iRiver Intros New Widescreen Portable Media Player

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The music industry has undergone a massive transformation in recent years, with the advent of digital music players. One of the biggest players in the market is Apple, who sold an impressive 21.1 million iPods during the holiday quarter, a result that signifies increased demand for music portability. While music-focused mobile phones have been gaining ground in recent years, stand-alone devices still remain popular among music enthusiasts. This has kept competitors in the game, including South Korean iRiver, which just delivered a new widescreen portable media player – the iRiver X20.

The iRiver X20 is a 4GB flash device that offers amenities like a 2.2 inch display, an FM tuner, a replaceable Li-ion battery, a voice recorder, and an expandable microSD card slot. The player weighs a modest 2.6 ounces, and its 1.29” x 2.9” x 0.65” dimensions are competitive. iRiver has not yet released a price point for the X20, but it is expected to be a strong contender in the market.

For companies like iRiver, the game is all about chasing the number two slot, at least in the United States. In that arena, the iRiver has recently taken a backseat to contenders like SanDisk and the Microsoft Zune. Last year, the company ranked sixth in the United States among flash-based players, and fourth in the hard-drive market, according to data published by NPD Group. In several Asian countries, the iRiver actually outsells the iPod, though its share remains in the single digits stateside. Now, the question is whether the iRiver can appeal to a broader swath of US buyers, and grab a more respectable market share in the process.

The iRiver X20 is a step in the right direction for the company. It offers an impressive feature set and a competitive form factor that could attract buyers who are looking for an alternative to the iPod. The device is also priced competitively, which could make it an attractive option for budget-conscious consumers. However, the company will need to work hard to build brand awareness and improve its marketing efforts if it wants to compete effectively against established players like SanDisk and Microsoft.

One of the biggest challenges that iRiver faces is building a brand that resonates with consumers. While the company has a strong following in Asia, it has struggled to gain traction in the US market. This is partly due to the dominance of Apple, which has created a powerful brand that is synonymous with high-quality, stylish devices. To compete effectively, iRiver will need to work on its branding and marketing efforts, and create a strong value proposition that resonates with consumers.

Another challenge for iRiver is the rapidly evolving nature of the music player market. With the rise of music-focused mobile phones, standalone devices are facing increased competition. While devices like the iRiver X20 offer more features and functionality than most music phones, they are still limited in terms of their capabilities. This means that the company will need to work hard to differentiate itself from mobile phone manufacturers, and offer a compelling reason for consumers to choose its devices over competing options.

Overall, the iRiver X20 represents an important step forward for the company. It offers a compelling feature set and a competitive form factor that could appeal to a broad range of consumers. However, the company will need to work hard to build brand awareness and differentiate itself from the competition. If it can do this successfully, it could become a serious contender in the music player market and challenge established players like SanDisk and Microsoft.

Story by news analyst Richard Menta.