The Hard-Disk Shuffle

When it comes to digital music players and the future of computer-based entertainment, the computer industry appears to be going in two directions at once. Apple Computer has recently made a strong move into the portable music arena with its $399 iPod, a player that can store as many as 1000 songs. The company is also rumored to be developing software and computer-based editing equipment for the pro-audio industry.

Hewlett-Packard is attempting to move into the upscale home music market with its $1000 Digital Entertainment Center de100c (see previous). A computer/audio recorder, the de100c lets users download and store music files, as well as burn and play CDs. The de100c is carried by mass-market outlets Circuit City and Best Buy.

Belt-tightening as a result of a general slump in the computer industry has other firms moving in the opposite direction. Dell Computer has pulled its MP3 player from the market. Known as the Internet Music Box, the player debuted in June 2000 at a price of $199. Sales were disappointing, and Dell eventually began offering the player free with some of its computers. Last month, Gateway deleted its "Connected Touch Pad," a web-surfing appliance, as part of an overall cutback in entertainment devices. Another victim of the slump is Intel's consumer electronics division, launched a couple of years ago by the chipmaker with a big public relations campaign. The division will be phasing out its inventory, including digital audio players and digital cameras, over the next few months.

Japanese electronics giant Pioneer Corporation appears to believe in a rosy future for digital entertainment products. The company has just signed a joint-development deal with San Francisco–based Mediabolic, Inc., to develop what the partners call a "complete line of networked digital entertainment devices." The multi-year agreement will have Pioneer incorporate the Mediabolic ONE platform into new entertainment products, according to a November 9 announcement. Pioneer/Mediabolic prototype products will be on display at CES 2002, the announcement stated.

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