SAN JOSE — Intel Corp. wants to bring music to your ears – and not just the five-chime logo that accompanies its television commercials.
The world’s largest chipmaker is making its latest foray into the consumer product world with a portable MP3 player called the Pocket Concert.
The slick-looking device is about the size of a deck of cards. It will be introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this weekend and available to buyers in February, company officials said.
The Intel Pocket Concert Audio Player features a 128-megabyte flash memory that stores up to four hours of downloaded music – twice the amount now offered by most other MP3 players.
The player joins a crowded portable MP3 market that International Data Corp. predicts will grow from the estimated 1.3 million units shipped in the U.S. in 2000 to 6.7 million in 2003.
It also is just one of a growing line of products that Santa Clara, Calif-based Intel is banking on to grow beyond the computer microprocessor realm that the company dominates.
Since 1999, Intel has introduced a PC camera, wireless keyboard, mouse and home networking products, and a handful of fancy digital toys.
All the devices are personal computer add-ons.
“We want to make it that much more fun for people to enjoy their PC experience.
The better the experience gets, the more you’d like to get that advanced PC,” said John Middleton, marketing director of Intel’s connected products division.
That strategy is especially important now that the PC industry is struggling with a saturated market and a slowing economy, said IDC analyst Bob O’Donnell.
“Those who bought a PC in the last year or two, they’re not feeling the need to buy a new one, but they might want a new device to use with their existing PCs,” O’Donnell said.
Other computer companies also are diversifying their offerings.
Compaq Computer Corp. came out with an MP3 player last summer, while Gateway Inc. teamed up with America Online in the fall to sell an Internet appliance that just needs to be plugged in and connected to a phone line.
“They’re trying to establish this interesting sphere of activities, but the PC is still the central part,” O’Donnell said. “You hear talk about the ’post-PC’, but we think it’s ’PC-plus.”’
Intel’s push in the consumer space hasn’t gone unnoticed. Chief executive officer Craig Barrett is expected to deliver the keynote speech for the first time at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show.
At the show, the company also plans to demonstrate two wireless products currently under development: a Web tablet that would give users full Internet access from any room in a typical house, and a portable e-mail and instant-messaging device called a chat pad.
Despite the attractive 128-megabyte feature of the Pocket Concert, it’s too soon to tell how well the player will sell, said IDC analyst Bryan Ma.
The player carries a retail price of $299, with an extra $59 for an accessory kit that includes a carrying case, rechargeable batteries and connections for a home or car stereo. Many other MP3 players now sold with 64 megabytes of memory cost under $150 a piece.
Ma also predicts a shakeout in the MP3 player market.
“A year ago, you could count the number of portable MP3 player vendors on your hand,” he said. “Now I’ve counted well over 60.”
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