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MP3 player for karaoke to hit the market

A Motorola spinoff unveils a new MP3 format and a new digital-audio player, both designed to display lyrics, artwork or other graphics while songs play.

First International Digital's Irock 680 player A Motorola spinoff on Tuesday unveiled an MP3 player that lets you become a lead singer.

The new digital-audio player, along with a new MP3 format, is designed to display lyrics and other graphics while songs play.

The Irock 680 player from Motorola spinoff First International Digital will begin shipping during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which starts Saturday. The Irock 680 plays songs in both MP3 and MP3i formats.

MP3i, short for MP3 interactive, is Songdog Network's new format that integrates graphical data with digital music files. This allows content such as lyrics, album artwork, liner notes, photographs and advertising to be displayed as music plays on a device.

The first MP3i content to hit the market will focus on the karaoke market by sending Irock 680 owners to a Web site that sells audio files with background or lead vocals.

MP3i adds yet another music format to the already jammed digital music landscape.

"As interesting as the application and idea sounds, the challenge will be in formatting the content into MP3i," IDC analyst Bryan Ma said. "Record companies are already concerned with one or two formats, and anything more will just add to the confusion."

Ma added that because of the confusion he expects that sales of the device and new format will start slowly.

The Irock 680 will cost $299 with 64MB of RAM, an FM tuner, a 6-line LCD, built-in microphone, voice recorder, USB connectivity, and dual headphone jacks. Irock 680 owners will also have access to 128MB of online storage.

The Irock 680 will be for sale initially on the Myirock.com site, which has not yet launched but will go live before the Consumer Electronics Show. The device will be demonstrated Sunday night at the trade show.

The Irock 680 is an addition to First International Digital's line of MP3 players, comprising the Irock 400 line. The company expects the new device to be available in the same stores as the Irock 400 line, such as Best Buy.

MP3i music files will be available initially only on MP3karaoke.com, which is part of Songdog Network.

MP3karaoke.com will charge a slight premium for songs in the MP3i format--$1.50 to $3 depending on when the song was released.

First International Digital vice president Randy Cavaiani said he expects that price to decrease as acceptance for the new format broadens.