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Gigabeat Gets Toshiba Back Into MP3s

Television and print advertising along with celebrity endorsements will herald the reentry of Toshiba America into the MP3 portable market after a two-year absence.

Ads appearing on MTV, Comedy Central, VH1 and TV Land start in the next few weeks to promote hard-disk-drive (HDD) headphone portables shipping to retailers sometime this spring under the Gigabeat name. A print campaign already launched in Rolling Stone magazine will be expanded to other magazines in the coming months, said senior business development manager Louis Masses. Toshiba will likely place radio spots to support the products, Masses added.

The amount of the marketing budget was not disclosed.

The ads will include appearances by music groups whose names include colors: Blues Traveler, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, and Vendetta Red.

Toshiba also launched a Gigabeat Web site from which purchasers can download about 10 free music tracks supplied by Universal Motown Records Group. Purchasers will also be able to download wallpaper and other files from the site to personalize their device.

Toshiba is not looking to become an iPod slayer, he added. “It’s a very rapidly growing market. There’s no need to go after iPod,” Masses said. “We’ll help grow the market.”

Four new HDD models, some available in multiple colors, feature 1.8-inch Toshiba-made HDDs. The models are the 10GB MEG-F10 in silver, blue or black acrylic at $279 (street price); the 20GB MEG-F20 at $329 in silver or black brushed aluminum; the 40GB MEG-F40 in brushed-aluminum champagne finish at $399 with in-line remote; and 60GB MEG-F60 “steel” brushed aluminum finish at $449 with in-line remote control.

Each features 2.2-inch 240 by 320-pixel color TFT screen to view photos and album art and set slideshows to music. Pictures can be displayed in horizontal or vertical mode. To simplify use, the portables feature a cross-shaped touchpad and a docking/ripping station, which allows for one-step 30-second ripping of a CD in a PC’s CD drive directly to a Gigabeat without manually dragging and dropping files. Files transferred through the docking station are ripped in WMA format, but the devices also play MP3 and WAV files natively.