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MP3 player moves beyond infancy

Posted: 16 Aug 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:portable mp3 player? brand? design? storage capacity? wma?

Lau: If consumer intentions are any indication, the MP3 market has moved beyond its infancy and is poised for significant growth.

There is no stopping the phenomenal growth of MP3 player popularity, as industry pundits predict shipment and sales units of this digital audio technology device to exponentially increase over the next few years.

Gartner estimates that worldwide MP3 player sales, which nearly tripled last year from 14 million to 40 million units, will almost double again in 2005 to 75 million units. Research firm IDC also sees the MP3 player market staying "hot" in the Asia-Pacific, fueled by high demand for portable flash player shipments and the falling cost per megabyte of flash memory.

To determine consumers' buying patterns, comfort levels and digital-audio technology preferences, portable MP3 player company SigmaTel Inc. commissioned Research International to conduct intensive focus group discussions in the United States, China, Germany and Italy. A random sampling of teens and adults were selected from each country.

Results show that consumers throughout the world often think alike and consider three characteristics when shopping for an MP3 playeri.e. brand, design and storage capacity. Price is not a big concern for most of them, but they will not make trade-offs in their top-three characteristics just to get lower prices.

Another consideration of consumers is memory size. Although respondents differ in terms of memory size preference, most participants believed that 526MB to 1GB is sufficient to hold their data and music files.

Interestingly, most of the consumers surveyed were also not technically inclined to understand differences between music file formats such as MP3, WMA and aac. They believe that it should be easy to load and transfer music files to the MP3 player they intend to purchase, and often already have digital music stored on their PCs.

U.S. customers prefer trusted and well-known brand names with designs similar to cellphonesoffering solid construction with minimalist style and durable. They were not sure of the difference between file formats, or if player compatibility is an issue. Downloading from the Internet and copying music from CDs are popular ways of obtaining music in the United States.

Meanwhile, in China, where digital rights management legislation does not exist and paid download sites are not common due to the lack of a national consumer credit system, consumers prefer international brand names, although some local brands are gaining ground. They prefer a design that is smaller than a cellphone and lightweight for portability.

Chinese consumers are also quite savvy when it comes to sound quality and chip technology, often spending time in electronics stores comparing sound quality among different players before purchasing.

Based on the survey, it is clear that MP3 players have caught on and will be around for years to come. If consumer intentions are any indication, the MP3 market has moved beyond its infancy and is poised for significant growth.

- Jose Lau
Vice President for Asia
SigmaTel Inc.

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