COMDEX: S3 to demo new Rio MP3 player

On Monday, S3 will give the first public demonstration of its next-generation Rio MP3 music player. The player will use a new audio format that could double the storage capacity of the device, according to S3.

On Monday, S3 will give the first public demonstration of its next-generation Rio MP3 music player. The player will make use of a new audio format that could double the storage capacity of the device, according to S3.

S3, which acquired the Rio when it bought Diamond Multimedia Systems Inc. earlier this year, will demonstrate the new device at the WebNoize digital music conference in Los Angeles and at the Comdex show in Las Vegas, both of which kick off Monday, S3 officials said.

The new Rio will support Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Media music format, an S3 spokesman confirmed. According to Microsoft, Windows Media can compress audio files to half the size of an MP3 (Motion Picture Experts Group, Audio Layer 3) file, allowing a device with 64M bytes of memory to store up to two hours of music, instead MP3's one hour.

Other companies that make MP3 players, including Creative Labs Inc., have announced plans to use the Windows Media format, but S3 claims it will be the first company to show the technology in a live product demonstration.

The new device will also support the MP3, MPEG 2.5 and G.723 (Audible) audio formats. The Rio will also incorporate security technology proposed by the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) designed to prevent users from sharing the music they download with other MP3 devices, and so help protect music copyrights.

S3 officials wouldn't provide any other information about the new Rio, such as its expected price or when the company plans to ship the new player. The new device will be the successor to the Rio 500, which shipped in August of this year with a recommended price of US$270.

Also at Comdex next week, Pine Technology USA will unveil what it calls "one of the smallest MP3 players in the world," a company spokesman said today.

Called D'music Mini, the device measures 2.2 inches by 2 inches by 0.8 inches -- or about half the size of a deck of playing cards -- and weighs 1.75 ounces. The device is meant to be worn around the neck, "much like a fashion accessory," the Pine Technology spokesman said.

The D'music Mini is expected to ship in the U.S., Canada, Hong Kong and some European countries in the first quarter of 2000, priced at $139, the spokesman added.

Pine will also demonstrate its MP3 CD player, the D'music CD. The device plays back both ordinary audio CDs as well as MP3 CDs, which can hold more than 200 MP3 tracks.

Samples of D'music CD will be available in December, priced at $299, the company said in a statement issued today. Back orders can be placed now at http://www.outpost.com/.

MP3 is a digital compression technology that can be used to deliver audio files over the Internet. The technology was initially viewed as a threat by the music industry, which believed MP3 would make it easy to distribute pirated music.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) unsuccessfully sued Diamond Multimedia in an effort to prevent it from selling the Rio. Soon after, RIAA helped establish the SDMI security specification.

S3, in Santa Clara, California, can be reached at +1-408-588-8000 or at http://www.S3.com/. Pine Technology, in Fremont, California, can be contacted at +1-510-405-6700, and on the Web at http://www.pineusa.com/.

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