By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
TWICE: How is the industry defining MP3 player and portable (or personal) media player (PMP), and are the definitions changing?
Dwight Sakuma, RCA: Many analysts and marketers have defined MP3 players (and video-capable MP3 players) as handheld devices whose main function is music playback, although they might also offer video playback and still-image viewing as secondary features on screens no larger than 2.5 inches. PMPs, on the other hand, have been defined as handheld devices whose lead function is the playback of video and whose color screen is 3.5 inches or larger. They also play back music and display still images.
These definitions seem to make sense. But there is an evolution happening in MP3 players, too. There are a few MP3 products that do video very well. And they fit in the hand vertically. For PMPs, most are horizontal. You put them on the lap tray in the airplane or hold them horizontally to watch content. This PMP category is facing competition from sources with far more available content — the portable DVD player and laptop PCs.
Brad Duea, Napster: The old definitions of MP3 players are outdated. When we look at the various devices, we primarily ask two key questions: (1) Can the device somehow connect with a PC and handle, via side-loading (USB or Bluetooth or otherwise), portable subscription music from services like Napster To Go? and (2) Can the device directly download and playback content from Napster Mobile? The device may be able to do other things, but we focus on these two types of functionality and run devices through a Napster certification process to make sure they handle the tasks above in the way that a consumer would expect. If they do, we certify them as "Works with Napster To Go" or "Works with Napster Mobile," as applicable. We try to focus on making the device evaluation process easy for the consumer — does it work with Napster? — and we try to partner with many device manufacturers so that we can offer the best choice to consumers.
Larry Smith, Archos: Convergence is forcing a lot of confusion in how to categorize products — including identifying the real competitors in a category, determining if it's "primarily" a music player or a video player, is it small enough to take on the treadmill, etc. Archos delineates the difference between portable music and portable video players by two factors: screen size and capacity.
An MP3 player, like our 104, can work well with a small screen and capacity under 10GB, even 5GB. For a portable video player, you need a screen at least 3 inches and capacity of 20GB minimum. While our PMPs all play music and have a photo viewer, the screen, capacity and size were designed for video. We're starting to see more analysts organize the players in similar terms, by looking at the screen size and then going through features.
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