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SanDisk hopes to upstage iPod with Sansa e280

POWER-PACKED MP3 With a removable memory card that allows capacity expansion to 10 gigabytes, the flash-based e280 can store up to 2,500 songs

AFP , SAN FRANCISCO

SanDisk Corp introduced the world's highest-capacity flash-memory MP3 player on Monday and priced it to take a bigger bite of the market dominated by Apple's iPods.

The Sansa e280 features eight gigabytes of flash-based memory expandable to 10 gigabytes, which translates into the potential to store as many as 2,500 songs.

SanDisk said its latest addition to the Sansa e200 line of MP3 players would be in US stores by Sept. 8 and rolled out worldwide shortly thereafter.

Larger capacity

The Milpitas, California company priced its new player at US$249.99, putting it in a price bracket with iPod Nanos that offer about half the music-storing capacity.

Flash-memory is made of tiny hardware that enables MP3 players such as the Nano and the e280 to be made sleek, small and light.

Apple's larger iPod MP3 players use hard drives to offer as much as 60 gigabytes of storage and come with price tags of up to US$399.

Along with unveiling the e280, SanDisk announced cuts of US$40 to US$60 in the prices of Sansa flash-based MP3 models that were introduced this spring.

The new price for the firm's two-gigabyte Sansa e250 model was US$139.99; the four-gigabyte e260 was US$179.99 and the six-gigabyte e270 was US$219.99.

"SanDisk is once again making it incredibly affordable for consumers to purchase the most feature-rich, high-capacity players on the market at the best possible price," said Eric Bone, director of audio/video product marketing at SanDisk.

"The most costly ingredient in a flash-based MP3 player is the flash memory. Since we make the flash memory, we essentially remove the middleman and pass [the] savings directly to the consumer," he said.

The e280 players were built to accommodate removable memory cards that could increase storage capacity to 10 gigabytes.

Cellphone link

The cards can be switched into music-capable mobile phones or other devices, taking chosen songs with them.

Sansa e280 features include the ability to download digitized entertainment from an array of sources, including Microsoft PlaysForSure and Rhapsody To Go, according to the company.

Apple Computer links its iPod models exclusively to the Cupertino, California, company's iTunes online store.

Sansa e280 also has an FM radio tuner and could be used as a voice or radio recorder, the company said.

SanDisk describes itself as the inventor of flash storage cards as well as the world's largest supplier of flash data storage card products.

The company was iPod's top US rival, and the Sansa line of MP3 players had 9.7 percent of the market in the second fiscal quarter of this year, according to the NPD Group research firm.

Apple commands 75.6 percent of the MP3 player market, while Creative Labs and Samsung hold 4.3 percent and 2.5 percent respectively, NPD reported.

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