Could microSD cards – tiny devices the size of a fingernail – replace bulky CDs and intangible downloads for next-generation music lovers? Selling albums in microSD format is the latest concept from SanDisk, the California-based manufacturer of flash memory cards and developer of SD cards, which are now widely licensed.
SanDisk hopes that the new high-tech format, which they’re calling “SlotMusic,” will re-engage consumers with buying music, and make up for decreased CD sales. The company has teamed up with four major record labels (Sony BMG, Universal, EMI, and Warner), which have all agreed to release albums in the SlotMusic format. Wal-Mart and Best Buy have also agreed to sell the SlotMusic cards, which should be available later this year.
The SlotMusic microSDs, which measure just 0.6 x 0.4 inches, can provide high-quality (320 kbps) MP3 music, which is better quality than most download services. The music is also DRM-free, meaning it can be played anywhere any number of times. Each SlotMusic card can also hold album art, videos, lyrics, and other digital content.
Currently, the most widely available devices to plug a microSD card into are cell phones. But the cards can also be used in microSD-enabled MP3 players, car and home stereos, and computers (by inserting the cards into a USB sleeve that comes with the SlotMusic purchase).
In general, it would probably be easier for most people who listen to music on their computer to simply download songs directly from the Internet. But SanDisk is hoping that SlotMusic cards will be simpler to use for people that like to transfer their music beyond their computers and iPods.
The success of SlotMusic may also depend on its price. SanDisk hasn’t released that information yet, but an article in The New York Times revealed that one executive from a major record label expected the albums to sell for $7 to $10. If that’s true, the 1-gigabyte SlotMusic cards (which can be erased and reused) would be significantly cheaper than Wal-Mart’s blank microSD cards of the same size, which sell for $15.98. On the other hand, an article in the Wall Street Journal reported that the SlotMusic discs would cost around $15.
If all goes according to plan, SanDisk will sell its microSD cards to record labels, just as record labels buy blank CDs today. Then the labels would create the SlotMusic albums and sell them to retailers. SanDisk intends to license the SlotMusic technology to other manufacturers that could also sell the cards to record companies.
SanDisk said that it will make another announcement later this year revealing a complete list of SlotMusic albums, artists, availability, and prices.