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Chip and sale

Without it, a phone is just a phone’. The device being promoted was a finger-nail sized memory card called slotMusic.

tech reviews Updated: Oct 14, 2008 17:57 IST
Parag Kamani

Without it, a phone is just a phone’. The device being promoted was a finger-nail sized memory card called slotMusic, from flash memory manufacturer SanDisk, trumpeted by the recording industry as a potential replacement to the fast dwindling market for CDs.

It’s here
If everything goes as per the schedule announced, slotMusic should be available already, although indications are it will first be available in the US, before it moves to the rest of the world. However, don’t be surprised if competing brands, such as Transcend, and Kingston, introduce a similar device for the Indian market.

Apart from bringing out yet another format for consumers to consider purchasing at a retail level and at shops selling mobile phones, the encouraging news for the mobile memory cards industry in India is that the annual business is pegged at Rs.1,500 crores.

Huge storage
Besides the obvious music content, memory cards also store audio-visual content. The balance space, if any, is left for the consumer to utilise.

It is noticeable that the entry-level capacity of the memory card in India increased to 1 GB last year, with prices falling below Rs.600. While industry bodies are still mulling over how this new format can be monetized, pirates are already having a field day. They have started flooding the market with content that ranges from newer songs to video clips of latest Bollywood songs and, inevitably, obscene content too. All this is no longer being marketed in a clandestine manner, but at outlets within shopping malls in Mumbai.

I only hope that the Indian legit industry is not caught napping again because over 100 million mobile phones were sold in the country last year, of which at least 60% handsets had memory card slots.

Loss to piracy
Consider the potential revenue loss to piracy –— the figure is definitely not for the faint hearted.

Nevertheless, the global record industry is still hoping for a miracle to save them from the suffering that online, illegal downloads have brought upon them. With sales of CDs dropping faster than the US economy, the four major music players have been quick to support this new initiative of providing pre-loaded content onto slotMusic memory cards.

The rights-free content can be played through several devices which, besides cell phones, can be plugged — through an accompanying USB dongle — into MP3s and PCs. The 1 GB slotMusic will hold an entire album, liner notes, and album/sleeve art.

Who’s looking?
However, while we are moving at a pace, and age, when more and more consumers prefer obtaining content through downloads, is anyone really looking for another physical format?