Play a Card Page 2

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SAMPLING SLOTMUSIC

SanDisk sent me one of its $34.99 artist-branded slotMusic players, festooned with graphics from Robin Thicke's Something Else album, with the microSD version of the album included in the package. Except for the graphics, it's identical to the standard slotMusic player, and it plays any other slotMusic or microSD cards, not just Robin Thicke.

The company also sent me an additional title, Nelly's Brass Knuckles. The Nelly slotMusic card came in a jewel-case-size pack that included the booklet from the CD, a tiny plastic case for the card, and the microSD-to-USB adapter. Of course, all this packaging largely negates slotMusic's potential for eco-friendliness.

All the advantages SanDisk claims for slotMusic bear out. I was able to play a slotMusic card on my LG enV cell phone, transfer slotMusic files to my computer through the USB adapter, and watch the videos on my computer. I could also transfer MP3s and WMAs from my computer onto the slotMusic card or a standard microSD card and play them in the slotMusic player.

The player itself is OK for what it is. It's a bare-bones model with no display, so you have to keep hitting the track skip and reverse buttons to find the tune you want. At 1.75 ounces with the AAA battery in place, it feels portly compared with my beloved Samsung YP-U3JQG MP3 player/FM radio, which weighs in at a mere 0.6 ounces. The slotMusic Player has no hold switch, but it has something even better: raised edges around the controls. For me, at least, these totally eliminated accidental button punches, and I didn't have to remember to engage a hold switch before I slipped it into my pocket.

THE BOTTOM LINE

For me, slotMusic suffers one giant, unforgivable disadvantage compared with CDs and downloads: I seriously doubt slotMusic will give me the next offerings from Pat Martino, Ornette Coleman, Steve Reich, Rammstein, or any of the other artists I like. But I'm old enough to remember buying Led Zeppelin albums on 8-track, so I've long since moved off the radar of music industry marketing people.

People in the 18-to-34 demographic will be more likely to find titles they like in slotMusic's offerings, but a sparse set of offerings it is. Of course, slotMusic uses a standard digital file format, so there's no risk that five years from now you won't be able to play the music you buy today. But many of slotMusic's benefits will be lost on the youth of today, who don't have a problem using computers and don't have the emotional attachment to hard media we oldsters can't seem to shake.

All that said, slotMusic's kind of neat, but I think SanDisk is totally missing their market. Who would really appreciate having a tiny, ultra-simple portable music player? Retirees, of course. Imagine artist-branded slotMusic players with the likes of Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Tommy Dorsey, and Perry Como. I guarantee they'd find their way into thousands upon thousands of Christmas stockings in Florida and Arizona. What a great way for record companies to sell all that old catalog stuff one more time. And best of all, imagine not having to waste hours on December 26th teaching your parents how to use the gift you just gave them.

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