By Benedict Wee
Creative is known for their great line of media players, running up second only to Apple and although they do not have the massive following the iPod maker does, they do have a decent fan base out there which allows them to survive.
Unfortunately they do not posses the style and branding their competitor has, relying more on being able to squeeze tones of functionality into the tiniest piece of equipment. Their marketing and design of the product is usually a cut and paste affair of different popular gadgets out there.
Case in point, their newest player: The Zii Egg. If the iPod Touch is an iPhone without the "phone" bit, then the Zii Egg is more of an Android phone without the "phone". Let me explain.
The Zii Egg runs Google's Android but it is a media player like the iPod Touch. Unlike Apple's portable player however, the Zii Egg has extra features like GPS, Dual cameras (VGA in front and HD behind), a microphone with text to speech functions, 1080p HD output and a SD(HC) card slot which supports up to 32GB worth of storage space.
It's pretty amazing the way Creative has practically created a PDA, though they prefer to call it a handheld computer. But who uses a PDA these days?
Besides copying most of the functionality of the iPod Touch, the Zii name is an obvious "inspiration" of Nintendo's widely popular Wii console and like the other mobile developers out there, runs an OS developed by Creative: Plaszma which has its own application store. Plaszma will be an alternate and optional OS to Android but we all know which one we'll prefer to use should we purchase the player (Hint: Android).
I like the idea of the Zii Egg. Its extra functions provide a cheaper alternative to getting an Android phone (the base set without storage capacity is said to retail at US$199/NZ$303) and it's better than the HTC Magic in many aspects but what concerns me most about the gadget is the timing.
Good luck trying to incorporate the plaszma logo into your Personal Media Players
Currently the Zii Egg (with an inbuilt storage space of 32GB) is available to developers along with the Plaszma SDK developing kit for US$399/NZ$607 which means that it will be awhile before we see it on store shelves. By then the new camera iPod Touches will have been released and they would have to face tough competition with Apple. If I were Creative I'd just scrap the silly Plaszma OS and release the players with Android now.