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Opinion: The SanDisk SlotMusic player is a good idea

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My good friend Peter Ha isn’t sold on the Sandisk SlotMusic hoopla (see his post here). I think it’ll work, though. You have to approach it from the mindset of the casual consumer for it to make sense. Think of the player like a Walkman or a Discman and MicroSD cards as blank tapes or CDs. Then remember that entire albums used to be sold on tapes and CDs and that for many people, there’s a certain comfort in being able to drop a piece of media into a hardware player and have it just work.

Here’s the basic idea, according to SanDisk:

“The Sansa slotMusic Player (MSRP $19.99) was made to play slotMusic card albums or a self-loaded microSD™ card full of music. The effortless player doesn’t require a PC, Internet or any time spent managing music. Consumers simply choose their slotMusic or music-filled microSD card, pop it into the device and will be enjoying their favorite tunes in seconds.”

The super-intelligent and highly tech-savvy readers of CrunchGear.com may well scoff at the notion of such a simplistic device, but remember that outside in that cold, cold world lurk dangerous creatures known as regular consumers who might appreciate not having to spend an entire morning in front of their 486DX/2 computers trying to figure out how to get the music they’re pretty sure they downloaded correctly onto the iPod they’re pretty sure they’ve got hooked up properly.

Maybe I’m not giving people enough credit but I recently went home to Minnesota to visit family and, after one particular afternoon spent people-watching at the Mall of America, I’m pretty sure there’s still a sizable market for a simple hardware device that animals with opposable thumbs can load up by pushing a small card into a slot.

For these people, the SlotMusic initiative could be a hit. The regular players will sell for $19.99 and there will also be artist-branded players that come with a full album on a 1GB MicroSD card for $34.99. The cards will contain all the songs, plus liner notes, artwork, and other fluff. Regular albums will be sold standalone for an MSRP of $14.99 – so basically, the CD is moving to MicroSD format if SanDisk has anything to say about it. The next step would be to get MicroSD slots in car stereos. Some stereos are already available with standard SD slots, though, so you could use an adapter.

At any rate, I think the SlotMusic thing is a good idea. I’ll probably buy one, too. And although I can’t see shelling out $15 for “albums” anymore, I bet you I’ll actually do just that at least once or twice in an airport somewhere. Think of those iPod vending machines, if you will. You can buy an iPod in an airport, but you can’t use it unless you hook it up to a computer first. Now put these SlotMusic players in a vending machine at $20, sell $15 albums next to them, and watch what happens. If you’re feeling really adventurous, set up a kiosk that allows people to make their own mixes on MicroSD cards. There’s a huge market here for audiobooks as well.

Bonus points to SanDisk for making the music on the pre-loaded MicroSD cards DRM-free. In a pinch, you could go into a store (or find a vending machine) that sells an album you forgot or lost, buy the card, and then dump it onto your computer. It’d be nice to see a regular-sized SD card version of this player, too, as I believe MicroSD cards only top out at 16GB and I seem to have ten-times more SD cards lying around.

So I agree to disagree with Peter and the rest of the pundits out there who think this isn’t a good idea. It’s not for everyone – and maybe definitely not for people who are already tech-savvy – but it’s best not to neglect the regular consumers who crave simplicity. There are far more of them than there are of us.

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