Panasonic, Samsung release MP3 players

Panasonic and Samsung have released new MP3 players to try to cash in on a surging market for MP3 players.

Panasonic and Samsung Electronics have each launched a range of new digital music players that combine numerous functions with head-turning designs that go as far as a diamond-encrusted model.

Panasonic is releasing four players in its D-snap range, two of which use SD (Secure Digital) memory cards to store music files and two that use built-in flash memory, the company said.

The SV-SD100V and SV-SD90 look almost identical, play files in MP3, AAC and Microsoft's WMA (Windows Media Audio) formats, have OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) displays and use SD cards for storage, the company said.

The SV-SD100V measures 42 millimeters by 42 mm by 17.5 mm, and weighs 39.9 grams with batteries. It has an FM tuner and a voice recorder, the company said.

The battery life is 14 hours 30 minutes when playing audio, and 7 hours 30 minutes when using the FM receiver. With an external battery pack, the SV-SD100V's audio playback time is extended to about 50 hours, according to Panasonic.

The SV-SD90 has the same volume as the SV-SD100V and weighs slightly less at 39 grams with batteries. It does not have the battery pack, so the audio playback time is 14 hours 30 minutes, the company said.

Panasonic also released the SV-MP730V and SV-MP720V players that use built-in flash memory to store data. Both play WMA and MP3 formats but not AAC files. The SV-MP730V has a capacity of 1G byte and the SV-MP720V has 512M bytes of memory.

All the players will be on sale in Japan from April 8. They will be available in the U.S., Europe and Asian countries including China before the end of May, said Akira Ikenouchi, a spokesman for Panasonic.

Samsung is releasing three players that use hard-disk drives (HDDs) to store data, and three players that use flash memory. All will be available in the Asian, European and U.S. markets over the next two months, the company said.

Of the players that use HDDs, the YH-J70 supports gaming functions and is available in a 20G-byte or 30G-byte version. It has a 1.8 inch TFT (thin-film transistor) display, can play files in MPEG-4 video and Audible, Ogg Vorbis, MP3 and WMA audio formats, and has a playback time of 25 hours, the company said. The 20G-byte version will cost 499,000 won (US$494), said Anthony Lee, a spokesman for Samsung.

The other players with HDDs, the YH-J50 and YP-D1, have similar features to the YH-J70, but have HDDs with capacities of 5G bytes or 6G bytes, according to the company. The YP-D1 has a 2-megapixel camera, the company said.

Of the three players using flash memory, the YP-W3, which is shaped like a pocket watch, has 8 diamonds embedded around its display and white gold plating, the company said. Pricing for this model was not available.

The latest models from Panasonic and Samsung join a growing list of products that vendors are releasing to try to cash in on a growing MP3 player market, said Shyam Nagrani, principal analyst for consumer platforms, at U.S. market research company iSuppli.

The MP3 player market will nearly triple in value from $4.6 billion in 2004 to $12 billion in 2009 and vendors will add yet more features to attract customers, he said.

"This is still a very young market; remember the iPod was only released in 2001. We'll see more and more features such as digital cameras, PDAs, dictionaries and GPS come in," he said.

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Paul Kallender

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