Sony will ship a third model in its hard drive-based Network Walkman series on 10 December, finally bringing native MP3 support to the music player family.
The NW-HD3 follows the launch last May of the NW-HD1 followed by the NW-HD2 in October - the latter bringing a range of coloured cases to the standard NW-HD1 20GB spec.
The new model also ships in a variety of colours - silver, black, blue and red. The silver version sports a white backlight, while the others' displays glow blue when lit. The NW-HD3 also ships with a new adaptor that to allow the unit's battery to be recharged out of the usual docking cradle.
But it's the MP3 support that really sets the new model aside. The previous versions forced users to convert MP3 files over to 48Kbps ATRAC 3 Plus files as they were copied across to the player. A new version of Sony's SonicStage jukebox software, 2.3, will now allows MP3s to be copied directly to the player without conversion. The NW-HD3 provides native MP3 playback, but it also wraps the files a OpenMG DRM layer to prevent them from being copied back to another PC, Sony said.
Sony announced its plan to support MP3 properly back in September. The move was something of a turnaround for the company which has only supported the popular format natively on low-end Flash-based players, never on its HDD- or MiniDisc-based units.
Sony's earlier NW-HD players will gain native MP3 support too, but in Japan at least, it will be made available on a ¥2000 (£10.30/$19.50) CD, available until 31 May 2005.
The NW-HD3 itself will ship in Japan for ¥42,000 (£216/$408). There's no word yet on UK or US availability, however the player is likely to be made available before Christmas. Sony told The Register it would make a formal announcement tomorrow. For some reason the blue NW-HD3 will not ship over here - British buyers get to choose a pink version instead. ®