South Korean electronics giant Samsung will unveil its new portable music player on Sunday in a direct challenge to the now iconic iPod, one of the world's best-selling products from US rival Apple.
Samsung's new flash memory MP3 player, called the YP-Z5, will be released first in the United States on the home turf of its rival. Europe will have to wait until late March and Asia until May to see the new contender for dominance of the lucrative MP3 market.
The YP-Z5, priced at 199 dollars to 249 dollars, is designed as a head-on challenger to Apple's newest iPod nano, which costs 149 dollars to 249 dollars.
Samsung says price alone is not a decisive factor. Instead, the South Korean firm is playing up the capacity and user friendly aspects of the YP-Z5.
It boasts that the device offers a bigger color display screen and a longer battery life and also offers a more comfortable user interface
Along with a durable aluminum body, it has extras other digital music players do not have, including higher capacity storage and its screen is one of the largest in its class, according to the South Korean electronics giant.
Samsung, a market leader in micro chips, displays and mobile handsets, said the YP-Z5 would help the company reaffirm its reputation as a leading innovator in the portable audio market.
"The YP-Z5 displays Samsung's commitment to expanding the market possibilities in the portable digital audio space," said Mark Farish, a senior digital media marketing manager of Samsung Electronics America.
Samsung officials say the YP-Z5 is capable of storing up to four gigabytes (GBs) of music files, with its rechargeable 24-hour battery life providing music play that exceeds other digital music players.
"With its 1.8 inch quality LCD screen, a slim, durable body and extended battery life, the YP-Z5 stands above the competition," claimed Farish.
However, experts say that Apple will be hard to dislodge from it dominant position. It holds 80 percent market share in the United States and more than 50 percent around the world.
South Korean firms led by Samsung and ReinCom, a local pioneer in digital music players, cornered only 15 percent of the global MP3 market last year. Prospects for their business this year are not bright.
"It has been hard for South Korean firms to catch up with Apple which maintains a competitive edge in design, brand recognition and price," Reincom spokesman Kim Dong-Hwan said. "We may even see our market share dwindle this year."
Samsung and Reincom had less than four percent of the US MP3 market each in 2005, far behind that of Apple, the first company to use a hard disk for data storage.
The iPod has a simple screen and a distinctive touch-sensitive scroll wheel.
The YP-Z5 uses new software usually found in powerful PCs and its user interface was designed by a team of programmers led by Paul Mercer, a former Apple software designer.
Samsung is counting on an expansion of the MP3 market and demand for greater storage capacity to boost its new product.
The firm says that its device is ideal for downloading from subscription music services, which permit users to choose among hundreds of thousands of songs. The YP-Z5 is designed to work seamlessly with subscription services that support the Microsoft PlaysForSure digital music standard.
Such services require a continual monthly payment and it is unsure whether they will win broad consumer approval whereas Apple relies on single purchases.
"Consumers are choosing digital music subscription services and Samsung supports this trend with the first 4GB flash player to offer subscription capabilities," Farish said in a statement released here.