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Haier America entered the U.S. portable media player (PMP) market with a trio of Wi-Fi-equipped models capable of wireless Wi-Fi access to the Rhapsody subscription-streaming and subscription-download site and to free user-generated AOL Video streams.
The devices, all in the Ibiza series, also deliver Wi-Fi 802.11b/g access to 20 free Rhapsody streaming channels. Wireless access is delivered in encrypted and unencrypted home networks and hot spots. The top model adds stereo Bluetooth for use with Bluetooth headphones and for streaming music to Bluetooth-equipped shelf systems and speaker systems.
The trio consists of a $329-suggested 30GB model with Bluetooth, a $249 8GB flash-memory model and a $229 4GB model. They're available in Sam's Club and Wal-Mart in Puerto Rico and on Amazon.com, but Haier is in negotiations with other retailers with other locations as well, said VP/GM Charles Green.
The devices also deliver wireless access to more than 1,000 preset audio podcasts and some video podcasts, he said. The units also feature a wireless Web browser, though Web browsing is not a primary function because of the small 2.5-inch QVGA 4:3 screens, Green said. Feature and service updates can also be downloaded wirelessly.
Purchased music downloads can be side-loaded from a PC to the devices but not downloaded via WiFi by the devices, a spokesman noted.
The Ibizas are the first PMPs to access Rhapsody subscription services directly via Wi-Fi, said Green. An audio-only SanDisk Sansa model offers Wi-Fi access to a Yahoo streaming service, and an Archos PMP accesses video via Wi-Fi but not subscription music services via Wi-Fi, suppliers said.
The Ibizas play video in the MPEG-4, protected and unprotected WMV, AVI and H.264 formats. Music can be stored in MP3, WAV, AAC and protected and unprotected WMA formats. The units also feature an FM tuner.
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