Dell Unveils iPod Mini Challenger at $50 Less (UPDATE)

Dell announced Thursday the Pocket DJ, its answer to Appleis iPod mini, with a 20% larger hard drive and a cheaper price.

The new portable digital music player uses a a five gigabyte one-inch hard drive, making it 1GB larger in capacity to the iPod mini. Additionally the Dell Pocket DJ is US$50 cheaper than the mini at $199.

While not as stylish as the mini (see photo below), the Dell DJ is roughly the same size as the mini at 3.5 x 2.1 x 0.5 inches versus 3.6 x 2.0 x 0.5 inches. The Dell product weighs almost an ounce more at 4.4 ounces versus 3.6 for the mini.

Dell also announced the new player will use Microsoftis Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology, code-named Janus, and Media Transfer Protocol, but that it will not be available on the Pocket DJ until early 2005. Older DJ models will use the Microsoft DRM as well and a firmware upgrade for those models will be available later this year via a firmware upgrade.

The Dell Pocket DJ will start shipping by mid-November, the company said.

Is it really an iPod killer?

Beating the iPod mini is capacity and price doesnit always mean success in grabbing portable music player market share. Dellis original DJ, which resembles Appleis larger iPod, has made little impact on the market. Analysts say Dellis Pocket DJ is unlikely to be much of an iiPod killeri, but that it along with a number of other players based on Microsoftis DRM technology will help chip away at Appleis share.

Industry analyst Joe Wilcox of Jupiter Research believes the Dell Pocket DJ is just another example of competitor pressure focused squarely at Appleis dominating market share in portable digital music players.

"This new Dell player has a lot of things going for it," Mr. Wilcox told The Mac Observer Thursday. "Price. Hard drive size. A player as small as the iPod mini. This could be an attractive alternative that has good features and will turn up the competition on Apple."

Mr. Wilcox believes improved software on music players like the Pocket DJ will also put pressure on Apple.

"With Windows Media Player 10, Microsoft and its partners like Dell that will use the technology have largely closed the gap on Apple in terms of issues that made their players not as functional as an iPod, such as synchronization," Mr. Wilcox said. "Is it as good as Appleis (iPod)? Maybe not yet, but itis pretty close and for many people it might be good enough.

"What Dell has to do to leverage this product and become more popular in music players is get the basics right. What matters most is size and usability/synchronization. If Dell can get those things right, then the next thing is price. Dell has proven that price does matter and theyire experts at it. Sooner or later someone will come along - maybe Dell - and find the right formula that will compete with Appleis players. I think its competitors are starting to improve that formula."