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Flood Of iRiver HDD Portables

Milpitas, Calif. — iRiver launched its first two HDD portable A/V players and its first two HDD music portables that store and play “rented” music.

Overseas, the company launched a CD-based A/V portable but hasn’t said whether it would appear in the United States, where it would be the country’s first such portable.

Two iRiver music devices — the 20GB H320 at a suggested $329 and the 40GB H240 at $429 — are compatible with Microsoft’s Windows Media Player 10, which supports portable music subscription services such as Napster To Go.

The Napster To Go service, available in a preview version for $14.95 a month, lets consumers listen to any song downloaded from the service’s entire catalog as long as the subscription is paid up. The songs are playable from the PC’s HDD, and they can be transferred to compliant portables. The songs will “time out” on the PC if the subscription lapses, and the songs time out on the portables unless they are periodically connected to the PC.

Both models, available at Best Buy and other retailers in October, will join two other Windows Media Player 10-compatible HDD portables already available, according to Napster. Both are based on Microsoft’s Portable Media Center (PMC) A/V platform. They’re from Samsung and Creative Labs.

The iRiver models, which aren’t based on the PMC platform, store and display digital still images as PMCs do but don’t store full-motion video. The two models feature MP3 ripper/encoder; FM tuner; voice recorder; color LCD screen; USB 2.0; 16-hour built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery; and playback of the following audio formats: MP3, copyright-protected WMA, ASF, Ogg Vorbis and WAV, which can be imported directly from a PC or a CD player. Images in JPEG and BMP formats can be displayed. Both models can be upgraded to support future formats.

The company’s first portable HDD A/V players — the 20GB and 40GB versions of the PMP-100 — aren’t PMC-based, but the Linux-based product does display video and digital still images. Supported video formats are MPEG-4 and DivX. Supported imaging formats are JPEG and BMP. Audio playback formats are MP3 and protected WMA. Videos can be displayed on their 3.5-inch 260K color TFT LCD display or on a TV.

The two models are available at a suggested $479 and $579, respectively. Their internal rechargeable lithium-ion batteries last for four to five hours when videos are played and up to 18 hours when music is played.