SanDisk Takes a Bite of the Apple

SanDisk Sansa e-series flash-memory MP3 player

The runaway success of Apple's iPod music players have made them the bull's-eye for competitors. SanDisk, the leading multi-format flash memory card manufacturer, entered the MP3-player business only about two years ago, yet it now claims to be the number-two maker of flash-memory players with a 29-percent market share. Apple holds down the number-one spot at 49 percent, while other brands such as iRiver and Creative fall in behind SanDisk. (SanDisk doesn't make hard-disk players, a category Apple dominates even more completely.)

SanDisk unveiled five new MP3 players at CES, all of which include FM tuners with 20 station presets, FM and voice recording capability, and photo storage and display. Two are targeted at cost-conscious consumers: the $120 Sansa c140 containing 1 gigabyte of memory and the $170 Sansa c150 with 2 GB. Both have 1.2-inch color screens.

The three premium Sansa models are the 2-GB e250 ($200), 4-GB e260 ($250), and 6-GB e270 ($300). The last is the largest-capacity flash-memory MP3 player yet, according to SanDisk, and a definite milestone considering that the original hard-disk-based iPod could store only 5 GB. Each Sansa e-series player is equipped with a 1.8-color screen, which can also be used for playing video.

Both series support Microsoft PlayForSure, so users can download and pay for songs individually or subscribe to unlimited amounts of music for a flat monthly subscription fee from such services as Rhapsody, Napster, and Yahoo Music. All the players will be available in March.

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