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More Features Seen For MP3 Players, PMPs In 2008

The MP3 player market is maturing and facing competition from MP3-equipped cellphones.

Although retail-level unit sales of MP3 players and sibling portable media players (PMPs) grew 14.9 percent for the 10-month period ending October 2007, that was down from 26.4 percent during the year-ago period, The NPD Group statistics show. Dollar sales fell during the 10-month period in 2007 by 1.7 percent compared with 19.7 percent growth in the year-ago period, NPD also found.

Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) statistics also point to market maturity. Factory-level dollar sales of MP3 players fell during the first nine months of 2007 by 8.9 percent to $3 billion, CEA said.

With numbers like these in mind, suppliers are developing more video-enabled MP3 players and PMPs, adding Wi-Fi downloading of purchased and subscription content, incorporating bigger screens and more memory, and adopting advanced features such as touchscreens and Bluetooth to ignite interest in repeat purchases.

To simplify access to content, suppliers are partnering with content providers to enable tight integration between devices and authorized audio and video downloads services — in a nod to the iPod and Zune but without their proprietary digital-rights-management technologies.

To explore these and other MP3 issues, industry executives were asked a series of questions by email. Here’s how they responded: