September 23, 2008

Goodbye CDs? SanDisk Announces MicroSD Albums


Trying to get consumers to once again purchase their music in-stores, SanDisk just announced an initiative called SlotMusic to put entire albums on MicroSD cards. They are backed by all four major music labels and have Wal-Mart and Best Buy in agreement to sell the cards later this year.

Some interesting notes on the new format from an article in the New York Times Blog:

Price: SanDisk won’t say more than that it expects the price at retail to be about the same as a CD. One executive of a major record label told me he expected the albums-on-a-card to sell for $7 to $10. Since Wal-Mart is selling a 1-gigabyte MicroSD card (the size used for SlotMusic) for $15.98 these days, that seems like a fine value. (Yes, you can erase the music and use the storage on the card for something else.)

What’s on the card: The music will be in the form of MP3 files, with no digital rights management restrictions. It will be encoded at 320 kilobytes per second, a higher quality than most download services. The labels also hope to add value to the cards with liner notes, lyrics, videos and other digital goodies. SanDisk is working on adding other enhancements, like songs that can be played a few times but then must be paid for to be unlocked.

Easy to use: If you want to get music onto a cellphone that has a MicroSD slot, sticking one of these cards in the slot is easier than trying to download songs and transfer them to the phone. (Sure, you can download songs over the air, but that will cost you $2 a track, thanks to the labels. And lots of people don’t have data plans on their phones.) If you want to listen to music on your PC or on your iPod, downloading it from iTunes may be easier, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was another segment that would find the tangible experience of buying the package in a store to be more attractive (particularly if the price and bonus features made it a better proposition than iTunes).