Toshiba has announced plans to launch three new versions of its Gigabeat hard-disk drive-based portable music player.
The biggest difference between the three models will be in the storage capacity, which will be either 10GB, 20GB or 60GB.
All three players used 1.8-inch drives manufactured in-house by Toshiba, and this would be the first digital music player from any company to make use of the 60GB drive, Toshiba spokesperson, Midori Suzuki, said.
The exterior design of the Gigabeat player has been revised to sport a 2.2-inch colour LCD and a navigation button that looks like a large plus sign in the centre of the player's front panel.
The shape is also new. It measures 106mm x 63mm which is longer and thinner than previous models. The two lower capacity models are 16mm thick and the 60GB model is 19mm thick, the latter because the hard-disk drive uses two disk platters. The capacity of the drive also affects the weight, which is 160g for the lower-capacity models and 170g for the 60GB model.
The players support either MP3, Windows Media Audio or WAV files, although the files have to be passed through Toshiba's "Gigabeat Room" software to be loaded onto the device and recognized by the player.
This process results in the files being encrypted and was an anti-piracy measure, Suzuki said. If music files can be dragged and dropped onto the Gigabeat's hard-disk drive without using the software the device won't recognise them.
In addition to encrypting the files, the software can also grab music information from Gracenote's CDDB database of CDs, and stores all of the transferred music into a database for searching.
JPEG image files could also be attached to albums or songs, Toshiba said. A by-product of the need for this software is that it restricts use of the Gigabeat players to people with computers running Windows XP or Windows 2000.
Other specifications include a USB2.0/1.1 interface and battery that supports about 11 hours of continuous playback.
The portable music players will go on sale in Japan from late November. The MEGF10 10GB model will cost $US360. International prices have yet to be confirmed.
The players would go on sale in the US and Europe in the first quarter of 2005, the company said. Other technologies that could be incorporated into future models include bluetooth and MPEG2/4, Windows Media Video and H.264 digital video support.