Matsushita unveils digital music players
Matsushita Electric Industrial Co Ltd unveiled four new 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 tiny share of the fast-growing 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.
The world's largest consumer electronics maker unveiled two models with built-in flash memory – one capable of storing 512 megabytes of data and the other twice the size at one gigabyte – and two that work with SD (Secure Digital) memory cards.
All four models fit in the palm of the hand and weigh less than 40 grams. They will go on sale on April 8 in Japan with the basic model expected to retail for about 14,000 yen ($134.40) and the most advanced flash memory device for 28,000 yen. Matsushita said the players would be launched worldwide in April and May.
In a tightly choreographed media briefing that included an appearance by popular female pop singer Ayumi Hamasaki, Matsushita also unveiled new stereo systems that will allow users to transfer songs to SD memory cards directly without using a computer.
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. This is extremely important and it is the reason why the cassette, the CD, and the mini-disc were so popular," Ushimaru said on the sidelines of the briefing.
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 thousands of songs.
Industry competition is getting tougher. South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co on Thursday unveiled six new portable music players ranging from a 256 megabyte flash memory type to a 30 gigabyte hard drive model capable of holding about 7,500 songs.
Samsung is just one of a long list of technology companies trying to take share away from Apple, whose wildly popular iPod music player and iTunes music store have a 70 percent share of the global digital music player and music download markets.
According to research firm iSuppli, sales of portable digital music players will grow 57 percent this year after more than doubling to 36.8 million in 2004. iSuppli estimates shipments of MP3 music players will expand to 132 million units in 2009. reuters