in long play mode.

Both Gigashot models use Canon optics and offer 10x optical zooms. Also included is night shooting capability, image stabilization, and an auto hard-drive protection function that senses if the camcorder is dropped and disengages the hard drive before the unit hits the ground.