Sony to support MP3 in future players

Sony's apparently gotten the message: Some of its new MP3 player models will feature direct support for MP3 in addition to its proprietary ATRAC format. Support for MP3 will first appear in flash-based players Sony plans to release in Europe this year, according to reports, which also indicate that Sony plans to release MP3-compatible flash players in the United States.

Sony's Walkman NW-HD1 debuted earlier this summer and was dubbed an "iPod Killer" by some industry pundits and journalists, but the product has been quickly bashed by reviewers for its required use of ATRAC3, a proprietary audio formatting scheme that Sony uses in its digital media players instead of the more widely-used MP3, AAC or WMA formats.

ATRAC, or Acoustic TRansform Adaptive Coding, was first introduced when Sony began selling its MiniDisc-based systems. Sony claims ATRAC's compression scheme is more efficient than other more commonly used setups, yielding higher quality audio at lower bit-rates -- one of the reasons that Sony says its 20GB Walkman can hold 3,000 more songs than an equivalent iPod. But reviewers have complained that requiring ATRAC conversion adds another layer of complexity and additional time to load songs onto a Walkman.

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