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CES 2008: MP3 and portable video players

Preview of what's to come in MP3 and portable video players at the 2008 International Consumer Electronics Show.

It's been a tumultuous year for MP3 players. Apple's iPhone arrived, presenting the best argument we've seen for converging your MP3 player, phone, and portable video player. Flash memory MP3 players became smaller, cheaper, and more ubiquitous, getting lost between sofa cushions all over the world. We also witnessed online music retailers finally embracing DRM-free music downloads, offering a beacon of hope for a music industry lost at sea. So what MP3 player trends can we expect to see for 2008? Here are a few predictions we're willing to stake our reputation on.

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Flash goes even bigger
Last year, it seemed that Flash memory-based MP3 players, such as Apple's iPod Nano, were all anybody cared about. In fact, aside from the iPod Classic, Zune 80, and a handful of portable video players, high-capacity hard-drive devices are on a path towards certain extinction. With the recent advent of affordable 16GB and 32GB Flash memory chips, 2008 will undoubtedly be the year that Flash completely eclipses hard drive storage for most portable music players. Even portable video players, typically considered the last stronghold for hard drive storage, will increasingly switch over to Flash memory in an effort to shed bulk and increase battery life.


Touch screens...for better or worse
Touch-screen MP3 players were on the rise long before the iPhone. But now that an industry trendsetter like Apple is leading the way, you can bet that the majority of companies will have a touch-screen device to show off in 2008. Not all touch screens are created equal, however. We've already encountered a few touch-screen devices such as the Samsung YP-P2 and Cowon Q5W, that aren't exactly a leap forward when it comes to ease of use. Ultimately, we're taking the touch screen trend with a grain of salt. By CES 2009, the touch-screen backlash will be in full swing and we'll probably see retro knobs and big buttons on everything.

Bluetooth takes hold
Bluetooth wireless technology has been slowly creeping into our phones, our laptops, and even our cars. The promise of Bluetooth for MP3 players is the ability to cut the wires between your MP3 player and your headphones or home entertainment center, without the interference common to other types of wireless audio transmission. While there are a number of third-party Bluetooth accessories on the market, there are few MP3 players that include built-in Bluetooth audio streaming. With Bluetooth-ready MP3 players such as the Samsung YP-T10 and Haier Ibiza Rhapsody leading the charge, you can bet that built-in Bluetooth audio streaming will become an increasingly common feature on MP3 players. We hope that 2008 will also be the year that we see an update to the stale A2DP Bluetooth audio standard--bringing higher quality audio streaming, with less latency.