Wow! Talk about an aggressive move by RCA in the MP3 arena. Five new products, including a shelf stereo and an Internet Radio receiver, mark RCA's intention to claim a considerable chunk of the digital music turf while the market is wide open.
RCA was the first major manufacturer to ship an MP3 player and we espoused then how significant that was. Products manufactured by small electronic companies, then as now, make most MP3 portable sales. The problem is only a few of them, namely Creative and S3 (Diamond Rio), have a significant traditional retail presence, mostly in electronic stores.
RCA on the other hand has an enormous distribution structure, established decades ago, that can put its products in nearly every brick-and-mortar shop out there. That is a great advantage enjoyed by all the major manufacturers including Sony and Toshiba. Add the companies on the horizon who are yet to ship an MP3 product like Aiwa and Panasonic and you get an idea of what smaller manufacturers like i2Go have to face. Already one small manufacturer has bitten the dust, iPlayMP3 who made the Moveman.
Major manufacturers also have the R&D staff and funds to make significant leaps in product offerings, and that is exactly the muscle RCA is showing with the simultaneous announcement of five products for the fall.
|The most interesting product is the release MP3 Music Machine, a 5 CD compact audio system that plays standard and MP3 encoded CD's. Selling for $399, the system looks just like any other compact stereo, which foretells the MP3 format's move to the mainstream audio market. MP3 capable CD players will probably find their way as standard equipment on all RCA audio systems by next summer to leverage their early entry into MP3 as a competitive advantage over the likes of Panasonic and GE who are yet to announce any digital music products.|
|The RCA Lyra2 follows in the footsteps of the original Lyra. Like the Lyra, the Lyra2 has no built-in memory. It ships with a 64MB CompactFlash memory card and can play MP3 files, Microsoft's Windows Media format, and Real Audio's G2 format. The addition of an FM tuner is the most notable feature on this unit which will retail for $299. The Lyra2 is encased in a brushed aluminum case for decreased weight and increased strength, just like the recently released Sensory Science RaveMP2200 and the Magnesium clad Nomad I MG and II MG series.|
|Small enough to fit in your palm, the tiny RCA K@ZOO! becomes the new starter unit for the RCA line. Selling for $149, the K@ZOO! Comes with 32MB of built-in memory and operates on a single AA battery. RCA did not say if the K@ZOO! has a memory expansion slot for other flash cards. If they do, it is probably the minute MultiMedia (MMC) cards which are about 1/4th the size of the CompactFlash cards.|
|RCA comes out with its own MP3/CD hybrid portable with the RCA RP2410 mp3/Personal CD player. Selling for $169, the player competes with the Pine D'Music SM-200C, the MPSTAR SlimLine MP3/CD-ROM Audio Player,and the Philips eXpanium.|
|Finally, the new RCA Digital Media Manager will utilize a consumer's TV set to display titles and cover art for music CDs, storing thousands of songs on a hard-disc drive. The device will also play DVD movies and will let listeners surf Internet Radio channels through a broadband connection. RCA does not state how many GB's the internal hard drive will hold nor do they offer a price for what is essentially a digital music receiver.|