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More gadget makers sing MP3's praises

Electronics manufacturers unveil new products and plans that will likely increase the popularity of the MP3 downloadable audio format.

Gadget manufacturers are taking downloadable music to new places--literally.

Casio's Wrist Audio Player Today, a host of electronics manufacturers unveiled new products and plans that will likely increase the popularity of the MP3 downloadable audio format. Casio, for instance, showed off an MP3 player that fits like a wristwatch.

Additionally, some of these manufacturers also signed deals with audio delivery technologies, such as Liquid Audio, to offer their users a catalog of copyright-protected songs to download.

The releases coincide with the Computer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

All of these components are geared to give users a portable way to download music off the Web, store it onto a gadget and then listen to it remotely. These products pick up on the recent craze over MP3 (MPEG Audio layer-3), the downloadable audio format that has become a de facto standard due to its popularity.

Borrowing a page from the Dick Tracy character, Casio today unveiled an MP3 playback device that can be worn like a watch. Called the WMP-1V Wrist Audio Player, the device lets users transfer downloaded songs in MP3 from their computer hard drives onto the WMP-1V. Users can then playback the tracks and listen to them using headphones.

The WMP-1V stores 33 minutes of music and comes with a rechargeable battery and USB port. The watch weighs 70 grams, and is water-resistant.

Creative also came out with a new MP3 device, albeit more like a traditional Walkman. The company today said it will release two new products in its Nomad line of MP3 devices, the Nomad Jukebox and the Nomad II MG, due for release in the second quarter this year.

Both devices can store 6 GB, or up to 150 albums worth of music, according to the company. However, sources indicated that other MP3 device companies are looking to release players that can store between 150 to 300 albums worth of music around the same time of the new Nomad releases.

Meanwhile, electronics titan Sony today also MP3: Sound and fury announced its own steps to advance its online music strategy. Sony and Liquid Audio will make their secure music playback technologies interoperable. This partnership will allow Sony's online music device users the ability to play Liquid Audio-encoded songs, and Liquid Audio's PC-based software users to listen to Sony songs encoded in its ATRAC3 compression format.

The partnership coincides with Liquid Audio's announcement today that 12 companies, including Digitalw@y, e.Digital, HaiTai Electronics, Hewlett-Packard, Iomega, Jungmyung Telecom, RHAS_TEL, S3/Diamond Multimedia, Saewon Telecom, Sanyo, Texas Instruments and Toshiba, will use Liquid Audio's playback technology in their music devices.