Memory launches its SoulMate MP3 player

"Consumers just want the music and in the long term we are aiming to become a portal for the music business."

Another portable MP3 player will hit the streets next week when British company Memory Corporation launches its SoulMate, the first section of its divided MP3 hi-fi system, the MP3-Go.

Memory Corporation also announced Wednesday its commitment to becoming a content aggregator of music and video, through its portal site.

The 100g SoulMate comes in a 48MB version for £99 and a 64MB version for £119. It has only the basic features of digital players, with no functions such as voice recording facility or graphic equaliser that are found on other similar priced devices. It comes bundled with MusicMatch 4.3 jukebox software. The second part of the MP3-Go system, the MusicStore, is due out early next year. This comprises storage for up to 100 CDs and a docking station for the SoulMate, which Memory claims will be able to transfer one hour of music in 20 seconds.

The company said that it was going for an aggressive pricing and in-store marketing policy to firmly establish the brand this Christmas. It is currently finalising talks with major high street retailers to create a strong presence in the upcoming months. Dismissing Creative's claims that the UK market was not ready for MP3 products, Memory CEO David Savage said that for this Christmas "a high street presence is vital."

Establishing strong consumer awareness of the Memory brand is crucial for its plan to become a broadcaster of audio and video content. The company said that although it had no intention of managing artists, it wanted to provide consumers with content through its own portal, claiming that with the transition from the PC to " consumer friendly wireless devices", consumers will want a fixed download site that transparently delivers quality content through a number of channels.

"The record companies think that the label is the brand, but most people don't know what label the bands on their CDs are from," said Savage, "Consumers just want the music and in the long term we are aiming to become a portal for the music business."

With the expected proliferation of devices with wireless connection to the Internet, and the arrival of broadband access in UK homes, consumers are expected to increasingly access multimedia content through some type of information portal. A recent Ovum report predicted that companies that provided a compelling package of personalised content would "succeed with the wireless portal, [and] will own the customer." This will provide an opportunity for manufacturers of audio equipment to partner with content providers to supply content to their customers, according to Martin Brass, director of new media at the Media Research Information Bureau. Companies such as Sony, with feet in both camps, will be especially poised to take advantage of this scenario.

"A lot of companies will be doing this," said Brass, "But it will have to be done through partnerships to become the central click through point."