Culture

MP3 player seems familiar

A San Diego company's new device shares similarities with two of the hottest gadgets in the tech world: Apple's iPod and Handspring's Treo.

A small San Diego company has come out with a device that shares similarities with two of the hottest gadgets in the tech world: Apple Computer's iPod and Handspring's Treo.

eDigital has started selling a pocket MP3 player known as Treo 10, which is similar in appearance and function to the iPod and shares the name of Handspring's upcoming handheld.

Although the Treo lacks some of the aesthetics of the Apple device, its 10GB hard drive is twice the size of the iPod's. And, at $249, it is also $150 cheaper than the iPod, which was introduced in October.

Apple's device is designed for the Mac and Apple's iTunes 2 software, while the Treo 10 works with a PC running Windows 98 Second Edition, Me or 2000.

"The obvious initial drawback to the iPod is it's not for everybody," said Mark Bale, eDigital's business development manager, pointing out that the Mac market is just a fraction of that of Windows-based PCs. At the same time, Bale said, the buzz surrounding the iPod could help digital music players in general.

"I think our product timing is pretty good," he said.

The Treo 10 is similar in appearance to the iPod but is somewhat larger. And while Apple uses the zippy FireWire port to connect the iPod to a Mac, the Treo 10 uses a USB connection. USB, though slower than FireWire, is more common on Windows-based PCs.

The iPod boasts 20 minutes of skip-free music thanks to built-in flash memory, while the Treo loads 8 minutes of music into memory. eDigital claims a 6-hour battery life for the Treo 10, compared with 10 hours for the iPod.

Apple iPod In addition, the Treo 10 is a bit harder to find than the iPod. While Apple is selling the device nationwide through its own retail stores, its online store and through other retailers, the Treo 10 is available only through eDigital's Web store.

As for its name, there are minute differences between the nomenclature of the music player and Handspring's soon-to-be released cell phone/handheld computer, which was all the rage at last month's Comdex trade show in Las Vegas.

eDigital said its Treo is pronounced "tray-o" and has an accent on the "o," while Handspring pronounces its device like the word "trio" and has a mark over the "e."

Both devices have a U.S. trademark and are not the only ones with that honor. Women's shoe brand Nine West also has a trademark on Treo for use "in the field of shoes and of accessories, namely handbags, belts and hosiery," according to the Patent and Trademark Office's Web site.

There have been other Treos in the past as well. Treo, with a long vowel mark over the "e," as Handspring uses it, was trademarked at one time for use as a pesticide, although that mark is no longer active. And, in the 1960s, Treo was trademarked as the name for "soap impregnated in paper tissues for general household cleaning purposes."