New Music Players Vie For Piece Of iPod Pie

The iPod mini is so new and so wanted that Apple is finding it hard to keep up with the demand. The unit marries diminutive size with style, functionality and almost all of the features of the original iPod, and that seems to be hitting the sweet spot among music fans.

The iPod mini and the original iPod will soon have more company, however, as several high profile vendors ready their offerings for public consumption. Several reports point to Sony, Motorola, and Samsung as either announcing, or preparing to announce, new digital music players designed to compete with the iPod mini.

Reporters is reporting that Sonyis Vaio Pocket sports a 20 gig hard drive and a 2.2" color screen. The unit comes with a 20 GB drive, and sales for US$465, which Reuters points out is almost as much as Appleis high-end 40 GB iPod (US$499). From the Reuters story, titled "Sony Takes Aim at Apple But iPod Seen Safe for Now:"

But Sony, which pioneered the market for portable music with its Walkman player 25 years ago, is hoping to attract consumers with more than just price.

The "VAIO pocket" can be connected to a digital camera and display photos on a 2.2-inch color liquid crystal display (LCD) screen.

"More than just a digital audio player, it enables the user to catalog audio tracks with images whereby they can quickly retrieve and enjoy their favorite tunes," said Sony spokesman David Yang.

CMP Net Asia is reporting that Motorola will produce a device called the E398, a combination cell phone/music player. The device features stereo speakers, a digital camera, and removable memory for those wishing to change out their music in smaller, more frequent bursts. From the CMP Net Asia article, titled "Motorola Eyes iPod Market:"

The E398 is slated to begin shipping this summer, according to [Motorola Chief Brand Officer Geoffrey Frost]. European operator T-Mobile plans to market the E398 in Europe this fall.

"Itis sort of a mini iPod that makes phone calls," said Frost, who was wearing the E398 around his neck during his presentation and demonstrated the unitis stereo capability. "Itis pretty cool," he added.

Frost positioned the E398 as a complement to the iPod. "I love my iPod," he said. "It has everything I own on it musically, and I do take it with me sometimes. I always have this [E398] with me."

Finally, Samsungis new players are memory based and are claimed to be the smallest players that sport a tuner and a LCD screen. From the PC World Australia news article, Samsung shows tiny audio players:

The two models -- the YEPP Digital Audio Player YP-T5H and the YP-T5V -- are each about 2 inches by 1 inch by 1 inch, and weigh under an ounce without a battery. The devices are the "smallest with an LCD and tuner," says Mark Farish, Samsungis marketing manager.

Of course, the way this industry works, we can expect that they wonit be the smallest for long.

As the devices require only a single AAA battery, power wonit add much to their weight. Samsung estimates that one of these players can run on one battery for up to 15 hours. The 128MB YP-T5H will list for US$130; the 256MB YP-T5V, for US$180.

The Samsung players wonit support iTunes, according to the article, because, as Mr. Farish put it, "We donit want to support iTunes at this time." Instead, the Samsung player will be offering support for WMA files and downloads from both MusicMatch and Napster, to of Appleis iTMS competitors.

For the full report on Sonyis new Vaio Pocket, stop by Reuters News; for Motorolais E398, see the article in CMP Net Asia; and see PC World Australia for the article on Samsungis new players.