by Robert Menta 6/22/00
A very significant event in the evolution of the MP3 portable has been announced. This week, IBM publicized the release of a new 1GB version of its tiny Microdrives. The high capacity of these new drives, combined with their diminutive size, should have a strong bearing on the dimensions and look of future portables by offering an attractive price to size ratio.
MP3 portable manufacturer i2Go has already announced they will add the new drives to their line of players.
The dimensions of a CompactFlash memory card (smaller than a book of matches), the new drives will sell for $499 and are a milestone in the evolution of disc storage. Tripling the amount of storage density from 5.04 billion bits per square inch for the 340 MB Microdrives to 15.2 Billion, IBM is answering the challenge of cheaper, but much larger, laptop drives that were poised to dominate the high end MP3 market.
Laptop drives - found in the Remote Solutions Personal Jukebox and the upcoming Rio Jukebox and Nomad Jukebox - offer 4 to 6GB capacity in units selling for slightly more than the present 340MB Microdrive players sell for. Despite the fact that these drives are bulky, heavy, and power hungry, their great advantage in song capacity over present recording media more than outweighed the negatives.
The 1GB Microdrive closes that gap by offering space for over 300 songs, plenty for the average user. By pricing the new drives competitively, IBM stands to take back the high end by adding a great size and weight advantage.
Best of all, the new drives push down the price of the 340MB drives which now offer the best value over the memory cards that presently dominate the MP3 market. 64MB Smart Cards sell for just under $200 and Delkins 224MB CompactFlash card sells for $899.00 on their site.
It will be interesting to see how the memory card manufacturers react. The good news for the consumer should be markedly cheaper prices coming here too.
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