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SanDisk slotMusic Cards Will Soon Be Known As The Digital Dodo Bird

This morning, SanDisk announced its next foray into the world of digital music. Too bad this digital music idea, like their previous ones, will be going the way of the dodo bird.

SanDisk’s slotMusic product is a 1GB microSD card loaded with an album. You purchase the card from your local Wal-Mart or Best Buy and then insert the card into any device that will accept the card (such as a mobile phone). All music will be encoded in high-quality MP3 format, free of any sort of DRM. Currently Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group, Sony BMG and EMI are on board.

So why, exactly, will SanDisk’s newest baby go the way of the prehistoric pigeon?

First, the format in which the music is being distributed significantly reduces the number of potential buyers. Sure, the fact that the MP3’s are DRM free is a great plus, but the fact that the songs are distributed on a microSD card increases the hassle-factor exponentially. The barrier to entry for these sorts of things has got to be as close to zero as possible. Not to mention that sales of physical media are on the way out with CD’s seeing an almost 50% decline since 2000.

Second, the music selection on launch is dismal at best. Only 29 albums (around 300 songs) will be available compared to that of iTunes’ 8 million songs. The slotMusic setup just doesn’t scale. If/When they get in to the 100+ album mark, it will be extremely costly to stock that much shelf space.

Pricing wise, at $7 to $10 a pop, these will be quite affordable. But from an economics stand point, I can’t imagine SanDisk possibly making enough to cover costs after they’ve paid the music companies, manufacturing costs, and marketing. Plus, who really needs dozens of microSD cards hanging around?

I give this 6 months at best before they are discontinued.

14 Responses to “SanDisk slotMusic Cards Will Soon Be Known As The Digital Dodo Bird”

  1. That reminds me of pre-recorded MiniDisc media — anyone seen those lately? I sold my MD player almost four years ago in favor of an iPod.

    MiniDisc was a great and versatile format and (even today) has its points (they are, e.g., still used by some journalists for interviews) but it failed on the mass market as will the SlotMusic Cards.

  2. @Phil: I can’t stop laughing over that one! It made me think even further: How do you label a directory of what’s on a particular SD card with 1K songs on it? My weird imagination can’t stop thinking of an accordion-like piece of paper folded back and forth 40 or 50 times that you unfurl when you want to see what’s on the card. Oh, I know, you could simply label it A and look up on your Mac what’s on A. But if you’re like me, I’m always adding and subtracting songs and soon A on the card would bear no resemblance to the A list on the Mac.

  3. Even if I bought the whole idea, how do you label 10 or 15 micro SD cards in your ‘CD’ case. Its like those 200 disc cd players. once the disc is out of order you never find them.

  4. And of course these dogs will be packaged in a square foot of plastic that has been heat-sealed, making it ten times more difficult to open (think broken fingernails, scratched fingers and gouged palms), making buyers not so anxious to go through that experience again.

    I certainly hope you’re right on this one, Josh.

    @SC: Have no fear, the next Zoon will let you insert your card and copy the songs, but they all disappear after three days.

  5. Also keep in mind that a cell phone for example one has one memory slot and many people will already be storing photos, etc on the card in that slot.

    they are not going to want to remove it just to play songs. (Yes, the more savvy would know how to copy from one card to another.)

  6. @Josh Pigford: In which case I’d choose the microSD card version over CD. I abhor optical media/spinning plastic discs and would be glad to be done with them in every form once and for all (DVD, and those new-fangled Blu-Ray or whatever they’re called) in favour of solid state memory. microSD has one potential buyer in me — probably the only one, but one nonetheless. :)

  7. @SC: Yes, you can transfer them, but what is the benefit of this format over a physical CD? You can get even higher quality music from that if you encode it yourself plus you get physical album art. You could probably even get the CD for about the same price as the microSD card at a place like Best Buy where CDs are pretty inexpensive.

  8. I’m assuming we’d be able to transfer the MP3s off the memory card? If so, I’d definitely buy ’em over iTunes if it meant I got a packaged album with old-fashioned album cover and liner notes. I hate not having liner notes that I can hold in my hands.