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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 January, 2004, 10:41 GMT
Sony packs more into mini-discs

By Alfred Hermida
BBC News Online technology editor in Las Vegas

Sony's Hi-MD disc
Sony has learnt from others that use hard drives or memory cards
Sony has packed a lot more into its mini-disc digital music players.

The Japanese electronics giant has developed a new format which can store up to 45 hours of music on a single disc, as well as pictures and text.

The new Hi-MD players and discs will be available from April, Sony said at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The mini-disc walkman has been facing tough competition from portable MP3 players, like Apple's iPod, which holds up to 10,000 songs on a hard drive.

"With Hi-MD players, we're giving music lovers more choices," said Todd Schrader, Vice President of Marketing for Sony Electronics' portable music range. "Nothing's been left out."

Music lessons

The new format can pack a gigabyte of data onto a disc, amounting to 45 hours of music compressed at 48Kbps.

This compares to 13 hours of music on a standard 80-minute mini-disc encoded at the same rate.

The new machines will be able to play both new and old discs and have built-in copyright protection.

Sony mini-disc player
New Hi-MD recorders can act as external hard drives
Sony has learnt from the example of digital music players that use hard drives or memory cards to store music.

The new Hi-MD recorders will be able to act as external hard drives, letting people store photos, presentations or documents on a disc.

These can be transferred to a PC via a USB cable, which will also power the player.

The entry-level model of the new players will cost around $200, while Hi-MD discs are expected to cost about $7 each.

"We've created the best overall portable music solution that addresses digital music fans' needs for high capacity storage and long battery life in a small and extremely durable device," said Mr Schrader.

Boosting sales

Sony will be looking at the new high density format to breathe fresh life into its mini-discs.

The new format comes as rival portable music players grow in popularity.

Products like Apple's iPod have been a runaway success and have eaten into Sony's market share.

Sony estimates that global sales of mini-disc players and recorders from all manufacturers have totalled about 80 million since the devices went on sale in 1992.

The company expects to sell more than seven million mini-disc players worldwide in the financial year ending in March.


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