The devices, which will run Microsoft software but be designed and built by various manufacturers, including Tatung Co., AboCom Systems Inc., Creative Technology Ltd., Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd., and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., are set to hit store shelves during the second half 2004, Microsoft said.
The world's largest software maker said that its device will allow users to listen to "thousands of hours of music, watch digitally recorded TV shows or home movies, and store and view digital photo albums."
Frank Barbieri, product manager for Microsoft's embedded software group, said that the Portable Media Center devices will be designed to be easy to operate and transfer files from a personal computer.
"People are using their PCs for music, picture and video and that makes a good argument for people to take that content with them," Barbieri said.
Apple's iPod, which became a huge hit for the computer company known for its distinctive designs, is one of the best-selling digital music devices on the market, according to various research firms.
Although various manufacturers have long sold portable players for digital music and even videos -- both for Windows and for Apple's computers-- the larger computer software and hardware makers had put little of their marketing muscle behind such devices.
Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft said it was too early to set a price for the Portable Media Center devices, although the company said prices would in line with market prices of other digital media players.
Microsoft's Barbieri said that some Portable Media Center models are likely to be equipped with standard video outputs so that users can view pictures or videos on a television.
Recently, Dell Inc. also announced plans to make a digital music player.
Dell, the No. 1 personal computer company, said it will start selling on Tuesday a digital music player called the Dell DJ that starts at $249 for a handheld player that has 15 gigabytes of data storage and $329 for one with 20 gigabytes of storage.
Dell, which is launching new consumer products to diversify revenue, also launched the Dell Music Store, which is based on MusicMatch software and sells songs for 99 cents each, the same price as Apple's iTunes online music store.