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SanDisk Revamps Fuze MP3/Video Line

Milpitas, Calif. –
SanDisk completely redesigned its Fuze series of MP3/video players with new
models that add a larger screen, more audio and video codecs, capacitive
touchpad, and a film-strip-like graphical user interface (GUI) intended to
simplify operation.

The Sansa Fuze+
will be available in versions with 4GB, 8GB and 16GB of embedded memory at
suggested retails of $79, $89 and $119, respectively, on Aug. 31 through the
Best Buy and SanDisk websites. Distribution will open up Sept. 12 to Best Buy
stores and in mid- to late-September to additional CE retailers.

Like before, the
players accept MicroSD cards for expanded memory and SanDisk’s


music cards, which are preloaded
with 500 to 1,000 rights-protected songs at $29.99 to $39.99.

The previous Fuze
models, said Tom Bailey, A/V retail senior director, had been upgraded via
firmware updates since their early-2008 launch, but the new models are
“entirely new,” he said.

The new models,
for example, sport a larger 2.4-inch display, up from 1.9 inches, and deliver higher
display resolution at 320 by 240 QVGA. A capacitive touchpad replaces a scroll
wheel, enabling users to take advantage of touchscreen-like functionality without
having to cover up part of the display with their fingers and without leaving fingerprints
on the screen. The film-strip-style GUI lets users swipe left and right through
a menu to get to audio, video, photos, FM radio with FM recording, audio books,
the voice-recorder function and memory card content. The default screen
displays music functions.

 “We have the only MP3/video players with
memory card slots,” Bailey noted.

For the new
models, SanDisk dropped its 30-pin charging connector for a MicroUSB connector,
enabling users to use one charger for both their MP3 player and cellphone.

The new products
add playback of unprotected AAC music files, enabling them to play back music
downloaded from the iTunes store. The other supported codecs are MP3, WAV, protected
WMA, FLAC, Off Vorbis and various podcast formats. In video, the previous
models supported only MPEG-4, but the new models add WMV, H.264 and the Flip
Video format. The latter requires the use of included conversion software
loaded on a PC.

Like their
predecessors, the new models store subscription-music downloads from Rhapsody,
eMusic and Napster.

The new units will
come in five color choices, while their predecessors came in three colors.

The company, which
also offers less-expensive Clip music-only players, said it enjoyed the No. 1
unit and dollar share in MP3/video players priced less than $100 in the U.S. in
2009. Although the iPod Shuffle plays in that price range, it offers only music
playback, Bailey noted. When adding the iPod Shuffle into the comparison, Apple
and SanDisk unit and dollar shares in the below-$100 segment are “close,” he

Bailey called
SanDisk’s MP3-player sales “strong” even though about one of every three adults
has already purchased an MP3 player and even though music-playing cellphones
are capturing market share. MP3 players, he said, “are an affordable indulgence
in recessions.”

Dedicated MP3 and
MP3/video players will survive despite the rise of music phones for multiple
reasons, he noted. Because they’re lighter and smaller than cellphones, they’re
easier to carry around when exercising or jogging. Active users also fear for
the loss of valuable data stored on a music-playing cellphone if they damage or
lose it during jogging or exercising. Dedicated players are also good options
for kids and for the less tech-savvy, he added.