SanDisk Takes On iPod With 8 GB MP3 Player

SanDisk on Monday unveiled the 8-gigabyte Sansa e280, which offers audio, photo viewing and video clip playback capabilities at a price tag of US$249.99.

The e280 is the latest in SanDisk’s lineup designed to compete with Apple’s market-leading iPod.

Thousands of Songs

The device sports a microSD expansion slot allowing storage of 10 GB of music — or 2,500 songs — with an optional SanDisk 2 GB microSD card, making it the largest capacity flash-based MP3 player on the market.

“For SanDisk this is an opportunity to advocate and push the market towards flash memory. Certainly by being the first with an 8 gigabyte [player], and continuing to push the envelope on [storage capacity], they put pressure on Apple to make those kinds of adjustments as well,” Stephen Baker, director of industry analysis at the NPD Group, told TechNewsWorld.

The new device features a digital FM tuner for on-the-fly FM recording, as well as voice recording with a built-in microphone, all inside what SanDisk describes as a “scratch-resistant” alloy metal back casing. Unlike the iPod, the SanDisk device offers users a replaceable and rechargeable lithium ion battery.

The e280 has a thin design with a 1.8-inch color screen for easy viewing, advanced navigational features, and a user interface with backlit controls. The player supports Microsoft’s PlaysForSure standard, so consumers can download and pay for songs individually or download an unlimited amount of music for a flat monthly subscription fee from Rhapsody To Go and other music stores.

Long-Term Goals

The player is designed to work seamlessly with a wide range of popular music formats, including MP3 and Windows Media Audio (WMA), and protected file formats offered by many music stores.

Each of the players in SanDisk’s Sansa e200 line includes a nonproprietary digital rights management system that allows users to purchase songs or access subscription download services from numerous sources. The players’ TrustedFlash content cards can be played not only in Sansa players, but also in mobile phones equipped with microSD card slots.

“In the long run, SanDisk’s goal in this category is to increase the absorption of flash memory in the marketplace and make sure there is a myriad of devices that use flash,” Baker noted. “So it’s great for them if the new standards are 4 and 8 gigabytes, and not 512 [MB] and 1 GB, because they make a lot more money on that size memory.”

Anticipating the Holidays

In conjunction with the rollout of the e280 and in preparation for the holiday season, SanDisk has lowered its prices on the entire Sansa e200 line of products, including the existing 2, 4 and 6 GB models. Current pricing on the Sansa e200 product line includes a 2 GB flash-based player for under $140.

“The most costly ingredient in a flash-based MP3 player is the flash memory,” Bone said. “Since we make the flash memory, we essentially remove the middleman and pass that savings directly to the consumer.”

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