Here’s one for the conspiracy theorists. It appears that the Sony answer to the iPod, the Vaio VGF-AP1 launched in May and coming to the UK in late summer, may just be a bit of a patsy.
For Sony Japan has announced today the late June arrival of the HMP-A1, its second hard disk based personal video player. And the new model looks much more exciting than the plain hard disk audio player.
Sony’s first personal video player, the GigaPocket PCVA-HVP20, which debuted in Japan in November, was a little too industrial for our taste in terms of design. It was also strongly tied to Sony’s ATRAC music format (its rival to MP3).
The new model, the £300-ish HMP-A1, plays back a variety of video formats including MPEG 2 and MPEG 4 and also MPEG 1, AVI, WMV and DVR-MS (although these are converted to MPEG when transferred from the Pc to the player.)
The key bit though is that in terms of audio, the HMP-A1 not only plays back ATRAC music files, but also, unlike the Vaio VGF-AP1, MP3s too. Bizarrely Sony is also shipping it with MusicMatch’s MP3-ripping Jukebox software.
The player itself is a bit chunkier than the Vaio VGF-AP1, which in turn is much heavier than the iPod. It does however feature a 3.5inch, 320 x 240 colour LCD which is larger than the VGF-AP1’s 2.2in display.
The players comes with a Lithium Ion rechargeable battery capable of delivering up to four hours MPEG 2, six hours MPEG 4 or eight hours MP3 playback.
Before you get too excited Sony is in the habit of launching products on the domestic market which never make it to either Europe or the States. Yet while this is odd-on never to be available outside of Japan it does offer a few clues as to how Sony could develop its hard disk entertainment products in the future.
Incidentally it was heavily rumored that Sony were going to launch a personal video player in the UK this year. Apparently the company told several of its Sony Centre dealers it was on its way. Watch this space.