Dell unveils MP3 player

Continuing its push into consumer electronics, Dell announces a disk drive-based MP3 player and details of a partnership with music download company Musicmatch.

Continuing its push into consumer electronics, Dell on Monday announced a disk drive-based MP3 player and details of a partnership with music download company Musicmatch.

The Dell Digital Jukebox music player, or "Dell DJ," and accompanying software will be available through Dell's online music store starting Tuesday, according to the company. Dell says that the device, which comes with a capacity of either 15GB or 20GB, can play music continually for up to 16 hours.

The software, called "Dell Jukebox software powered by Musicmatch," provides a graphical interface between a computer and the Dell DJ device, as well as access to Musicmatch Downloads, a service selling songs for 99 cents.

Dell's 15GB MP3 player will sell for $249, while the 20GB version will sell for $329, according to the company.

The product is entering a crowded market. Consumers have a choice of a wide range of portable digital music players, which use data storage technologies including silicon chip-based flash memory. Also on Monday, Flash-maker Lexar Media announced a flash-based MP3 player called JumpDrive Music.

Meanwhile, Apple Computer has been working with a variety of other companies to boost the number of add-ons that attach to its iPod player. A version of the iPod sells with 40GB and has a 10,000 song capacity.

In announcing its device, Dell seemed to take a swipe at Apple. "Carrying around thousands of songs on one small device is a nifty idea, but not if you have to recharge it every few hours," said John Hamlin, senior vice president and general manager of Round Rock, Texas-based Dell's U.S. consumer business.

According to Apple's Web site, the iPod can play for eight hours when fully charged.

The Dell DJ is part of a broader effort by computer makers to succeed in the consumer-electronics market. Dell also plans to start selling LCD TVs.

The Dell MP3 device also shows the growing role disk drives are playing in portable music players and in consumer electronics more generally. Hitachi Global Storage Technologies is supplying the 1.8-inch diameter drives in the Dell DJ, marking a major customer win for Hitachi. Hitachi announced the 1.8-inch drive earlier this year and began shipping it to customers in July.

"Dell is our most significant and earliest customer to adopt this (drive) in high volumes," said Bill Healy, Hitachi's senior vice president of consumer and commercial hard-disk drives.

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