In a strong challenge to the hegemony of Apple's iPod, Samsung offers a new digital audio player with the Napster brand:
- FOR TWO YEARS, Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod has reigned supreme among hard-drive music players, both for Windows and Macintosh users. Now the competition is getting serious. Just in time for holiday wish lists, Samsung is launching a 20-gigabyte player cobranded with the relaunched Napster service. The YP-910GS is priced at $399 — the same as Apple's 20-gigabyte iPod for Windows and Mac computers.
But that's not the only similarity. The Samsung unit has roughly the same dimensions and weight as the iPod. Both gadgets are dominated by a small liquid crystal display and navigation controls around a large center button.
However, to Samsung's credit, its new player isn't just another iPod copycat.
It has a line-in jack so it can record by itself. It can tune into and record FM radio stations. And, with an included antenna, it can transmit FM signals, allowing its music to be picked up by any nearby radio, such as a car stereo.
....As its Napster name suggests, the player supposedly works best with Napster 2.0 music software, which will be available to the public on Oct. 29. I found the prerelease version to be somewhat buggy, especially when transferring songs via the high-speed Universal Serial Bus 2.0 cable.
I tried loading nearly 1,700 songs of varying lengths in the MP3 and Windows Media Audio formats. With USB 2.0, songs transferred very quickly. But when I switched my computer screen to a view that showed transfer status, the program froze after several hundred songs. The problem occurred repeatedly.
The Samsung device also works with Microsoft's Windows Media Player, which is more reliable. (I suspect Napster will have many of the bugs worked out before it is publicly launched.)
....Locked away in my garage at night, the Samsung's signal sounded very good, the equivalent of regular FM radio. On the road in the daytime, with competing signals, there were noticeable cracks, pops and other static. The sound quality was about that of AM radio.
....Like the iPod, the Napster player can be upgraded via downloads from the company's Web site. Apple addressed similar early iPod complaints and added countless features through its many free firmware upgrades — so much so it's like getting a new machine for nothing. Hopefully, Samsung will follow the same path. [AP]
I will intereted to hear the response of our own technocrats to the Samsung.