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Firm cranks up MP3 player for the car

The MP3 player is going mobile as a British company is about to launch what it says is the first digital music player for cars.

Hoping to follow in the footsteps of the popular Rio portable MP3 player, a British company is about to launch what it says is the first digital music player for the car.

MP3 (MPEG-3) is a digital audio format which allows consumers to download near-CD quality music from their PCs. Users can pick from an almost unlimited supply of legitimate and pirated music titles. Rio, manufactured by Diamond Multimedia, is a portable and relatively inexpensive MP3 player.

Diamond said recently it has already shipped over 100,000 units, since its launch late last year, despite a messy legal battle with the recording industry, which was seeking an injunction against Rio's distribution until better safeguards against piracy were in place.

Empeg has started production on Empeg Car, according to the company's Web site. Empeg Car, which runs on the Linux operating system, is powered by a 200-MHz StrongARM processor.

The removable stereo unit includes an FM radio receiver, and 2.1GB capacity to store up to 35 hours of music. Users download MP3 files from the PC to the stereo unit via the USB or serial port.

Empeg will begin shipping in late March. The Empeg Car Player with display, car mount, remote control, cables, and Windows-based software to download music titles will start at $999 for the 2.1GB version. The company is offering larger capacity models and other display colors.

"The initial design is to go in your car, but you can use it at home, on a boat...almost anywhere," according to the Empeg Web site.