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Olympus unrobes m:robe

iPod-challenging music player

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The Olympus m:robeIt is certainly one of the more serious threats to Apple's iPod hegemony. Olympus, best known for its photographic products, this week in Tokyo announced its entry into the portable hard disk music player business with the introduction of two m:robe brand products.

In contrast to most Japanese electronics manufacturers, Olympus has always ignored the audio business. That it now feels it must jump on the bandwagon is a clear indication that portable digital audio and video players are becoming a booming business. "We believe that because of some unique features we can compete with Apple," a spokesman told European reporters at a press conference at the International Forum in Tokyo.

The m:robe MR 500i can accomodate MP3, WMA and other digital formats and photos of holidays and friends. The player has a 3.7in, 640 x 480 touch screen, 1.3 megapixel digital camera and 20GB hard drive, which can store close to 20,000 digital snaps, as well as music.

The MR-100 looks very much like the iPod, but has a different, although equally appealing design. The MR-100, which targets users of the iPod mini, provides a USB 2.0 port and features 5GB storage capacity for around 1,200 songs and plays both WMA and MP3 file formats.

The new players will be available in the US by January and in Europe next spring. ®

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