Here's what select suppliers have introduced to the compressed-music portable market:
Archos: The Gmini XS200, due late October or early November, is the smallest 20GB HDD music portable at 2.9 inches by 2.3 inches by 0.7 inches, and it is smaller than the 4GB iPod Mini, the company said. The XS200 is 25 percent to 30 percent smaller than other 20GB models and 40 percent smaller than the 20GB iPod, added marketing VP David Feldman. The suggested retail is $249, compared to the iPod Mini's everyday $249, he noted.
Although the XS200 uses a fairly hefty 1.8-inch Hitachi HDD, Archos was able to shrink the components around it to minimize size, he said. It plays MP3, protected-WMA and WAV files but doesn't include encoders or FM tuner. It features USB 2.0, gray-scale 2.2-inch LCD display and lithium-ion battery delivering 10 to 12 hours of use per change. It cannot be upgraded to support the Janus DRM in Microsoft's Windows Media Player 10.
The company plans, however, to offer Janus upgrades for its AV400 and Gmini 400 HDD portables at an unspecified date.
Dell: Current and future Dell portables will support WMP 10 and its Janus DRM, Microsoft said. Two new Janus-compatible models are the 5GB Dell Pocket DJ and 20GB Dell DJ, due in October at an estimated street price of $199 and $249, respectively.
Both store MP3, protected WMA and WAV files. They're slimmer than their predecessors, with the 20GB model coming in at 4 inches by 2.4 inches by 6.8 inches, with 12-hour lithium-ion battery. The Pocket DJ's battery delivers 10 hours.
Gateway: A new music portable due in October will play subscription music content.
Lexar: The memory-card manufacturer is expanding its selection of flash-memory portables after only a year in the market. Like current models, the two new ones play MP3 and protected WMA.
The new models include the entry-level LDP-400, available in 128MB and 256MB versions at a suggested $69 and $89, respectively.
The mid-tier LDP-600 is the company's first portable with built-in FM tuner, FM recording and FM transmitter, which sends music to a nearby radio. The LDP-600 will be available in two capacities: 256MB in silver for a suggested $129 and a 512MB unit in black for $169.
The LDP-600 also features an SD card slot for additional memory, a seven-setting equalizer, a seven-color LCD, Sennheiser MX-400 ear buds and lithium-ion battery that recharges through the PC's USB port in 1.5 to 2.5 hours. Operating life is 11 to 12 hours.
The LDP-400 plugs directly into a USB port and operates on a single AAA battery, with 14 hours of operating life. Memory isn't expandable. It features user-selectable equalizer.
Olympus: One of the imaging company's first two music portables is also a digital camera. Both models in the m:robe series, due in January, are the first music portables with touch screen interface. Both play MP3 and protected-WMA files. At the time of shipment, they might incorporate the WMP 10 Janus DRM. If not, a firmware upgrade will be available shortly thereafter.
The 20GB MR-500i, due at an expected everyday $499, incorporates 1.22-megapixel camera, 3.7-inch color 640 by 480 VGA touch screen that doubles as a viewfinder, and wired remote with two-line LCD display. Menu navigation is via touch screen. Users also tap on the screen rather than press a shutter button to take a picture. A recharging/synchronization cradle recharges the lithium ion battery in three hours to deliver eight hours of music playback. It can also be charged in eight hours via USB 2.0 cable. It weighs 7.4-ounce and is 2.89 inches by 4.3 inches by 0.83 inches.
The 5GB MR-100, at an estimated everyday $249, is more compact at 3.5 inches by 2 inches by 0.6 inches. It weighs 3.5 ounces and features 1.7-inch monochrome touch screen display, USB 2.0 and 12-hour battery with the same recharging times as its big brother.
Roc Digital: The startup CE company founded by music entrepreneur Damon Dash plans November shipments of a 20GB HDD music portable with WMP 10/Janus support. It will be available at Macy's and CompUSA.
SanDisk: The memory-card maker entered the MP3 market earlier this year with an accessory that turned its USB drives into MP3 players. Now it has begun shipping its first music portables with embedded memory. All double as USB drives. They are available in 256MB, 512MB and 1GB versions at suggested retails of $99, $149 and $199, respectively. All operate up to 15 hours on a single AAA battery and play MP3, WMA and protected-WMA files. They also feature Janus DRM for compatibility with rented music downloads. All feature FM tuner, digital voice recorder and USB 2.0.
Virgin: The Virgin Player 5GB, due in October, is upgradeable to support Microsoft's WMP 10 and Janus DRM. The upgrade will be available by year's end. It plays MP3 and protected-WMA files and features monochrome display, FM tuner, dual headphone jacks, and mini USB 1.1 and 2.0. The 3.1-ounce device will retail for an everyday $249. It requires XP and Windows 2000 PCs.
Here's what's happening in A/V portables:
iRiver: The company's first portable media player, based on Microsoft's Portable Media Center (PMC) platform, is the $499-suggested 20GB PMC-120. It's due in November and will be followed sometime later by the $599-suggested 40GB PMC-140.
The PMC-120 weighs 9.6 ounces, features 3.5-inch color LCD, integrated speaker and microphone, USB 2.0, TV output, FM tuner and replaceable rechargeable battery that provides 14 hours of music playback or five hours of video playback. The 40GB version stores up to 1,200 hours of WMA files at 64Kbps or 160 hours of AVI-format 320 by 240-pixel video at 500Kbps.
Samsung: The company's portable PMC-platform A/V player is the 20GB YH-999, available through multiple retailers in October at a suggested $549. It supports MP3, protected WMA, Windows Media Video, JPEG images, MPEG, MPEG-2, MS-DVR, ASF, AVI, WAV and MIDI files. Visual content is displayed on a 3.5-inch color LCD screen. It is 3.82 inches by 4.21 inches by 0.83 inches.