Now this thing seems like the Swiss army knife of the portable players.
Sony Electronics is wrapping four devices into one portable package for the holidays.
The consumer-electronics giant's new MPD-AP20U player can play and record CDs as well as play DVDs and digital audio files, such as MP3s. Sony announced the device Monday, saying it will be available in November for less than $300.
"With the benefits of four products wrapped into one portable device, (the MPD-AP20U) can do a multitude of things for the business traveler or the savvy consumer," Sony spokesman Bob DeMoulin said.
As a standalone portable player, Sony's new gadget can play back CDs as well as MP3, WAV and WMA files that are stored on CDs, DVDs or the company's own Memory Stick cards.
When connected to a Windows or Macintosh computer, the device can serve as a CD-RW drive for recording digital content or backing up computer data. When connected to a television or PC, the device can also become a DVD player for watching movies.
Manufacturers have been trying to take advantage of the popularity of DVD playback to push sales of new devices. Adding the technology to gadgets is also becoming cheaper for manufacturers.
The Sony device, too, is part of a trend toward bringing traditional consumer-electronics devices together with the PC. That push has intensified with the popularity of digital entertainment formats such as MP3 music files and file-sharing sites such as Napster.
"The Sony device is tapping into the PC, which is the hub for digital entertainment," said Susan Kevorkian, an analyst with research firm IDC.
The player supports the CD-RW, DVD-ROM, CD and MP3 formats and comes with a Memory Stick expansion slot, a rechargeable battery and a USB 2.0/1.1 interface.
The device measures 5.37 inches by 0.87 inches by 6.26 inches and weighs less than one pound. It also comes with a cradle designed to make it easy to connect to a computer and to recharge its battery.
The MPD-AP20U records and reads CDs at 24X, rewrites CDs at 10X and reads DVDs at 8X.
It's the second device in Sony's family of products that converge audio-visual and information technology functions, DeMoulin said. The first device, called the Digital Relay, came out about two years ago.