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JVC Plans Portable MP3 Expansion

JVC plans to quickly follow up the shipment of its first flash-memory headphone stereo with the July delivery of two more flash-memory models and a possible fourth-quarter release of its first hard-disk model, said consumer audio GM Steve Howcott.

“Retailers are looking for iPod alternatives, and our accounts have been asking us to come out with something different,” he said. The flash-memory models, he noted, will appeal to consumers who don’t find the flash-memory iPod Shuffle appealing because of its limited feature set.

All of the models will play MP3 and protected-WMA music files, including rented songs downloaded from WMA-based portable subscription services, he said.

JVC’s first flash-memory model, available since March for as little as $149, incorporates controls and embedded 128MB flash memory in ear-clip headphones. The next two players will feature 512MB and 1GB of embedded memory in an outboard module incorporating three-line text display, FM recording, and voice recording. They are expected to retail for as little as $129 and $179, respectively.

Under tentative plans for the hard-drive model, JVC will package an IR remote and a docking station with the device. Such accessories are sold separately for Apple’s iPod, Howcott noted.

JVC’s first flash-memory portable, the XA-A50CL, provides audio confirmation of all function changes so people don’t have to look at the controls while operating them. A single AAA battery delivers 20 hours of playback time. PCs recognize the device as a USB drive, so transferring files is a drag-and-drop procedure.

In portable audio, the company continues to offer CD-based headphone stereos and boomboxes, including MP3-CD headphone stereos starting at an everyday $49 and an MP3-CD boombox at $169.