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September 29, 2005

Disney Launches MP3 Player Lineup

Ed Oswald at BetaNews:

Disney on Thursday unveiled its own MP3 player called the Mix Stick that it hopes would appeal to younger children who are increasingly turning to electronic toys over the traditional dolls and toy trucks. The company also is betting on its $49 retail price as a way to entice parents who may not be willing to spend $99 on an iPod Shuffle.

Mix Sticks will come in four different designs — Disney Chrome, Forever Princess, Sassy Pixie and That’s So Raven — and are built for children age 6 to 12. However, from the characters selected for the designs, it appears Disney is attempting to target young girls.

Disney’s Mix Stick will work much like a traditional MP3 player in the way that a user transfers music purchased from the Internet or copies songs from a CD. In addition, a child could also play music by inserting a pre-filled memory card that Disney is calling “Mix Clips.”

Hit the link for more and some photos. I’m hardly in the market for one of these, but what I thought was interesting is that they think there is a market for “kid versions” of adult tech gear. Business Week explains all:

Kids have largely been passing by stalwarts such as Barbie and Mr. Potato Head in favor of flashier higher-tech gadgets — from video games to MP3 players. Last year, traditional-toy sales in the U.S. fell 3%, to $20.1 billion, according to market researcher NPD Group.

To fight back, toymakers are designing products that either work with or emulate the electronic gizmos that have been stealing their sales. In a toy-aisle version of if-you-can’t-beat-’em-join-’em, companies are making karaoke machines shaped like Cinderella’s pumpkin coach and handheld gaming devices that teach math and spelling.

“In today’s world, a child is on the computer at age 3,” says James Silver, publisher of the Toy Book, an industry trade magazine. “The toy business is becoming the family entertainment business.”

They also note:

Like Apple Computer (AAPL ) with its iPod, Disney is selling Mix Sticks kid-oriented accessories, such as smaller headphones and a pink carrying case that resembles a purse. MGA’s Bratz Plugged In Liptunes MP3 player ($79) is shaped like an oversize tube of lipstick.

“Everybody wants an iPod,” says Ellie Shapiro, an independent toy inventor and consultant. “There’s no question the demand is there.” The children’s MP3 devices work with Napster and other music services linked with Microsoft (MSFT ), but not with Apple’s popular iTunes, which support the iPod music players.

The only question in both articles is whether kids will be be happy with “kid’s versions” instead of the real thing.

Posted at 4:44 pm. Filed under Apple, Companies, Disney, iPod, MP3 Player, Portable Audio

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