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Apple-Rival Creative to Double MP3 Player Lines
Sep 3, 2004
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Computer audio equipment maker Creative Technology Ltd. said it would double its MP3 player product lines from its current eight by year-end, stepping up competition for rivals such as Apple Computer Inc.

Singapore-based Creative is fighting to expand its share of the fast-growing digital music market as its computer sound card business declines, rolling out well-received players that store thousands of songs on pocket-sized disk drives or smaller flash memory chips.

Its latest "Zen" music player has been hailed by reviewers as one of the strongest rivals to date for Apple's market-leading iPod.

Creative has also launched, with the backing of Microsoft Corp., a hand-held device called the Portable Media Center that can store and display video and photos.

The company said it held a 10-percent share of the global market for MP3 players in the June quarter, coming second after Apple's 17-percent share. Both Creative and Apple are pitting themselves against Sony Corp., which plans to launch a rival to the iPod.

"This year, MP3 will be the hottest segment -- last year was digital cameras," Sim Wong Hoo, Creative chief executive, told reporters. "We intend to double the MP3 player lines by year-end from eight to 16, to provide more choice to the big markets, and each line will have different design, features, (storage) capacity, and colors." He declined to elaborate on product details.

Creative also plans to extend its marketing push to Hong Kong, Australia, Tokyo, South Korea, Shanghai, and Beijing.

"Our marketing campaign had phenomenal success in Singapore, and we're prepared to scale this globally in a big way for this Christmas," Mr. Sim said.

He declined to reveal how much Creative was planning to spend on its television, print, and Internet advertisements, some of which mimic's Apple's advertising for the iPod, but said it would be much bigger than the "multi-million-dollar budget" for Singapore.

"We intend to lead in this space. We intend to out-invest everybody else. We will be relentless," Sim added.

Last month, Creative forecast lower earnings in the July to September quarter on a hike in advertising expenses for its new products. (Reuters)

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