SanDisk Unveils $20 Music Player For Pre-Loaded Memory Cards

About 40 artists are available on the SlotMusic cards for the Sansa player, ranging from oldies-but-goodies like Jimi Hendrix and Elvis Presley to new artists Coldplay, Keane, and Weezer.

Sansa SlotMusic Player

Sansa SlotMusic Player
(click for larger image)

SanDisk, which last month introduced flash-memory cards pre-loaded with music, introduced an inexpensive player this week for the physical music format aimed at people who prefer to avoid the hassle of downloading and managing digital tunes on a PC.

The Sansa SlotMusic Player is specially designed for use with the new SlotMusic cards that carry music in MP3 files free of digital rights management technology. The cards come with additional space for storing more files, and music on the devices can be downloaded and stored on a computer.

In releasing the player, SanDisk is betting that there's enough people attracted to the ease-of-use of a plug-and-play physical music format to build a sizable business. "With no need for computers or cords, the Sans SlotMusic Player gives consumers more time to play, and less time to worry about managing or downloading their music," Daniel Schreiber, senior VP and general manager for SanDisk, said in a statement released Monday.

That assumption, however, runs counter to the fact that Apple's online iTunes store is the biggest seller of music, outselling even Wal-Mart. In addition, record companies have seen CD sales fall as an increasing number of people turn to downloading music from the Web.

SanDisk's new player costs only $20 and will be available in the United States in Best Buy, Wal-Mart, and other retailers. The players are scheduled to head to retailers in Europe and other regions next year. Sansa is shipping its own branded player, as well as players branded for popular artists, such as Robin Thicke and ABBA. A total of about 40 artists are available on SanDisk SlotMusic cards, ranging from oldies-but-goodies like Jimi Hendrix and Elvis Presley to new artists Coldplay, Keane, and Weezer. The cards cost $15, which is about the price of a CD. The number of available artists, however, is minuscule in comparison.

To help boost player sales, SanDisk is selling the artist-branded player, which comes with a 1 GB card pre-loaded with the artist's album, for $35. Besides the music, the card may include liner notes, album art, and other content. The players weigh about 2 ounces and are roughly 3 inches wide, 1.5 inches high, and a half-inch deep.

SanDisk's music cards can also be played in mobile phones that support standard MicroSD external storage devices. SanDisk makes MicroSD cards with a capacity of up to 16 GB, which is capable of holding 4,000 MP3 files.