Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., the consumer electronics maker, unveiled four portable digital audio players, aiming to boost its presence in a market dominated by Apple Computer and its popular iPod.
Matsushita, owner of the Panasonic brand, currently has a small share of the digital music player market. but hopes it can win over consumers by marketing ultra-small devices that do not use hard drives and are easy to operate.
Two models have built-in flash memory -- one capable of storing 512 MB of data and the other twice the size at 1 G -- and two that work with Secure Digital (SD) memory cards.
All four models fit in the palm of the hand and weigh less than 40 g. They will go on sale on April 8, 2005 in Japan with the basic model expected to retail for about 14,000 yen (approx. U.S. $134.40) and the most advanced flash memory device for 28,000 yen (approx $261.67). Matsushita said the players would be launched worldwide in April and May 2005.
Shunzo Ushimaru, director of Corporate Marketing for the Panasonic brand in Japan, said Matsushita had no plans to launch a hard disc drive player and expressed confidence that consumers would eventually come to prefer using memory cards.
"When it comes to music and media, it has to be removable," said Mr. Ushimaru. "This is extremely important and it is the reason why the cassette, the CD, and the mini-disc were so popular."
However, it remains unclear if Matsushita's strategy will prove successful. The company first started selling music players compatible with SD memory cards in 2000, and its share of the Japanese market is still in the low single digits. Boosting memory card capacity will be key. The biggest SD memory card holds one gigabyte of data, or roughly 250 songs using the highest quality recording mode. By comparison, some hard drive players can store several thousand songs. (Reuters, Daily Times)
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