MP3 Players? What MP3 Players?

Because Macworld Expo usually conflicts (and, occasionally, overshadows) the Consumer Electronics Show, CES is an event I don't often attend. It's been three years since I last marched the Las Vegas Convention Center's endless halls. With Expo moved to February, I returned. And, in doing so, took the opportunity to compare this year's show to CES 2007. From my perspective the two most important differences were that in 2010 I didn't get food poisoning and, in 2007, you couldn't walk five steps without tripping over another MP3 player.

Moving beyond issues of my digestive tract, MP3 players just weren't a big deal at CES 2010. Oh sure, among the trillions of booths there were still those that featured cheap knick-knacky players that doubled as cigarette lighters, pocket tattoo kits, and martini toothpicks, but no one seemed to be mounting a campaign to unseat the iPod.

And this was the case even among the major players. At Pepcom's Digital Experience press event, Creative Technology devoted the space it had to its new Vado HD pocket camcorder rather than its line of Zen MP3 players. At that same event, SanDisk did display a line-up of its Sansa music players, but these players depart from traditional MP3 players by allowing you to plug pre-loaded music cards into them, thus returning to the days when player and media were more separated than they have been recently. And at the iRiver booth there wasn't a media player to be seen--it was all about the company's e-book reader, the Story.

In fact, the only big-name company that drew serious attention to its portable media player was Microsoft. The Zune HD had its own area in Microsoft's massive booth and folks on hand to talk about it.

I happened to speak to a PR representative (who shall remain nameless) about the state of media players and, in essence, this person replied, "We're still making them, but honestly, who can compete with the iPod?"

Personal opinion or not, it was an opinion that was underscored by a show floor devoid of any new exciting portable players. And if that means anything for the future of portable media players, I think we can safely banish the phrase "iPod Killer" once and for all.

The game's over. The iPod won.

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