Microsoft said handheld digital entertainment devices running its Portable Media Center software can now be ordered from web retailer, although the gadgets won't be delivered until late August at the earliest.

Consumers are being offered two choices, the Creative Zen from Creative Technologies or Samsung's Yepp YH-999 Portable Media Center, both of which allow users to watch digital videos and recorded television as well as listen to music and look through photographs.

For those who have preordered, the Creative Zen device will be available in late August and the Samsung offering will be out in late September, Microsoft said. Both machines have a storage capacity of 20G bytes and retail for around $499 (£270).

The Samsung device has a 3.5in TFT LCD screen and measures 3.8x4.2x0.83in inches. The Creative Zen device, on the other hand, boasts a 3.8in blue backlit LCD screen, and measures 5.7x3.2x1.1in.

Microsoft has been touting the Portable Media Centers as its next foray into the mobile media market. The devices run Windows Mobile software and users can transfer digital media to them from PCs running Windows XP. They play back files in the Windows Media Video, Windows Media Audio, MP3 and Jpeg file formats, and are compatible with other file types including Mpeg, Mpeg2, Midi and WAV, Microsoft said.

The devices are aimed at winning some of the market presently dominated by Apple's iPod digital music players, which have seen robust sales. The Portable Media Centers go beyond music, however, adding playback of digital video and photos. The 20G-byte devices will allow users to store up to 5,000 songs, 80 hours of video, or tens of thousands of pictures, Microsoft said.