A Korean electronics manufacturer is set to release the world's first 81-hour-capacity digital music player -- but would you really want one?
The Personal Jukebox, from HanGo, creators of the mPride line of players, can hold 4.86GB, and will hit the market in November. It is somewhat larger than the usual player, weighing 9.9 ounces, and sports a sizeable 128-by-64-mm LCD screen. Other features include a rechargeable lithium ion battery with 10 hours of playback time and a USB connection for transferring files.
Pricing has not yet been determined, but the company says it should be competitive with existing players, which run £100-£250.
But the player isn't completely solid-state, since the flash memory used in players like Creative's Nomad or Diamond's Rio is extremely expensive. Every 10 minutes the mechanism has to take a few seconds to transfer data into a buffer, preventing skipping.
HanGo's US subsidiary, Remote Solution, is saying that the player "raises the bar" for MP3 users. Most players today can carry one or two hours of music, or about the length of a CD or two. The Personal Jukebox could tote an entire record collection. "The general feedback from consumers is that being able to carry an hour or two is a little bit limiting," said Ernesto Schmitt, president and founder of UK-based digital music site Peoplesound.com. "People would like to have several albums, their favourite tracks for jogging, etc."
High-capacity players could change the way people use MP3. Instead of building a playlist with a few select tracks, and downloading it to the player, a user could literally transfer his entire collection to the device and listen to it in the car or at work. "It could appeal to people on the move, people who do a lot of business travelling or are away from their PC for great periods of time," said Kevin Griffiths, A&R manager for dance music at crunch.co.uk.
But 81 hours? "That sounds like five average record collections, it's almost traumatic," Schmitt said. "I'd guess that was made by a Wagner fan who wanted to have the entire Ring Cycle on board." He suggested a more realistic capacity would be three or four albums.
Indeed, industry observers had concerns that organising so many tracks could be simply more trouble than it's worth. "There comes a point when big is too big," said Mark Hardie, senior analyst at Forrester Research. "At a certain point, you're not going to be able to create an interface... that can easily be navigated. You'll need operating system type of control."
But Hardie said that since the MP3 hardware market is so new, no one can really guess what will succeed or fail, and other hardware makers will probably follow suit in testing "the ends of the spectrum". Indeed, HanGo says it is just getting started -- its next player will carry 6.4GB and will probably cost the same as the 4GB unit.
Take me to the MP3 Special