Many would accuse Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) of having often spied a good industry space and attacking it a little late. (Although we all know that in the annals of history, Microsoft generally comes late then trumps the pioneers.) However, in the case of portability and video content, the giant seems to be a bit early to the game.

Microsoft reportedly plans a service through which, for a mere $19.95 per year, users can download certain TV and video content to portable devices like laptops, its own Portable Media Center, and sophisticated cell phones. It's dubbed MSN Video Downloads. (Microsoft's typical lack of imagination in product name-calling is another take for another day.)

If you wonder about the low, low annual price, there may be two ways to look at it -- first off, it doesn't seem like it has too much content to offer at the moment, and secondly, it's likely a way to drum up interest in the Portable Media Center launched last year.

This type of technology is definitely coming, and Microsoft is by no means the only company trying to get into the game. Nokia (NYSE:NOK) recently announced a test of cell broadcasts -- although it remains unclear whether consumers are utterly enamored of the concept or it's going to take a lot more getting used to. However, somebody else is betting on the idea: Sony's (NYSE:SNE) next-generation PlayStation is expected to be more than a gaming platform soon enough, with an added perk: the ability to play movies. (And we won't even get into Sony's attempts to bring the Walkman back to life.)

When it comes to a technology that has really taken consumers by storm, of course, most people would vote for Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPod as the story of the year. It has given digital musical content a vehicle that, so far, seems about as close to consumers' hearts as it gets.

That's not to say that Microsoft hasn't been jealous, trying to come up with ways to take a slice out of Apple's glory days. Even though some of those attempts don't seem to be cutting it, MSN Video Downloads has "preemptive strike" written all over it.

I still have a hard time believing that portable video will have the wildfire effect that digital music and its vehicles have had. Again, the fact that there are so many activities that we can do while listening to music -- as opposed to the concentration required to watch video content -- really makes music perfect for portability.

Of course, in the past, many people have defended the idea of portable video content, mentioning activities such as vacations, times in remote locations, and entertaining the children in the back of the minivan. The payoff could be mighty if it can make inroads against Apple's clout, and no one can blame Microsoft for trying.

Talk about MSN's power plays on our Microsoft discussion board.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.