UK consumers aren't ready for MP3. That's the message from Creative, who has decided to restrict sales of its eagerly awaited Nomad portable MP3 player to its Web site.
Creative said the first Nomad was aimed purely at the MP3 hardcore, and that the average British consumer was not yet educated about MP3. "If we put this into PC World there could be units sitting on the shelf for months," said James Ball, UK product specialist at Creative. He added, "This is a PR device... it shows that we have the technology and are still here."
Jupiter analyst Lucas Graves is unconvinced of Creative's reasoning. "I can't imagine a better way of educating the market than through the retail channel, especially around Christmas," he said. "The cost of bringing items to market in the UK is the governing factor behind its decision." A recent Jupiter report found that the MP3 market, while healthy, would not reach maturity until 2003 when sales for digitally distributed music would account for $147m.
Creative's decision contrasts markedly with Diamond's approach to the fledgling market. Diamond aggressively marketed its Rio player in the retail arena, and will continue to do so with the launch of its latest player, the Rio 500. However it is difficult to judge the success of Diamond's strategy, as the company was in real danger of folding had its takeover by S3 fallen through.
The Nomad, which will cost £179, has 64MB of onboard memory, an FM tuner and a rechargeable docking station. It will be available for purchase from the Nomad site from the end of October.