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slotRadio Aims for a Slice

Sansa hopes to ‘lower the barriers’ to accessing music for portable consumption

I can’t help but notice the little ads for slotRadio on the New York Times home page lately.

SanDisk Corp., which makes flash storage cards, introduced the Sansa slotRadio this winter. It’s a device that it hopes will make a dent in the portable music market and also help the company sell more of its cards.

The company has rolled out several 1,000-song, genre-specific cards to be used with the player; they retail starting at $39.99. Each card contains several “hand-crafted” playlists that feature songs from Billboard’s charts in categories like rock, country and hip hop/R&B.

The player itself costs $99.99, comes with a starter card and is aimed at “casual music consumers.” Sansa highlights the system as a way of avoiding the “hassle of software installations, time-consuming music selection and file-by-file downloading.” It says the immediacy of its plug-and-play model provides a new way for consumers to enjoy music. Are you listening, iTunes?

The player is a device with a little screen for viewing artist and song information; it has an FM radio build in. Songs cannot be rewound, removed or copied; but users can navigate between playlists and skip forward from song-to-song. The cards also compatible with the Sansa Fuze MP3 player. (Don’t have one? Me neither.)

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of success the company will have with its approach. I would think that requiring a user to buy music in big batches like this and to have to swap cards would feel more like a hassle in our era of USB connections and single-tune purchases. On the other hand, if you like your oldies, 1,000 at a pop might sound pretty good; and I bet Sansa has done its homework into what secretly annoys users of iPod-style devices.

I don’t see slotRadio changing the way consumers currently consume their music. But it’s certainly refreshing to see its ads with a young woman listening to a radio/radio style device rather than an almost-invisible player. It made me notice. And kudos to Sansa for exploring different ways of presenting music content … and for including FM radio.