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Mattel Shows Kids’ Personal Media Player

El Segundo, Calif. — Mattel is launching a handheld personal media player targeted to 8-year-old to 12-year-old “tweens” and marketing program the device through consumer electronics retailers as well as its traditional toy retailers.

Mattel wants to “become a leader in youth electronics,” said VP Philip Jackson of the company’s Juice Box. The battery-operated device plays Mattel-provided prerecorded videos stored on removable flash-memory cards, doubles as a digital picture viewer, and stores MP3 music transferred from a PC.

The device fills an untapped niche, Jackson said, because a kids-oriented personal video player already on the market from a competitor is based on the VideoCD standard and is targeted to kids ages eight and less, Jackson said. Because it uses VideoCDs, it’s larger than the Juice Box and susceptible to mistracking, he added.

The Juice Box will be available in stores on Oct. 17 nationwide through the company’s traditional accounts, including Wal-Mart, Target and Toys R Us, but CE chains such as Circuit City, Best Buy and RadioShack will also sell it, he said. The product will be available through more than 5,000 outlets for its debut.

The device will be available at an everyday $69.99, excluding headphones. An MP3 ripping kit for PCs will be available separately for $44.99. About 30 video titles will be available at launch at $9.99 to $19.99, and the selection will expand to about 70 by year’s end.

Content will be rated for “tween” audiences and includes video from such partners as the Cartoon Network, WWE wrestling, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Mutant Turtles provider 4Kids Entertainment, and others, Jackson said.

Juice Box is targeted to kids who are interested in iPods but whose parents balk at the prices of iPods or personal media players based on the Microsoft platform, Jackson said. It’s also a substitute for portable DVD players that raise parental concerns because of the content that children could view.

The Juice Box delivers video on a 24 by 160 pixel back-lit color LCD screen at 10 fps. A video codec developed by 4Kids is used and incorporates technology to lock the videos to their proprietary memory cards. For MP3 playback, SD cards are used.