Matsushita outline MP3 plans
The digital music market feeding
frenzy began in earnest, as two of the world's largest consumer
electronics companies announced solid state audio players.
Philips today said it will introduce a player by Q1 2000. The
device is based on last month's final Secure Digital Music
Initiative (SDMI) portable player spec. The device's memory is
held on removable media -- it will ship with enough RAM for an
Philips didn't say what its player will be called, or provide
other specifications. However, the company said the player will
play MP3 files, in accordance with Phase 1 of the SDMI portable
That's in marked contrast to Matushita, whose player, announced
late last week, will categorically not play MP3s, according
to the company.
Matsushita's entry into the digital player market, also as yet
unnamed, also follows the SDMI guidelines, but will only play
files in Matsushita's own format. One of the sub-text's of the
company's announcement was that it intends to launch its own
online music distribution system, so it looks like Matsushita
wants to tie the two very closely together.
The company said the device would be released in the US next
Interestingly, Matsushita said it will be offering a terminal
device to allow the player to be loaded with music from the Net without
having to connect it to a PC. That's a major step forward for a
market that has so far been aimed pretty much exclusively at
computer users. Getting the broader spectrum of consumers into the
market will be essential for its long-term growth. The dedicated
online music channel is clearly part of that strategy -- after
all, users without a PC won't be able to look elsewhere for
Matsushita is already working with Universal and BMG in their
joint digital music programme, so you can see where the bulk of
the tracks it will offer will come from.
The SDMI Phase 1 Portable specification was released last month to
allow consumer electronics companies to prepare products for the
Christmas period, and it's highly likely Philips and Matsushita's
announcements will be followed by similar ones from Sony, JVC,
Technics, et al.
That means tough times ahead for Diamond Multimedia, whose Rio
PMP-300 player got the digital music market going in the first
place by finally allowing music buffs to listen to music on a
decent sound system, not a PC. However, Diamond simply does not
have the wider High Street branding or even presence to compete
with the big guns of the consumer electronics world, and it will
be interesting to see how its strategy adapts in the months before
its rivals really start competing with it.