SanDisk, Yahoo Team Up on Wi-Fi MP3 Player

Sandisk and Yahoo  have joined forces as the latest challenger to Apple’s market leading line of iPod music players. The new Sansa Connect sports a number of features not found in a standard iPod, including Wi-Fi connectivity and several Yahoo services like Launchcast Internet Radio, the Flicker photo sharing service and Yahoo Messenger.

The $249.99 Sansa comes with 4 GB of storage, a 2.2-inch color TFT screen and an internal speaker. When not connected to a Wi-Fi network, Sansa functions as a traditional Flash MP3 player that can be connected to a PC to synch music preferences. Users can play music or view photos stored either on the player or on an optional microSD card.

Sansa Connect users with a Yahoo ID can tap the Wi-Fi capability and Yahoo Messenger to see what fellow Sansa Connect users nearby are listening to. Sandisk  said it worked with Yahoo to simplify access to various Yahoo online services that users can access with a click of a button.

Sansa Connect

An MP3 bag of tricks.

Source: SanDisk

Gartner analyst Michael McGuire told that ease of use will be a big factor in determining how successful Sansa Connect will be.

“It’s an interesting step, what remains to be seen is the interface and how easy it is to operate versus what you do on the desktop,” said McGuire. “Apple’s raised the bar for everyone, and maybe Sansa will give them a little free market research to see how people like or need the Wi-Fi access.

Sansa Connect also works with a wide range of music formats, including MP3 and Windows Media Audio in both protected and unprotected files. Although it’s optimized to work wirelessly with the Yahoo Music Unlimited to Go service, Sandisk said Sansa Connect also supports Microsoft’s PlaysForSure subscription service via a PC connection.

“Yahoo has some pretty talented people who understand the concepts of Web 2.0 , but here you’re dealing with a very limited physical space for the interface so I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ve done,” said McGuire, who hasn’t tried Sansa Connect yet. “It’s good to have another entity compete with iTunes and create a unique experience.”

The timing of Sansa Connect’s release comes on a day when Apple  underscored the success of its iPod line by announcing the sale of the 100 millionth iPod. The iPod reached the record sales after five and a half years on the market.

According to Apple, there are also over 4,000 accessories made specifically for the iPod, from special cases to speaker systems. Over 70 percent of 2007-model U.S. automobiles currently offer iPod connectivity.

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