Four cents a song makes SlotRadio hard to ignore

In this case, the key to success boils down to clever song selection. SanDisk just made things a lot more interesting.

SanDisk's SlotMusic strategy puzzled me at first. I didn't understand why anybody would pay almost the same price as a CD for an easily misplaced microSD card with lower-quality audio. The release of the $19.99 SlotMusic player, which is basically an MP3 player capable of playing these cards, changed my opinion a little bit. But I suggested that the real strength would come in curated cards containing, for example, a selection of songs from the Billboard charts. Given that a regular album cost $14.99 on this format, I figured that a curated card for the same price would include 20 or 30, or maybe 100 songs.

Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive

At CES this week, SanDisk surpassed my expectations with the new SlotRadio, a $39.99 MP3 player with a preloaded microSD card containing 1,000 songs. That's four cents a song, plus you get to keep the player, which is capable of playing the SlotMusic albums and other music contained on a microSD card, and also has an integrated FM tuner.

The first players will contain cards preloaded with Billboard chart hits, which is a fine place to start, but SlotRadio could get really interesting if SanDisk branches out beyond the mainstream. Imagine a collection of the year's top-rated albums by Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, or Nic Harcourt. Or heck, go a little further and hire musicians to curate the collections: imagine Keith Richards' favorite blues songs, or an Alan Bishop collection. You might expect that music nuts--the kinds of people who care about Sublime Frequencies--wouldn't relinquish control of their playlists, but at four cents a song, I'd be happy to save myself the trouble of ripping or downloading 1,000 tracks and let somebody else drive for a while. As long as it's a driver I trust.

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About the author

    Matt Rosoff is an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, where he covers Microsoft's consumer products and corporate news. He's written about the technology industry since 1995, and reviewed the first Rio MP3 player for CNET.com in 1998. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network. Disclosure. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattrosoff.

     

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