Thursday, December 18, 2008

Catching Up. MP3 Players Hot on the Heels of the iPod Touch.

In August I wrote about possible new MP3 players from the major manufacturers. You can read that entry HERE. Some predictions have come true. Some have been close. Some are yet to be realized. Many companies have revealed their hands, and this post will take another look.

Apple showed us it's new iPod Touch. I guessed it would get a plastic back, and missed on that one. The iPhone, however, now has a Plastic back available in White or Black. The Touch got a lower price and a couple of hardware improvements. The new model (2nd gen) will get you a speaker, Volume controls, internal Nike Shoe support, and a new headphone jack that supports headsets with microphones. It's a better value than the first gen, with more features and that lower price. Same screen and form factor though.

Samsung has revealed the P3 it will introduce formally at CES in January 09. It has already won an award for new technology. The same size as the P2, but with a new interface, haptic screen feedback, improved audio processing (DNSE 3.0), better Bluetooth (2.1), a speaker and an aluminum body. There will also be a P4, but it is expected to be a leap ahead and available along side the P3 but with more features. The P2 and P3 are amazingly feature laden, so I strongly suspect the P4 will have WiFi. That's the only technology the P2 and P3 don't have. Samsung has shown us a folding OLED screen. The potential is great. I expected to be amazed by the P4.

Microsoft updated the Zune with new firmware and desktop software. They made the existing hardware more useful. The new Zunes are the same form factor but with a few new color options and greater capacities. Prices went down. They added the ability to buy songs from the Zune Marketplace using the Zune's WiFi. They also added a feature to let you tag a song you hear on the radio for purchase and direct download. Their desktop software is amazingly good, with quite a bit of original thinking over the competitors. Rumors include Microsoft porting the Zune UI into the Windows Mobile software. Time will tell.

Dell decided to get out of the game. Again. I'm guessing they took a hard look at the competition and realized they weren't ready. You can read a bit about it HERE.

I predicted Sony would be working hard on their own touchscreen player, but holding off on releasing it until they knew they had a great one. Latest leaks indicate their will be a touchscreen Walkman showing at CES. With Wifi and access to Amazon's Music store perhaps. A thin form factor, and original media interaction. Surely smaller and thinner than THIS player, and the best direct competitor for the iPod Touch out there. No one has seen the interface yet, and that's where many other players have failed. I'm counting on Sony to make a strong comeback though. They used to own the personal media player market. Let's just hope their new player is affordable.

There are other new players out there as well. Iriver brought out the SPINN. Cowon just released the S9 Curve. Even Coby has a 3" Touchscreen player. I've reviewed the SPINN and found it still needs work. I've got an S9 on the way. No WiFi in either, so their best competition is the Samsung P2 and P3. The Coby MP-835 is a poor attempt. The SPINN doesn't quite keep up. I'll let you know how the S9 does in a week or so. It has the most potential to unseat the Samsung players.

It's a great time for touchscreen media players. I have to give credit to Apple. They raised the bar for both cell phones and media players with the iPhone and iPod Touch. They brought all the competition up to a new level. I'm looking forward to 2009. CES 2009 is THE place to watch in the next few weeks. It's all happening there.


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