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SanDisk Adds Wi-Fi-MP3, PMP, USB TV

SanDisk entered multiple new markets at International CES with its first Wi-Fi-equipped MP3 player; its first portable media player (PMP); and the industry’s first so-called USBTV device, which docks with any TV to play back video transferred from a PC. All use flash memory.

The Wi-Fi-enabled MP3 player, the $249-suggested 4GB Sansa Connect due in late March, will let users download songs from authorized sites through home Wi-Fi networks and open hot spots without connecting to a PC. The device will also use Wi-Fi to stream Internet radio stations without a PC and view digital pictures on photo-sharing sites without downloading the pictures. It also plays songs transferred via USB cable from a PC but not transferred via Wi-Fi from a PC. It will be compatible with subscription-download services.

At first, the device will most likely be configured to work with one existing authorized download/streaming site, but more compatible sites will be announced throughout the year, said Eric Bone, A/V product marketing director.

Although MusicGremlin unveiled a Wi-Fi-equipped MP3 player more than a year ago, the Sansa device differs in that it features Wi-Fi-enabled Internet radio streaming and online photo viewing. In addition, it can be carried in a user’s pocket and fit behind a business card, while the MusicGremlin device is bulkier because it uses a hard disk. In another major difference, SanDisk plans to make its device work with multiple download services, unlike MusicGremlin’s device which works only with its own download site.

The Sansa Connect will also come with microSD card slot, embedded speaker, 2.2-inch screen and the ability to share the metadata of recommended songs with other Connect users via a Wi-Fi connection.

The company’s first PMP is the 8GB Sansa View, due in March at a suggested $299 with a 4-inch widescreen display. The company’s largest screen size for a video-playing MP3 player is 1.8 inches. It’s promoted as one of the thinnest PMPs, at 0.66 inches. A full-size SD card slot allows for an additional 8GB of storage. A docking station allows for a TV connection to display up to 1,080i HD video. It uses a removable lithium-ion battery.

The handheld USBTV device, due in the late second quarter in 2GB and 4GB versions, is designed for “drag, drop and walk” simplicity to encourage more consumers to watch their PC videos on a large-screen TV, said Kate Purmal, senior VP/GM of digital content. USBTV is a simpler alternative for people who don’t want to configure a PC-to-TV network and who find that they can’t reliably burn PC video to a DVD, she explained.

Once the USBTV is loaded with video, consumers plug it into a dock with standard audio/video outputs to a TV. The device incorporates decoders for most major Internet video formats, and it comes with its own slide-off IR remote control and on-screen guide that lets users pick the videos they want to view on the TV.

USBTV will incorporate digital rights management (DRM) technology for compatibility with authorized paid-for video-download sites, if not at launch then soon after, said SanDisk chairman/CEO Eli Harari.

SanDisk will also offer USBTV technology to other companies that want to offer USBTV devices, and it will work with manufacturers of TVs, portable DVD players, car electronics and other CE products to incorporate USBTV’s pin configuration directly into their devices. This would eliminate the need for a dock, which must be plugged into the wall for power.

USBTV pricing wasn’t released.