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Books, Music On I-Jam Disks Due This Month

SCHAUMBERG, ILL. — Internet portable supplier I-Jam Multimedia plans to roll out copy-protected prerecorded music and spoken-word content on PocketZip disks beginning mid-October through about 300 Best Buy and Tower Record stores, I-Jam president Doug Marrison said.

The company will market $19.98 I-Jam-branded prerecorded music disks, dubbed License Plates (LPs), through self-sell floorstanding and countertop displays that will also display six Iomega-made Internet portables. The portables will be bundled with a free prerecorded sampler disk and one blank disk at $299.

Books on disk will start at about $24.95.

The 40MB music disks will contain up to 80 minutes of Windows Media Audio-encoded music at 64 Kbps, delivering near-CD quality equivalent to that of 128-Kbps MP3 files, Marrison said.

In the Best Buy displays, the portables will be Iomega HipZip-branded. In the Tower stores, they will either be Iomega’s HipZip players or “reskinned” HipZip players carrying the I-Jam name.

The prerecorded disks will play in any portable player that supports PocketZip disks, WMA and Microsoft’s digital rights-management (DRM) technology, Marrison said. Such players include I-Jam’s planned Win-Jam II, which will be available in early January and will be built by Iomega for I-Jam.

At least three major U.S. brands in the CE and PC industries will market PocketZip portables in first-quarter 2001, presumably with WMA, he noted.

Only one other PocketZip-playing WMA-equipped portable is currently available, but that model, Sensory Science’s rave:mp 2300, won’t play the prerecorded disks because it doesn’t include Microsoft’s DRM, Marrison noted. Sensory, however, said it plans to make a firmware upgrade available on its website sometime in the future.

I-Jam’s prerecorded disks will be in Best Buy and Tower stores for at least six to eight weeks, “and we hope it spreads beyond that to other retailers and more titles in January,” Marrison said.

Initially, I-Jam’s displays will contain nine discs with music licensed from independent record company TVT Records and six spoken-word disks with book content licensed from Random House. Additional spoken-word content licensed from Media Bay will be available soon after, Marrison said.

Six more music disks with licensed music from Christian label Word Records will be sold through Christian book stores and other venues.

The company said it hopes one of the big five music companies will soon jump in to support the launch. Although I-Jam declined to identify the music company, it released a statement from EMI’s new media VP Ted Cohen endorsing the concept. “I-Jam’s new LP, coupled with Iomega’s PocketZip technology, is an exciting new development for the security of portable music,” Cohen said.

The disks use Microsoft’s DRM to lock the music to the disk, Marrison said.

In the Iomega-made portables, the DRM also enables users to transfer a WMA song from a hard drive to a blank disk and from that disk to another hard drive, but the song won’t be playable on the other hard drive until the recipient pays a license fee, Marrison noted.

TVT artists appearing on six disks are Bender, Charlie Daniels, Seven Dust, Snoop Dogg Presents Eastsidaz, XTC and 2GE+HER. Jaci Velasquez and Rachael Lampa are the Christian artists.

Random House books on disk will be Danielle Steele’s The House on Hope Street, James Bradley’s Flags of our Fathers, Michael Crichton’s Timeline, Bob Costa’s Fair Ball, John Grisham’s The Brethren and Rosamunde Pilcher’s Winter Solstice.

Originally, Marrison said, I-Jam wanted to market prerecorded music on MultiMediaCards, but the continuing high cost of flash memory persuaded the company to look at less expensive PocketZip discs, which retail for $10 each in 10 packs.

Iomega’s player became available separately in Best Buy stores in late September and was to be rolled out in the following weeks to Circuit City, CompUSA, Fry’s, and others. When not merchandised in the I-Jam display, the players sell for $299 with two bundled blank disks.