Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The RIAA and Wimpy WiFi - Part 2

Let's review: what most people want in a WiFi-enabled MP3 player is pretty straightforward. They want a player with similar capabilities to a cellphone, or a laptop. It should be able to access the Internet through hotspots. It should be able to send files back and forth to other WiFi-enabled devices, and perhaps sync wirelessly with a PC.

Here's the thing -- whoever delivers such a device will make a fortune. In the meantime, however, the RIAA relentlessly continues to stop, or at least slow down, the market's move to the digital domain.

The Sansa CONNECT is a step closer, but its still not there. Developed in conjuction with Yahoo!, the CONNECT has some wireless capability. It's limited, but certainly more open than the Zune.

The CONNECT can access any open WiFi hotspot (one step forward), but can only access Yahoo! (one step back), and only if you subscribe to Yahoo!'s music service (another step back).

You can listen to Internet radio with the player (one step forward), but only those associated with Yahoo! Music (one step back). You can't wirelessly sync the CONNECT (one step back), but it does have an SD memory card slot so you can actually expand the player's memory (one step forward).

If you subscribe to Yahoo!'s music service, then the CONNECT is a great player. Of course, you can't share music with other WiFi devices (one step back), but at least you have access to a lot of music. It's a start, and it will probably do well. But if Sansa were to deliver the WiFi-enabled MP3 player everyone wants, how much more successful could it be?

- Ralph

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