"The Sansa Connect is a new breed of music player," said SanDisks’ Daniel Schreiber, senior VP and general manager for SanDisk’s Audio Video Business Unit, in a statement. "It untethers consumers from their computers, and allows them to get new music and share their recommendations anytime, anywhere—over an open wireless Internet network."
The announcement is timed to coincide with the retail availability of the Sansa Connect in the United States; announced last January the Sansa Connect combines the features of a flash-based media player (with microSD slot) with Wi-Fi capabilities which (now) tap into several online Yahoo features and services. Users with a Yahoo ID and access to an open Wi-Fi connection (WAP/WEP encryption is supported) users will be able to tap into Yahoo’s Launchcast Internet radio, Flickr photo sets, and see what music nearby Sansa Connect owners and Yahoo Messenger friends are playing. In addition, Sansa Connect owners with Yahoo Music Unlimited To Go subscriptions will be able to download music, as well as listen to or download tracks their friends are listening to, or which they’ve recommended.
The Sansa Connect sports 4 GB of flash memory, that microSD slot for additional music and photo storage, and offers an internal speaker along with a 2.2-inch LCD display. It supports MP3 and WMA encoded music, and works with all PlaysForSure music subscription services. The Sansa Connect is priced at $249.99; it should be available in Canada later this year.
Terms of the Yahoo deal were not disclosed. SanDisk bills itself as the number two seller of portable music players in the United States, trailing only Apple’s iPod. (And what a trail that is: the iPod commands about 70 percent of the portable player market and just sold its 100 millionth unit.) The Wi-Fi enabled Sansa Connect may give Sansa a leg up in the portable media space, but the company (which was primarily known as a maker of flash and portable memory before getting into consumer media devices) faces competition from rivals like Sony and Samsung, and shrinking margins in the flash memory market as mobile phones and digital cameras proliferate. The new Wi-Fi and music streaming features might appeal to folks considering a Zune music player—particularly if they’re already users of Yahoo’s music services.