Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Portable MP3 device choices are increasing

By Jefferson Graham
USA Today

If you're in the market for a portable MP3 player for summer bicycling and jogging jaunts — and they're ideal because they don't skip as CD players do and hold more music than tapes do — you'll find more choices than ever in terms of both capabilities and price.

For example, prices have plummeted by almost 50 percent for some portable digital music players that use internal flash memory, such as the Rio 800, which costs $169, down from $299 a year ago, and can store up to two hours of music.

But consumers should expect to pay higher prices for portable MP3 jukeboxes, one of the fastest-growing segments of the digital music market. That's because manufacturers are beefing up these devices with more storage capacity and longer battery life.

Consider Creative Labs new Nomad Jukebox, and its $100 higher $399 price tag. The catch is that while the original Nomad had a 6-gigabyte hard drive, good for 100 hours of music, the new one has a 20 GB drive (340 hours) and a 10-hour battery, a big improvement over the two-hour batteries from the first edition.

Digital music pioneers Creative Labs and Sonicblue both are trying to play catch-up after Apple Computer made a splash at the end of the year with its sleek, tiny iPod. The iPod "reinvigorated the market," said Susan Kervorkian, an analyst with market research firm IDC.

IDC said 2.6 million portable digital devices — including CD players that can handle MP3 files burned onto homemade CDs — were sold last year, a number Kervorkian predicts will grow to 30 million by 2006.

In taking on Apple, Creative and Sonicblue — which has its own 20 GB hard drive unit, the RioRiot ($399) — didn't try to compete in size, one of Apple's biggest selling points. The iPod is half the size of the others.

Apple has been rapped for inventing a device that was compatible only with Apple's computers, which represent just 5 percent of the market. Apple's Greg Joswiak said the company hasn't ruled out making a PC iPod one day, but said that for now, an Apple iPod "helps Apple sell computers."

Nonetheless, several other companies are developing software to allow the iPod to be used with Windows PCs. Free test versions of XPlay (www.mediafour.com) and Ephpod (www.ephpod.com) are available on the Web.

Recent Williams College grad Joseph Masters of Asheville, N.C., came up with Ephpod after his mother gave him an iPod for Christmas. She knew he used PCs, but figured he could come up with a way to make it work. A few weeks later, Masters posted his solution, which works in conjunction with DataViz's $50 Mac Opener, on the Web.

Besides Apple, Sonicblue and Creative, other hard-drive proponents include Archos, Treo and RCA, which just introduced its $249 10 GB Lyra MP3 Jukebox.