Cirrus Logic has launched an audio processor which it says will allow manufacturers to sell MP3 music players for under $50 (about £32), taking them into a price range that more traditional portable music devices have long occupied.
Since the CS7410 music player is designed to decode compressed digital music stored on a CD, it requires users to have access to a CD burner to store their music. However, the use of CDs to store compressed formats such as MP3 and Windows Media Audio (WMA) is growing rapidly in popularity, because of the high storage capacity and low cost relative to the Flash memory used in many players.
Cirrus cites research from IDC predicting that CD-based compressed music players are set to surpass other types this year, with sales growing from one million units in 2001 to more than 18 million in 2006.
CD-based compressed-music systems are popular partly because manufacturers often build them into more traditional, mainstream devices such as DVD players, boom boxes and portable CD players. Cirrus promises that its highly integrated chip will substantially lower the cost of adding the features, with a cost of $8.62 in quantities of 10,000.
"You can store hundreds of tracks on it, as long as people are happy to burn their own CD from a PC," said Michael Noble, vice president of European sales for Cirrus. "It enables you to carry a whole library around on one CD-ROM."
Cirrus estimates the chip will appear in new products in about six months' time, and said it has possible partnerships in Taiwan and elsewhere in Asia.
The CS7410 is based on technology from LuxSonor Semiconductor, acquired last October for $10m cash and 2.2 million shares.
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