by Robert Menta 8/01/00
The people over at IJam are coming out with a new digital music player that is quite unique. You noticed we called it a digital music player, not an MP3 player. That's because it doesn't play MP3's.
The Win-Jam is a WMA player, it plays only Microsoft's competing Windows Media Files.
The New Win-Jam
It is interesting the IJam should make such a move. First, they are betting that the WMA format will not only be a viable MP3 competitor, but survive against other competing formats like Liquid Audio, Real Audio, and Sony's ATRAC3 format. Second, that users who have a healthy collection of MP3 tunes on their hard drive will also build a sizable library of WMA files.
We think the biggest reason they saw a market in a WMA-only player is that with a barrage of MP3 players hitting the market lately - and that is not including huge electronic companies like Panasonic who are yet to enter the race - they need to differentiate themseselves by adding a unique product to the line. If they are the first grab a foothold in a promising niche, even better.
We can't say right now if the WMA format will be that niche, but it is a Microsoft product that is built into the latest operating system. This worked to the company's great advantage as IE supplanted Netscape as the default browser on the Net (so well, it got the company broken up). Of course, former Netscape users didn't have a collection of 400+ MP3 songs in their C drive to keep them loyal.
Still, the non-MP3 format will make it a favorite among the major labels other than Sony who will feel their music will be safer. Indeed, IJam may be setting itself up for some music package deals with the labels directly where they bundle several CD's worth of music with the Win-Jam. That would be a big boon for a small company.
Bottom line, the Win-Jam will have to face the same uphill battle that the ATRAC3-only Sony digital music players must face. As long as the buyer knows it won't play MP3 files, we are fine with it, in fact we applaud its aggressiveness. We had a problem several months back with the Sony Music Clip because the actual box for the unit had MP3 printed on it, misleading users.
So now you know, here are the details.
The Win-Jam looks like an upgraded version of the original IJam with a larger display and bigger buttons which look to address two of the IJam's shortcomings. The Win-Jam also upgrades to a USB port from its earlier parallel connection.
The single MMC slot on the original are doubled to two slots, giving the unit more memory capability. MMC flash cards, until recently, maxed out at 16MB of space, requiring IJAM users to carry multiple cards to play a reasonable array of music. The tiny MMC cards now hold 32MB of memory, topping the unit at 64MB.
The unit is powered by two AA batteries. The unit is due to ship in August and can be pre-ordered from the IJamWorld.com site for now for $159.00. Oddly, the company's website does not say how much memory that comes with.
So will anybody buy it? We'll find out in August.
The Rave MP 2200 is available on Amazon for $279.00