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Commodore challenges Apple digital music dominance

Vic-20 reborn as MP3 player

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Watch out, Apple, another microcomputing pioneer from the 1970s is moving into the digital music business with a portable, hard drive-based music player.

Tulip's Commodore e-Vic-20GBYes, ladies and gentlemen, Commodore is back, this time with its an MP3 player. Dubbed the e-Vic, it's named after the old Vic-20 games machine. The connection: the e-Vic has a 20GB hard drive.

Fans of CBM's business machines needn't feel left out: the Pet brand is to be reborn too, in the form of the m-Pet, a series of Flash-based MP3 players, and the f-Pet, a set of USB Flash drives.

But back to the e-Vic. The player features MP3, WMA and WAV support, and sports a 128 x 64 pixel blue-backlit display. There's a sufficiently large RAM buffer to provide 28 minutes of no-skip audio, which can be tweaked through the built-in five EQ pre-sets or a user-defined EQ setting. In addition to playback, the unit will record voice memos and encode audio straight to MP3.

The player hooks up to a host PC as a USB Mass Storage device, ensuring compatibility with Mac and Linux as well as Windows. However, you'll need software capable of generating .m3u format playlists if you're to make the most of this cross-platform support.

Tulip's Commodore m-PetThe e-Vic measures 8.1 x 6.1 x 1.6cm and weighs 145g. Inside is a 1200mAh rechargeable battery - enough, claims Tulip, to provide 10-15 hours' playback - an impressive figure. The player ships with is own recharge and data-transfer cradle, and Tulip is bundling a remote control and "in-head" earphones, too.

The m-Pet and f-Pet will each be offered with 128MB and 256MB capacities. The m-Pet supports the same audio formats as the e-Vic, and includes an FM radio tuner. It runs off a AAA battery.

All three product lines are due to go on sale early in August from Dutch PC maker Tulip, which acquired the Commodore name in 1997. It is also planning to offer the C64 DTV, a joystick that connects to your TV and which contains 30 Commodore 64 games, in October.

However, Tulip has already begun offering digital music downloads, through its Commodore World web site. The songs are supplied by Dutch online entertainment provider YeahRonimo. Tracks require Windows Media 9 software to play and use the SLD codec pack. ®

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