Compaq debuts flash-free audio players

The company announces two new digital audio players that use discs instead of expensive flash memory cards to store songs.

Richard Shim Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Richard Shim
writes about gadgets big and small.
Richard Shim
2 min read
Compaq Computer is putting a new spin on its digital audio players.

The Houston-based company announced on Monday two new players that use discs instead of expensive flash memory cards to store songs. Available now in stores, the $99 iPaq Personal Mini-CD Player PM-1 and the $169 iPaq Personal CD Player PCD-1 add to Compaq's strategy of pushing beyond PCs while still developing products that are tied to them.

The PM-1 can store up to six hours of digital audio on a disk about half the size of a standard CD. The iPaq Personal CD Player PCD-1 can hold about 20 hours of digital audio and uses standard 4.75-inch CDs.

Both devices play CD-recordable, CD-rewritable and CD media, support MP3 or Windows Media files, and come with rechargeable batteries. The PCD-1 also has an FM tuner.

"We're looking for growth beyond PCs, and capitalizing on the popularity of digital audio is part of that effort," Compaq spokesman David Albritton said.

Most digital audio players use flash memory, according to research firm IDC. Flash memory players have outsold those using CD media by slightly more than two to one. However, IDC projects that by 2003, units using CDs will have the upper hand.

Part of the reason for the expected shift, according to IDC analyst Susan Kevorkian, is that people are familiar with CDs, and CDs can store more data more inexpensively than flash memory.

"CD-based MP3 players as a category are catching on in the same way that flash memory players did," she said. "The difference is that there is an enormous installed base of people that are already familiar with CDs and CD players."

Compaq's new portable players are not the first digital audio efforts from the company. It also sells the iPaq Personal Audio Player PA-2, which uses flash memory for storage, and a home digital audio receiver, the iPaq Music Center, that uses a hard drive for storage.

"When we first launched the iPaq brand in August of 2000, we were looking to take access to the Internet beyond PCs, and that included digital audio products and Internet appliances," Albritton said.

The iPaq line also includes handheld computers and networking products.

Other PC-related companies have made similar efforts in consumer electronics, but the recent downturn in the economy has led some to scale back those plans. On Thursday, chipmaker Intel confirmed that it was shuttering its consumer electronics division, Connected Products, because it "didn't meet our requirements for long-term growth potential," an Intel spokesman said.

Apple is expected to launch a digital device of its own Tuesday.