Product Designs of Audio Players (Part 1)

Below is one of the assignments that I have been busy with. It’s not perfect as I realize that I misintepreted some of the requirements of the assignment rather late. And I have to say that I am biased against Creative, haha…. Just something to read while I go into hermit state mugging for the upcoming tests.


The Birth of Digital Audio Players

Creative NOMAD IIc (2002) In the first half of 1995 through the late 1990s, MP3 files began flourishing on the Internet. The popularity of the MP3 file format was mostly due to, and interchangeable with, the successes of companies and software packages like Nullsoft’s Winamp (released in 1997), mpg123, and Napster (released in 1999) (Wikipedia). With the high compression such file format provides and the increased speed of the Internet, it became very easy for an average user to play back, create, share, and collect MP3s. Suddenly, it became common for music lovers to trade tunes on Napster, to attach speakers to their computers, and to rip CDs.

Digital audio players[1] are thus born into the market to catch up with this revolution. Such consumer device aims to store, organize, and play the ever growing digital music library in a portable gadget. However, early digital audio players, such as the Creative Labs Nomad, were either big and clunky, or small and useless. Due to cost and technological limitations of flash memory then, most were based on fairly small memory chips, which stored only a few dozen songs – not much better than a cheap portable CD player. They also used slower parallel port connections to transfer files, and thus digital audio players did not become a mainstream consumer device.

Hard Dive Based Audio Players

Enters the hard drive based players – devices that read digital audio files from a hard drive. These players have higher capacities and this means that thousands of songs – perhaps an entire music collection – can be stored in one MP3 player (Wikipedia).

The arrival of Apple Computer’s iPod in 2001, combined with the opening of the iTunes Store in 2003 that created the legal music download business, greatly expanded the market for digital audio players (Wikipedia). Many of its innovations contributed to its success and are definitely worth researching on what made this device the most popular audio player of our time.

Since the introduction of iPod, a number of new digital audio players have been released by various companies, each promising to be an “iPod Killer”. For a fair showdown, the Creative Zen Vision: M is chosen. It is another hard drive based player and was released just months after the introduction of the latest iPod. Zen Vision: M bears a striking resemblance to the iPod and has similar specifications too. This thus proves that consumers are indeed sensitive to the minute difference in product designs and these will ultimately decide the success of a product.

[1] Digital audio players are also known as MP3 players due to the extreme popularity of the file format when such devices were introduced.

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