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Giant Leaps Into Wi-Fi/MP3 Players

Giant International plans to launch its own version of a Wi-Fi-equipped MP3 player that downloads directly from authorized sites via Wi-Fi connections.

Atlanta-based Giant cites a need to simplify downloading by making a PC unnecessary and by designing a device that works seamlessly with specific download services, said spokeswoman Marjon DeGroot.

The company’s Tao-brand wireless media player is not based on the MusicGremlin platform (see story p. 12), but like that platform, it integrates tightly with a specific music-download service to simplify downloading, she said. In this case, the device connects automatically to the Passalong music-download service, but it also connects to the Audible spoken-word site. Additional content partners are planned.

Passalong offers a la carte downloads of about 1.6 million songs at 89 cents each in protected WMA format. It doesn’t offer a subscription-download service. Audible offers downloads as well as subscription services that push content overnight to Tao’s player for playback in a car through the player’s embedded FM transmitter.

Giant plans to show the portable media player at a Mirage suite here during International CES. It also makes and markets Motorola-brand FRS/GMRS two-way radios under license and markets a Tao-branded XM2go XM Satellite Radio headphone stereo.

In expanding the Tao line, Giant has begun selling its player on its own Web site and Audible’s site. In April, it will expand distribution to online and brick-and-mortar retailers, DeGroot said. The device, which features 20GB hard disk drive, retails for a suggested $399. Consumers who sign up for one year of Audible service get $100 off.

Like the MusicGiant devices, the wireless media player will access download sites through home and office Wi-Fi networks as well as through Wi-Fi hot spots. The device incorporates a hot spot sniffer. Giant is talking with hot spot providers to incorporate seamless access to those providers’ networks, DeGroot noted.

Players in proximity with one another create an ad hoc Wi-Fi network to share some content, she added.