Mon, Jan 23, 2006 - Page 11 News List

Taiwan's MP3 player war is heating up

COMING AND GOING Some vendors are expected to pull out of the MP3 market during this year, but there are still plenty of eager new kids on the block


With its first model "Kuro Neo," Kuro vows to capture 3 to 5 percent of the local market share by the end of this year.

"Our first product is a fashionable gadget designed by local design house DEM Inc (橙果), which makes it unique. We will expand into more product portfolios depending on the market's acceptance," said Jess Wu (吳政達), Kuro's international business development vice president.

The company does not rule out the possibility of introducing more MP3 players or even MP3 player phones this year, he said.

Kuro is the nation's largest peer-to-peer file-sharing operator. Three of its executives were convicted by a local court of copyright infringement last year.

Kuro neo comes in a simple design with rims and earphones emitting lights. It has a built-in memory of 512MB and is expandable through a Secure Digital card.

Without a screen, the gadget offers black and white colors for selection.

"iPods have already eaten up some 40 percent of the local share and are making life tough for other makers. We knew that this would be a hard battle to win, but with our advantage of an online music software platform, we will stand a chance," he added.

In addition to selling its MP3 player on its Web site and PC Home Online (網路家庭), Kuro has also started pushing the product through 7-Eleven convenience stores starting last Tuesday.

something for nothing

There will be 300 units allocated for the first batch through 7-Elevens nationwide, and purchasers will be entitled to a free CD for the NT$3,888 (US$121) MP3 player, he added.

As for ViewSonic, the company is attempting to attract buyers' attention by unveiling two models in seven cheerful colors.

These models come with 512MB and 1GB storage with prices starting from NT$3,880 and NT$4,880 respectively.

The company is selling its MP3 players with a bird doll and loudspeaker as a package, which provides listeners with a "mini-MP3 player experience," said Mike Chiang (蔣宗志), a product manager of ViewSonic.

"We are latecomers into the MP3 player market, and there is still a long road ahead to gain consumers' recognition," Chiang admitted.

The monitor maker hopes to enhance its product portfolio in the audio segment, as it already has established visual products such as liquid crystal display televisions and monitors, he added.

ViewSonic plans to introduce two more MP3 players in the first half of the year, fighting to secure up to a 5 percent share within the first year.

"There were around 1 million units of MP3 players sold in Taiwan last year and it will grow to 1.2 million units this year. As big players will not be able to eat up the entire market, we will still have a chance to grab a piece of the pie," Chiang said.

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