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Lexar joins the MP3 party with new player

The company joins the crowded field of companies selling MP3 players, but it is pitching its product as a data-storage device first and a music player second.

Lexar Media on Monday joined the crowded field of companies selling MP3 players, but it is pitching its product as a data-storage device first and a music player second.

Lexar, which makes a variety of silicon-chip-based flash memory products, said its flash-based JumpDrive Music device will be available at retail locations nationwide in November.

The gadget connects to computers through a universal serial bus (USB) connection and has a capacity of either 128MB or 256MB. That's room enough to store about two to four hours of music, or the data equivalent of 88 or 176 floppy disks, respectively, according to the company. The 128MB product is slated to cost $89.99 and the 256MB version is expected to sell for $159.99.

But don't expect to find the JumpDrive Music device in the portable music player section of Circuit City. "We are encouraging our retailers to put it in the storage section rather than the MP3 section," Lexar spokeswoman Kim Evans said.

Evans said Lexar is aiming the device at "young, on-the-go consumers" such as students, who might use it to transport documents back and forth to school, but listen to music en route.

Lexar joins a growing number of companies offering portable digital music players. These include computer makers that are trying to break into the consumer electronics market. Apple has the disk-drive-based iPod, and Dell on Monday launched a disk-drive-based portable music player. Gateway also has MP3 players for sale.

Lexar is not the only competitor to say that its device can do more than just hold music files. Dell says its "Dell DJ" product also serves as a digital voice recorder or a way to back up critical data. Gateway's 256MB and 128MB digital music players also offer digital voice recording and data storage.

Dell's 15GB MP3 player will sell for $249, while a 20GB version will sell for $329, according to the company. Gateway's 256MB player lists for $169.99 on the Gateway Web site, while its 128MB player lists for $129.99.