Rio pitches Carbon player at iPod Mini

Diamond, graphite or buckyball?

Rio will take the fight to Apple's iPod Mini this month when it ships its latest hard drive-based MP3 player, Carbon.

The new machine uses Seagate's recently announced 1in ST1 hard disk, which offers 5GB of storage, 1GB more than the iPod Mini. To date, Rio has partnered with Cornice for micro hard drives. Cornice is now the subject of legal action from Seagate and from Western Digital.

Rio Carbon 5GB MP3 playerWhile Apple claims the iPod Mini offers eight hours' play time, Rio reckons Carbon will run for up to 20 hours. Given the player's name, the company should perhaps have settled for 12 hours' battery life, but we won't begrudge them the extra eight hours.

Apple buffs will also note it's named after one of Mac OS X's three key application programming frameworks.

Carbon comes in at 90.7g, Rio said, compared to the Mini's 102g. Both retail for $249.

The Rio machine is due to ship at the end of August and will support the next generation of Microsoft's Windows DRM technology. Codenamed 'Janus', the software will allow DRM rules to be extended to mobile devices, permitting content owners to enable sharing across portable players but blocking further duplication. Essentially, song purchasers will be able to share songs with friends, who might then get perhaps one to two opportunities to listen to it before they're forced to purchase the track.

Napster is this autumn expected to roll out new services enabled by Janus, and the DRM technology's launch is believed to be behind the timing of Virgin Digital's launch - August in the US, September in the UK.

Rio hopes Carbon will help it regain market share lost to Apple. As part of Diamond Multimedia, Rio was one of the pioneers of portable digital music but now plays second fiddle to the iPod maker. While Apple commanded 39.2 per cent of the US retail MP3 market in May, according to market watcher NPD, Rio, despite holding the number two slot, took less than half of that: 14.6 per cent of the market. ®

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