Portable flash boosts MP3 player fortunes

14 Oct 2005

The portable compressed audio (MP3) player market continues to surge, led by the onset of portable flash players, and is expected to grow from 26.4 million units shipped worldwide in 2004 to nearly 124 million units in 2009, according to IDC.

The technology research player says that growth in the portable flash player sector is expected to be fueled by falling flash memory costs, vendor adoption of flash for multiple device storage capacities at competitive retail price points, availability of paid online media services and growing consumer awareness of and demand for MP3 players.

However, IDC warns that music-enabled mobile phones such as the ROKR from Motorola and the W800 Sony Ericsson Walkman phone are expected to somewhat inhibit the portable MP3 player market during the next five years, but expects that this trend will vary by region.

IDC segments the compressed audio player market into four major categories: portable, home and automotive audio-focused devices, and a fourth ‘other’ category of devices that support compressed audio as a secondary feature (such as DVD players, mobile phones and gaming devices).

These categories are developing at different rates with distinct market forces influencing each one. The ‘other’ category, which includes devices that are competitive substitutes for audio-only portable, home and automotive players, will lead the compressed audio player market throughout and beyond the forecast period, and worldwide is expected to exceed 700 million units shipped and US$114bn in revenue in 2009.

“Demand for portable MP3 players is booming, as more and more consumers get acquainted with their stylish form factors and digital audio functionality”, said Susan Kevorkian, program manager, Audio Consumer Markets at IDC.

“In addition, DVD players, mobile phones and gaming devices that play back compressed audio will be key drivers of the compressed audio player market during the forecast period.”

IDC predicts that the maximum portable flash player capacity is expected to increase from 1GB in 2004 to reach 8GB in 2006 and 16GB by late 2007.

It said that video support for music video playback is expected to drive demand for portable flash players and hard drive-based portable jukeboxes. This feature is expected to be complemented by music video downloads from paid online media services.

The market for hard drive-based portable jukeboxes is expected to grow at a worldwide compound annual growth rate of 21.5pc between 2004 and 2009. IDC expects this market to be inhibited by the availability of high-capacity portable flash players and average selling prices in excess of US$200 throughout the forecast period.

Worldwide total units and revenue for all four segments of the compressed audio player market are expected to reach 945.5 million devices shipped and US$145.4bn respectively by 2009.

By John Kennedy