Over at Yahoo! News, they have an interesting article called "PluggedIn: Portable media players may struggle to find market" where the author comes to the conclusion that Portable Media Players are too pricy, too hughe and that they haven't found there "natural" place yet, like MP3-players (a logical follower of the good old 80's Walkman).
Actually it's an interesting thought and even the media player manufactures might don't see a serious market yet if you count the available portable media centers and compare it with the number of Pocket PCs which can do basically the same.
So if I compare my Creative Zen PMC with any Pocket PC I have, both have QVGA displays only (some of my Pocket PCs even have a VGA screen) while the Zen has a 20 GB HDD which is enough to store most of my music tracks as well as a couple of DVDs and the latest TV-recordings. My Pocket PCs can not tore all these data yet (as long as I'm not using a Pocket PC with CF or P-card slot to expand it with HDDs). Another serious advantage of my PMC is that I can plug it into a TV to get my videos there. While the 320x240 resolutions isn't the best (which is a limitation of the Microsoft PMC concept, other portable media players support even PAL or NTSC output) it's good enough during trips to watch the latest TV-show you delete after anyway. Most Pocket PCs doesn't support video out (yet) so you have to watch your videos on the device. On the other hand, my Pocket PC is connected which means - thanks to services like Orb or highpad Media Control, I can stream the same shows (or even newer) from my home PC, as long as I have a broadband connection available for my Pocket PC.
But, I have to admit that the stand-by time of my PMC is far better than anything I saw so far with Pocket PCs so I can enjoy my digital entertainment longer, for instance during oversea flights.
Last but not least the size and the other functionalities: my Pocket PCs are way smaller while they can do way more (phone, web, E-Mail, contacts, calendar, games, navigation, etc.) and with Windows Media 10 on a PC and Windows Media 10 Mobile on the Windows Mobile device, synchronization is a piece of cake, it's as easy as getting a Windows Mobile Portable Media Center synced with a Windows XP Media Center Edition.
Talking about Windows Media 10 Mobile: here the Windows Mobile developers paid their attention to make the Pocket PC (and for sure Smartphone) as Media Center compatible as possible since you get a similar list of contents as you have it on your PC. Anyway, for the release of Windows Media 11 Mobile I would suggest to use the PMC/MCE UI since it's easier to use and more user friendly.
Okay - so what's the better portable media player? If you count just the hard facts, it's the Pocket PC while today's portable media players have their advantages also. But if you are not a completely media addicted dude and traveling a lot - go with the Pocket PC since it can serve near everything a portable media player can do and a little bit more.
Now we need to see Pocket PCs with 4 GB+ storage space and video out facilities, than the portable media player is dead.
Cheers ~ Arne