By Richard Menta 10/6/08
It is no surprise that the iPod is so popular that on Amazon it takes nine spots out of that site's top ten selling digital portables list. What is interesting is that the third best selling maker of such devices, after SanDisk, is not Creative or Archos or Sony or iRiver. It's a company called PE.
Who is PE you say? Let's just say the letters don't stand for physical education. It's stands for Pro eBiz LLC, a company that according to its Amazon description source products from factories overseas.
SanDisk has steadily remained the number two maker, scoring in the number 9 and number 16 slots as of this writing. Microsoft's heavily marketed Zune lands the 120GB Zune in the 22nd position, it's only model in the top 40 slots. Between the Zune and the two SanDisk units are more iPod flavors.
Shortly behind the Zune, in the number 25 position, is an 8 GB MP4/MP3 Player portable by PE, a company that specializes in MP3 players and PMP units whose cases are molded to look identical to the various iPod models on the market today.
PE scored the number 25 slot with an iPod touch copy that they are selling with an FM tuner and a camera, two clear clues that this ain't no iPod. The cost for this faux iPod is $64.45, which isn't bad for a touch-screen MP4/MP3 unit, but unlike the real iPod touch this player has no Wi-Fi capablility. PE also scores in the number 33 slot with an iPod fatty clone, just behind Creative, which makes its first appearance with the 8GB Zen PMP.
Where it really gets interesting is that the second time that the Zune unit appears is in the number 43 slot for a special edition Gear of Wars 2 unit. With PE devices taking the number 25, 33, and 42 slots it is quite possible that PE is the number three selling brand on Amazon and Microsoft is number four. PE certainly offers more models than the Zune.
All of a sudden a relatively unknown brand is on the map. The big question, of course, is are the results on Amazon indicative of the market as a whole. Considering the PE is not in a lot of retail stores - at least we haven't seen it in brick-and mortar stores yet - the answer is probably no. But, Amazon does considerable volume online, which means PE is making some relatively serious noise. Sure, it's way behind the iPod, but so in everyone else.
Now it might be pointed out that almost every digital portable player we have reviewed over the past decade has done a competent job of delivering music files, a reflection of the fact that the companies making even the cheapest of players - all out of Asia where the iPod is made - perform outsource work for the big electronics conglomerates. This ain't no iPod, but for $65 it might just be that people realize its a respectable audio/video portable for the price. After all, Amazon makes sure to say in bold type in the product listing that this is not an Apple product, but a generic player.
Then again, maybe enough people are still fooled .
iPod touch look-a-like by PE
The Creative Zen Mozaic is available on Amazon