Sonicblue to ramp up production of iPod competitor

Last year when Apple Computer introduced the iPod, some analysts suggested the unit's price would be a turn-off to consumers. Now another major player in portable music is bullish on high priced large-capacity digital music players: Sonicblue, which recently announced that it "has taken steps to increase current supply" of its Rio Riot, the first hard-drive based MP3 player to emerge from the company.

Sonicblue vice president of audio products David Huffman said that the unit's initial strong sales and favorable industry reviews have made it a good "first step" for his company as it moves into the hard drive-based portable audio player market. "We view portable hard drive products as a significant opportunity for the company and we intend to be the long-term winner in this market," said Huffman.

The Rio Riot features a 20GB hard drive, but it eschews the FireWire interface found on Apple's iPod for the more ubiquitous USB 1.1 interface found on a wider variety of Macs and PCs. It does, however, sport support for Apple's iTunes digital music software. It also has its own built-in "LogiTrack" interface to make it easier to find your music.

The Rio Riot also features a rechargeable lithium ion battery that lasts for up to 10 hours, according to SONICblue. A backlit LCD interface and an integrated FM tuner round out the Riot's major features. With 20GB of hard disk-based storage, the Riot can store about 5,000 songs or the equivalent of about 400 CDs, according to the company.

Available for US$399.95, the Rio Riot can be ordered online or through a variety of brick and mortar retailers.

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