CES - Sandisk unveils 'nano killer' music player

Sandisk hopes to chip away at Apple iPod market share with new Sansa music players unveiled at CES.

Sandisk unveiled two new flash memory-based MP3 players Thursday at the 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show, attempting to make a dent in Apple Computer's runaway lead in market share.

The company announced the new Sandisk Sansa e200 series players, scheduled for a March introduction in the U.S. and Europe, at a press conference in Las Vegas. With up to 6G bytes of storage, the new players will square off against Apple's new iPod nano player, which comes in similar configurations.

Every participant in the flash-memory music player market is looking up at the iPod. Apple has come to dominate the market for handheld music players over the past few years, but Sandisk, Creative Technology and other companies are jockeying for position behind Apple and hoping to win over new music player users or disaffected iPod owners.

The Sansa e200 series is about the same length and width as the iPod nano but is slightly thicker, at 0.5 inches (1.3cm) versus the nano's 0.27 inches. The e200 models have a 1.8-inch color screen, while the iPod nano features a 1.5-inch color screen.

The e250 model offers 2G bytes of storage for a suggested retail price of US$199. A US$249 model is available with 4G bytes of storage, and the line tops out at 6G bytes of storage for US$299. For the iPod nano, two configurations are available: 2G bytes of storage for US$199 and 4G bytes of storage for US$249, according to Apple's Web site.

Sandisk also introduced a line of smaller flash memory music players at the press conference that, not surprisingly, resembles Apple's iPod Shuffle device. However, the Sansa c100 series players come with color screens, addressing a common complaint about the iPod Shuffle's lack of a display.

A 1G-byte Sansa c140 costs $119, while a 2G-byte c150 costs US$169. Apple offers a 512M-byte iPod Shuffle for US$99 and a 1G-byte version for US$129 on its Web site.

Additionally, Sandisk announced that it will support Verizon Wireless Inc.'s new V Cast music service with new higher capacity versions of its flash-memory expansion cards. A 1G-byte microSD (Secure Digital) card will be available at Verizon stores in the U.S. for US$119, while a 2G-byte miniSD card will cost US$199 at retail. Verizon unveiled the music service earlier Thursday at CES.

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