One of the best technological advances in the music industry to arrive in the last several years has been that of the digital music player. These diminutive devices have become very commonplace lately, as they are light, easy to use, and are much more durable than their ancestors such as the Walkman and portable CD player. As they read music from solid-state flash drives, there is no more skipping like in a CD player. Also, one can fit thousands of songs on a high end digital music player, whereas previous cassette or CD based players could only hold an album’s worth.
When one thinks of the best selling MP3 player, the first device that comes to mind is the Apple iPod. There are many different versions of this gadget, including the Shuffle, Nano, Classic, and Touch, each one having its own advantages. Although songs downloaded from Apple’s iTunes service are not in the MP3 format, and are instead in a format that’s known as Advanced Audio Coding (AAC), these devices will in fact play MP3 files as well, and as such are included in this list. The iPhone will also play MP3 files, and it is often the music player of choice for those who own one. Apple enjoys a 71% share of the MP3 player market according to a 2008 article in Wired Magazine, so obviously it is dominating this space.
One player that is slowly eroding into Apple’s market share is the Microsoft Zune. With only a four percent share though, it has a long way to go. Made by a company best known for producing computer operating systems, the Zune greatly resembles some of the iPod versions. It comes in five different styles; the 4, 8, 16, 80, and 120, each named for the size of its hard drive. Each version has the has the ability to play songs and videos, display pictures, listen to podcasts, and pick up over the air radio stations as well. The Zune software also features a social networking service called “Zune Social”, which gives users the ability to send messages to other people, see what their friends are listening to, and many other features.
Not to be outdone, Sony has updated its classic Walkman product to reflect the latest technology in portable music players. Like some iPod versions and the Zune, it now features a large graphical display along with controls down below for playing music and selecting options. But while the Walkman boasts similar features to its more popular cousins, one thing this device has that helps it stand apart is Sony’s integrated noise canceling technology, which some audiophiles may recognize from other Sony products such as its headphones. It is integrated with the Rhapsody music service, and gives users the ability to create playlists as well. It will also play video and has a built-in radio tuner like the Zune. Unfortunately, its storage space maxes out at 8GB, which is far less than the higher-end iPod and Zune models will hold. Overall though, the Walkman wins points for sound quality and battery life.