Review: Pocket PC Films

by Reads (10,110)

I m often asked the question by Pocket PC users that goes something like this, “I have this great device that I use for normal business functions and playing solitaire to pass the time now and again, but what am I missing and what else can this device do?”  There are many answers to this question, but one use that many don t often consider is using the Pocket PC as a movie playing device.  That s right, watching a full feature length film on your Pocket PC with excellent playback quality.  Pocket PC Films is the company pioneering bringing movie content to your handheld.  In this review I cover a product review and a recent interview with Pocket PC Films CEO Darrell Griffin.

Product Review

 

Many of you will be curious to know more about where to look for Pocket PC Films products and how the technology works.  You can either purchase the films online from PocketPCFilms.com or Amazon.com or visit bricks & mortar electronics stores such as CompUSA, Fry s, and J&R.  We re told there will be many more distribution outlets added soon, so expect more of the large electronics stores to carry Pocket PC Films.  Look in the PDA software and accessories section for these movies, don t go hunting the DVD and VHS aisles.  The films are distributed on a CD in packaging exactly the same as a DVD or video game.  On this CD are the media files and actual software for getting the media from the CD to your handheld device.  The process is simple, connect your handheld to your desktop PC as you always do via USB and then pop the Pocket PC Films CD into your desktop.  A splash screen will come up on your desktop and you ll be prompted with the choice of moving one big media file to your handheld, or moving a few smaller files that represent parts of the entire film, usually the film is divided into three parts with this option.  Each minute of video requires about 1MB of space, since the average video is 90 100 MB you ll need a 128 MB Storage card to get the whole video to your device.  You can store the files on any type of Storage card your device uses (SecureDigital, CompactFlash etc.) and Windows Media Player is the best option for viewing the films when using a Pocket PC.  It generally takes about 10 minutes to move an entire 100 MB movie from the CD on the desktop PC to your Pocket PC.  The technology used to transfer the files straight from the CD to your handheld without ever actually being placed on the desktop is called Smart Transfer Technology (STT) and was developed by IBM and Compaq.  The option of viewing the movie on your desktop is available, but it will play in the same size screen as your Pocket PC.  The average price for a film is about $14.99.

As far as satisfaction with the quality of the product goes, there s really nothing to complain about and many reasons to be excited about the direction of this technology.  Pocket PC Films sent me one of their best sellers, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2002 (MSRP $14.99), I was a little disappointed not to have received Accelerated Learning (MSRP $19.99), but I made do with watching scantily clad babes frolicking on Latin American beaches.  Inside the packaging there was jus the CD and simple straight forward instructions on how to install the product.  Installation was a snap, I might suggest they improve the interface on the install program, it was kind of a clunky looking windows form, but despite lacking style it was straight forward and worked.  Once the media file was on my Dell Axim I fired up Windows Media to watch Yamila Diaz-Rahi present the show, the playback quality was very good.  It really was just like watching a sized down movie, no pixilation really and frame rate was fast enough to be provide seamless video to the eye.  I could of course skip around in the file to my favorite scenes (umm, girls) and watch the file in the landscape mode provided by Windows Media Player.  I highly recommend the Dell Axim if you plan to watch a lot of movies, when playing a movie it s nice to have the screen brightness turned up and the Axim is an absolute champ in terms of battery life an important consideration when viewing multimedia and cranking up screen brightness.

As far as offerings go from Pocket PC Films, that s where I m a little disappointed.  They do have over 25,000 titles in their library, but I d love to see more of the recent DVD releases make it to this format.  How cool would it be to watch Spiderman or Lord of the Rings on your handheld?  In my opinion, very cool, but such offerings are not available.  Some of the bigger named titles available include Natural Born Killers and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2002, but I can only be left hoping for more big hits in the library.  I m assuming many movie studios have concerns with the Digital Rights Management issues of distributing media files on CD, but Pocket PC Films insists they will be bringing more content soon and their method for distributing media is no easier to copy than formats such as DVD or VHS.

The Interview

bargainPDA.com talked to Darrell Griffin, CEO of Pocket PC Films, to get the lowdown on how things started and where things are going for his company.  We were amused at the method in which Pocket PC Films was born, basically Darrell is chicken when it comes to flying so on a trip to New York a couple of years ago a co-worker and friend rigged his Pocket PC to playback a film to keep Darrell s mind off of the flight.  Apparently Darrell had no issues with worrying about flying as he was too busy being entertained by the movie and subsequently cooking up a business plan for selling movies on handheld devices.

 

Pocket PC Films has since grown to the point where they are selling 10,000 units a month.  Darrell told us about some recent hires to the Board, such as Brian Schuster, who will be helping to raise funds and further establish Pocket PC Films.  Our hope is that they ve hired some guys with Hollywood connections so they can convince some of these larger studios to put their movies onto the Pocket PC.

 

Darrell also indicated that there will be some major announcements coming from the company soon in regards to distribution outlets, one of their goals is to get these films in as many stores as possible so that people realize this technology is out there.  Darrell wants to get the product into places such as airport stores, a place where a lot of business travelers with Pocket PC devices tend to hangout (involuntarily most often) and are willing to make a spontaneous buy for some entertainment while waiting for that delayed flight.  In addition, there is a lot of potential for distributing educational media on a Pocket PC device, so a few university bookstores are now selling their products that carry such educational content.

Darrell also indicated to us that they are partnering with other companies to push their product.  Microsoft is of course very interested in the concept of film playback on Pocket PC to takeoff as it would sell more of the devices their OS is on.  Pocket PC Films is interested in Microsoft because the big MS flat out knows how to market and has the weight to push a product, so it s basically a you scratch my back, I ll scratch yours type of deal going on with Microsoft.  Pocket PC Films has also contracted with Compaq and memory companies in the past to bundle advertising about Pocket PC Films with the products sold.  As mentioned before, IBM and Compaq helped develop the technology tied into moving the media from the CD to the Pocket PC, so there s two more big players in the Pocket PC Film corner.

 

In general, the folks at Pocket PC Films seem to be very upbeat and excited about their potential and growth.  I do to, I think their product is great and viewing films on the Pocket PC makes total sense if you want an extremely portable movie playback device.  Keep the kids amused in the car, yourself amused on the flight, or have a great little movie player that sits in its cradle and plays while you tap away on your computer (the Swimsuit girls still look good as I watch them and type!).  I d be even more gung-ho about the company if they can land a few contracts with larger movie studios to bring their movies to this type of media, Darrell hinted there would be things to come so I have my fingers crossed for Lord of the Rings III being viewed in the palm of my hand by the end of 2004.  Until then, I ll make do with Hercules in New York, which is available from Pocket PC Films for $14.99 and a movie that just can t be denied watching.

 

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