Philips steps into MP3 with the Rush, snubs WMA

WMA may be making ground but it hasn't convinced everyone. Justin Pearse reports

Days after stealing the spotlight from the MP3 format, Microsoft's Windows Media Audio has been snubbed by electronics behemoth Philips which announced its entry into the portable MP3 market Thursday with the Rush.

The Dutch company inked its deal with streaming multimedia company RealNetworks, whose RealJukebox software comes bundled with the Rush and means support for RealAudio in addition to MP3. WMA, however is not supported.

Philips' choice could be interpreted as a blow to Microsoft in its determined effort to make WMA the standard for online music. Chris Woods, marketing manager for Philips audio disputed the assertion and argues that the company chose to partner with RealNetworks because of "the quality and user friendliness of its user interface."

The Rush launches in the US in March for $199 (£121), with a UK launch promised for the spring. Woods says that this is "just the first step" in the company's digital music plans.

Philips have a reputation for producing high quality consumer electronics and from an aesthetic point of view the silver Rush player, 50g and 70cm square, fails to disappoint. In appearance it sits very easily within the traditional audio arena, resembling Sharp's MiniDisc range. Woods confirms it will be marketed both within the PC and traditional audio sections of high street stores.

In a break with tradition, the player comes with no on-board memory, but ships a 32MB SmartMedia memory card. A Bookmark function allows instant access to up to 10 pre-selected points within a track, a Shuffle mode edits and arranges playlist and there's a multi-line LCD display to show artist, track, number, bitrate and elapsed time.

The player is compliant with the current SDMI phase 1 specifications.

UK pricing has not been decided.