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Microsoft Confirms 'Origami' Is Portable Media Device

A new portable media device that allows users to listen to music, play video games, browse the Internet and jot hand-written notes is the initial vision of a product in development by Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and its partners, the software giant said on Monday.

Microsoft acknowledged that an early version of its new hand-held PC-like device was featured in a video on the Web site for marketing firm Digital Kitchen.

[As of Tuesday morning, the video appeared to have been removed from the Digital Kitchen site, but had already been re-posted on YouTube.com.]

"While Origami is a concept we've been working on with partners, please know that the video seen on Digital Kitchen's Web site is a year old and represents our initial exploration into this form factor, including possible uses and scenarios," a Microsoft spokesman said.

While some media reports flagged the product as a possible rival to Apple Computer Inc.'s (AAPL) iPod digital music player or Sony Corp.'s (SNE) PlayStation Portable game device, "Origami" seemed to incorporate more functions and appeared to be much larger than those gadgets.

The company declined to disclose details about the device, including when it might be available for sale, but it said there would be announcements over the coming weeks.

The device appeared to be a tablet PC, a notebook-shaped computer that allows users to write with a digital pen to input text on handwriting recognition software. It was about the size of a oversized post-card.

The video showed young people using the "Origami" device to sketch pictures, use a map with global positioning satellite technology, listen to digital music and play "Halo," a popular Microsoft video game.

[Stills from the video were posted on the non-Microsoft Web site WindowsForDevices.com.]

It was not immediately clear whether the product would be a Microsoft-branded device or if the software giant would simply provide software and services. Microsoft would not reveal the identity of its partners on the project.

[The San Jose Mercury News reported that the device runs Windows XP, has a 7-inch LCD touchscreen and will retail for between $500 and $800.]

Microsoft started to generate buzz about the device when the Web site www.origamiproject.com registered to the company touted an unknown product with cryptic messages like "do you know me?" and "do you know what I can do?"

The Web site promised to disclose more information on Thursday, but Microsoft said there will be no announcement this week about "Origami."

[The Seattle Post-Intelligencer quoted a Microsoft spokesman as saying that the March 2 date referred to the posting of more details on the Origami Project Web site, not to a full product announcement.]

Intentional or not, the mysterious marketing campaign fueled speculation and rumors usually reserved for Apple and its ultra-secretive new product announcements.

The disclosures about Microsoft's "Origami" comes before Apple promises to unveil "fun new products" at a media event on Tuesday.