High street prepares for MP3 invasion

Creative Laboratories might not think the UK is ready for MP3 players, but Britain's biggest electronics retailer begs to differ.

Consumer-electronics giant Dixons Thursday responded with scorn to Creative's decision not to sell its Nomad MP3 player through retail outlets, while Creative competitor Diamond Multimedia blasted the decision as insulting to UK customers. Creative blamed the decision on a weak UK consumer market for the digital players.

Dixons, which presently stocks the Rio player, believes that UK consumers are ready for digital music, and is gearing itself up for what it believes will be the first Christmas of MP3. The company is training its staff to inform customers about the digital alternative whenever they respond to enquiries about portable audio products.

"We are extremely optimistic about the potential of MP3 this Christmas," said Duncan Beatty, Dixons branded-goods marketing director, "and clearly see MP3 as a sensible option for someone with a PC and Internet access."

For its part, Diamond has been aggressive in using the retail channel to market its Rio player, and has sold over 55,000 through retail since January this year, the company said. Creative's move is "an insulting view of consumers and shows a lack of understanding of the market," according to a Diamond spokesman, "and I am perplexed by their attitude. They have just joined the SDMI (Secure Digital Music Initiative), but seem not to want to do anything to develop the digital music market."

Diamond believes that the move might have been a reactive rather than a proactive decision. Creative's Nomad is a rebadged Samsung model, and with Samsung on the verge of bringing its own player out, Diamond claims that there may be a problem with supply.

"I think it is more the case that Creative isn't ready for MP3, not the consumer," said a spokesman, "if they'd got their act together they'd be out there building up their name in the market. I don't believe that Creative is in a position to comment when it doesn't even manufacture its own player."

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