The market for MP3 audio players grew by a massive 347pc in Ireland last year and one third of households in the country are estimated to have one, according to data from the consultancy Understanding & Solutions.
There were 452,000 devices sold in Ireland last year, up from 99,000 in 2004. The category includes hard-disk-based players which have large capacity, such as the Creative Zen Vision:M, and machines that are based on flash memory technology. This category comprises slimmer devices with less storage space such as the iPod nano.
Looking ahead to this year, the overall market is forecast to grow by 75pc, bringing the installed base to 915,000 units. By 2008, Understanding & Solutions believes that Ireland will pass the 100pc mark in terms of MP3 player ownership per household.
Unsurprisingly the market leader was Apple, maker of the iPod, followed by Creative, which has a manufacturing facility at Blanchardstown in Dublin. Sony was in third place, followed by Philips and iRiver. Almost half of all units shipped last year were in the final three months of last year, with the Christmas season responsible for much of the demand. Interestingly in the same quarter, shipments of flash memory players outstripped hard-disk-based players by a factor of almost four to one, suggesting that consumers were lured by the appeal of the smaller, sleeker devices rather than their heavier, 10,000-song plus counterparts.
Worldwide, the total digital music player market grew by 166pc, or 81,228,000 units, last year and growth of 70pc is forecast for 2006. This will be driven by portable video functions on some devices as well as flash memory-based players with higher memory capacity, according to Understanding & Solutions. Growth in the latter category will benefit more stylish machines at the expense of low-end hard-disk players, the firm added.
By the end of next year and into early 2008, the low end of the MP3 player market will be affected by mobile phones with music functions built in. This market began to show signs of development last year with the launch of Sony Ericsson’s Walkman phone and the Motorola ROKR, which has Apple’s iTunes music player software installed as standard.
By Gordon Smith