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Technology On The Horizon: Portable Music/Video Players Seek To Challenge iPod

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In part one of his week-long series "Technology On the Horizon," NY1 Tech Beat Reporter Adam Balkin rounds up some of the new innovations in the world of portable music and video.

Will 2006 be the year the iPod will fall as king of all portable media? Samsung, iRiver - name a high-tech manufacturer and chances are it's attempting yet another coup.

Though all are heavy underdogs, the 30-gigabyte Zen Vision M does everything an iPod Video does, plus it has a built-in FM tuner, voice recorder, and a much more vivid display.

“The screen is a 2.5 inch screen, LCD, and it supports up to 262,144 colors, while the competition currently supports only 64,000 colors," says Joe Doan of Creative Labs.

Or, for those who insist on maintaining brand loyalty, maybe it's the iPod that'll knock off the iPod. Now let's say you went out and bought an iPod before the iPod Video came out and you're jealous of those who waited? Well, the iSee360i turns just about any iPod into an iPod Video.

“It will convert a standard iPod with 20 GB and the click wheel function. It will also adapt to the Mini, to the Nano,” says Howard Wing of ATO. “Fundamentally, any video that you have that's resident on your desktop you can take and put it into the supplied software for storage on the iPod."

Several companies abandoning the effort to "out-cool" the iPod are instead offering defectors new functionality. NY1 saw the prototype last year, and now Australian company Torian is launching its mp3 player that doubles as the first portable Internet radio.

“As long as you're within a wi-fi hotspot you can tune into whatever content you choose to,” says George Parthinos of Torian. “We have a database on there with around 2,200 terrestrial based radio stations from around the world you can listen to. We also have some content providers with over 30,000 radio stations streaming over the Internet now."

Finally, the MusicGremlin is also betting on wireless Internet access. At hotspots, it not only downloads music straight from the web, it also links similar devices no matter where they are in the world.

"You can see music on other devices - a buddy's, people you don't know. You have your choice,” says Harold Price of MusicGremlin. “You can see what they're listening to now, what they've listened to recently, you can see all the music on their device. If you're a subscriber to the service and they're also a subscriber to the service, you can download music from their device, something new they found."

Just make sure to hide those Vanilla Ice and Spice Girls songs you secretly love to listen to when no one's around.

- Adam Balkin
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