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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 March 2006, 10:40 GMT
Microsoft plans iPod media rival
A Creative media player running on Windows
Microsoft operating systems already run on mobile devices
Microsoft is preparing to unveil a handheld multimedia device designed to take on Apple's iPod and the Sony PSP, according to reports.

Called Origami, it is thought to boast a touch screen, wireless web access, and to play music, videos and games.

A slick advertisement for the embryonic product and an official teaser site are available online.

Microsoft confirmed it had been working on Origami, but insisted no date had been set for an official launch.

Speculation about Origami grew as Apple launched the latest innovation in its iPod range.

The California company launched iPod Hi-Fi, a speaker system designed to put the portable music players in living rooms as well as coat pockets.

It also unveiled the latest version of its Mac Mini computer, boasting an Intel processor and the ability to stream media content from other computers on a local network.

Aspirational product

According to the Origami advertisement, posted online at video-sharing website youtube.com, Microsoft sees the Origami device as an all-purpose multimedia lifestyle tool.

A home media centre running Microsoft Windows
Microsoft wants Windows-based media centres in the home
The device's young, attractive users are shown using the device to stream music wirelessly at home, check the web for directions when far from home, or to send pictures snapped on mobile phones or digital cameras.

Microsoft said the advertisement was created a year ago, and may not reflect the eventual size and shape of any Origami device.

There was no indication whether the device would carry the Microsoft brand name or if Microsoft would simply provide the operating system.

The Origami project is a joint effort with unspecified partners, Microsoft said.

However, bloggers have linked to a speech made by Bill Gates at the 2005 Windows Hardware Engineering Conference in which he talked about an "ultra mobile" device that would cost less than $800 and would run all day on one battery charge. Mr Gates put a 2007 date on the launch of this product.

Other Microsoft watchers have pointed to an agreement with chip firm Transmeta which makes low-power processors for handheld devices.


Apple's iPod Hi-Fi
Apple's new iPod Hi-Fi aims to put the iPod in the living room
The company, which is best known as a software developer, has launched branded hardware in the past, including tablet PCs and home media centres.

However, Microsoft lags behind Apple and Sony in the potentially lucrative hand-held market.

Last year, Apple added video playback to the iPod, and speculation persists that new versions of the iPod currently in development could incorporate a larger screen and touch-screen facilities.

The Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP), also launched in 2005, offers wireless internet access, games and media handling capabilities.

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