No need to guess what Creative is targeting with this one…
Today it has unveiled the ‘Zen Stone’ – a device I was privy to at Cebit in March, but sworn to secrecy (I keep my word, much as it frustrates).
Quite frankly, the Stone couldn’t be simpler. It is a screen-less, miniature 1GB MP3 player with a smooth rounded design and playback via shuffle or playlist. The software interface is straight forward drag and drop and while battery life isn’t stellar at 10 hours (shuffles offer up to 12) it should prove enough for all but the most irregular chargers.
MP3, WMA and Audible (the online eBook store) formats are supported while charging is over a standard mini-USB port. So far so very ordinary, so how does Creative plan to compete with Apple’s ubiquitous baby player? Easy: price.
Whereas Apple has priced the shuffle at an eminently affordable £55, Creative has gone for the jugular with a remarkable 39.99 euro RRP. That’s just TWENTY SEVEN POUNDS!
I have to admit, I’ve seen companies undercut the iPod range before, but never like this.
Interestingly, this tag (which could be cut further by online retailers) opens the MP3 player market up to a whole new market: secondary devices. Whereas before only the wealthy or tech obsessed owned two players, now we can all have a Stone for going to the gym, or taking out at night, after all it is the player you don’t even mind losing (and I mean that in a good way). It also makes a funky, yet inexpensive, gift.
So Creative has been clever. It is competing by not competing. Much like the Nintendo Wii sidestepped the Xbox 360 and PS3, the Stone is playing by different rules. It doesn't want to replace your current device - whatever it may be - it wants to live alongside it, doing the dirty work.
I don't yet have a release date for the Stone but when one comes along I'd suggest you pick one up… with your spare lunch money!