By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi and cellular HSDPA (high-speed downlink packet access) are turning up in MP3 players and portable media players (PMPs) as a way to bypass the PC to download or stream music and video from the Web.
The products include SanDisk's Wi-Fi-enabled MP3 player, Nokia's N800 Internet tablet, Cowon's HSDPA-equipped PMP and Haier's first PMP.
Products such as San-Disk's Sansa Connect, said Daniel Schreiber, senior VP/GM of SanDisk's audio video business unit, "un-tethers consumers from their computers" and allows them to get new music even when away from the PC.
SanDisk has begun shipping an International CES-announced MP3 player that uses Wi-Fi to wirelessly download songs from Yahoo's subscription-based download service, stream Yahoo Internet radio stations and view personal photos stored on Yahoo's Flickr photo-sharing site.
For Nokia's Wi-Fi-connected Internet tablet, a recently available free software upgrade enables wireless to access Rhapsody's free Internet radio and subscription-based interactive Internet radio services as well as Rhapsody's music-download services, including the company's subscription-download service.
Cowon's planned Q5 — a combination PMP, PDA and portable navigation device (PND) — features Wi-Fi and an optional cellular HSDPA module to access the Web, e-mail and stream content.
Haier has announced a Wi-Fi-equipped PMP with Web browser to stream and download audio and video.
Here are the products' details:
Cowon: The company's Q5, available in 40GB and 60GB configurations at suggested retails of $499 and $549, doubles as a touch-screen-equipped PDA through its Windows CE 5.0 Professional OS, which allows document and photo viewing and Web browsing. It browses the Web through Wi-Fi or optional cellular HSDPA, but a user can't make cellular voice calls with it.
Although it will stream Web-based Internet radio stations, a spokesman wasn't certain whether it would download music from authorized Web sites via Wi-Fi or HSDPA or stream subscription-based Web radio stations.
It's due at the end of June.
With optional $199 navigation package including TeleAtlas map database, it operates as a PND with spoken-word and visual turn-by-turn driving instructions.
It natively plays back video in the AVI (DiVX and XviD), ASF, WMV, MPEG and MP4 codecs and audio in the MP3, WMA, WAV, AC3, AAC, Flac and OGG Vorbis formats. It also records audio via its analog line input.
Other features include a 5-inch widescreen, FM tuner, built-in stereo speakers and DVR capability through its analog video inputs.
The 5.46-inch by 3.48-inch by 0.79-inch device weighs 13.4 ounces and delivers up to 13 hours of audio playback or seven hours of video playback on internal rechargeable battery. It will be available at Cowon's site and select authorized retailers, including Amazon.com, Newegg.com, B&H Photo-Video, ZipZoomFly.com, Buy.com and the iAUDIO store at eBay.com.
Haier: The company's first PMP in the United States is due in June or July with 30GB capacity, $349 suggested retail, and Wi-Fi access to streaming and downloadable music and video from one or more sites, a spokeswoman said. The device might also be compatible with subscription-download music sites. Its Web browser will also access any Web site, including online photo-sharing sites to view photos.
The compatible download sites haven't been announced.
Nokia: The company's $399 N800 Internet tablet, available in select outlets including Nokia flagship stores and Nokia's U.S. Web site, got a free downloadable Rhapsody application enabling quick access to RealNetworks' Rhapsody music services via 802.11b/g wireless networks.
The handheld device is positioned as a Web-browsing and messaging device with A/V entertainment applications. It accesses HTML sites, supports instant messaging and POP3/IMAP4 e-mail accounts and ships with Google and Jabber VoIP applications. It decodes audio and video in multiple formats natively, displays digital images in multiple formats and plays stereo through a headset or through the built-in stereo speakers.
The Linux-based handheld device uses handwriting recognition, onscreen keyboard and cursor pad to navigate Web sites and send messages and e-mail. It accesses any Web site and connects with online photo-sharing services.
Advances over its predecessor include built-in Web cam, stereo speakers, faster processor, an increase in embedded flash memory to 256MB and two memory-card slots instead of one. The slots can handle SD, microSD, MiniSD, MMC, and RS-MMC.
The 2.95- by 5.7- 0.5-inch device with 4.1-inch widescreen 800 by 480 display is available on Nokia's Web site, Nokia-owned flagship stores, and select other outlets, including Buy.com, TigerDirect.com and CDW.com.
SanDisk: The Wi-Fi-enabled MP3 player, the $249-suggested 4GB Sansa Connect, is optimized to use open Wi-Fi networks, including open hot spots, to wirelessly stream Yahoo's 30 free Internet radio channels and enable viewing of photos on Yahoo's Flickr photo-sharing site.
Paying subscribers of Yahoo Music Unlimited To Go service, however, can do more. Their Sansa Connect will wirelessly stream more than 150 Internet audio channels from Yahoo as well as wirelessly download an unlimited number of songs playable for as along as the subscription is paid up. The subscription service costs $11.99 per month if a year's worth of service is bought in advance.
Although optimized for wireless access to Yahoo's music-subscription service, consumers can also store individual songs purchased from Yahoo without a subscription or from other WMA sites, but the songs have to be downloaded by PC and side-loaded to the Sansa Connect. Likewise, the Sansa Connect stores subscription-based WMA music files downloaded by PC from sites other than Yahoo.
Eventually, SanDisk plans to make its device connect wirelessly with multiple download services.
A Wi-Fi sharing feature lets one Connect user listen to the songs that another Connect user is playing, as well as share the metadata of recommended playlists. Both users, however, must be Music Unlimited To Go subscribers. The devices can communicate on an ad hoc basis directly with each other when nearby, but they can also communicate when in separate Wi-Fi networks.
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