Creative is in the process of building a new MP3 player that it genuinely believes can take on Apple's class-leading iPod touch.

Darragh O'Toole, audio specialist at Creative, told us that a forthcoming flagship Creative player will sport X-Fi sound upscaling and a touchscreen interface.

Better than Apple

"Two years ago we committed to bringing out an MP3 player with X-Fi built in. We've been working on that ever since and we are getting closer. We are confronting the challenges for implementing the X-Fi technologies, and making sure it doesn't do something like draining your battery," he said.

"It's about getting a balance and we haven't got that right yet. We don't want to just go out with something that's half-arsed. We want to make sure that consumers will be very happy and comfortable with it."

O'Toole says that, despite Apple's enormous market share, he thinks that Creative's line-up of flash-based players are better than Apple's.
A high-capacity Zen touch?

"I think you've seen a very strategic focus on our flash based players and you've seen us consolidate what we did before," O'Toole explained. "We had a huge number of different players before but we've tried to reduce them down so that people can probably identify with the Creative brand. So now you've got the Creative Zen Stones, and the Zen at the top of the range.

"We are now at an in-between point where, yes, there is a gap in the higher end, 'higher capacity video player with lots of features' segment that we are not catering for. And some of the competition are addressing that at the moment. But I do believe that when it comes to Creative's flash-based players they quite easily trash things like the iPod nano and any other player.

"We give you 32GB of flash memory in the Zen range now. It is a better player than our previous Zen Vision:m. It's much smaller, there's a better viewing angle on the screen. If you balance the features of the Creative Zen against the iPod nano, it comes out on top. It may not have an aluminium skin, but it has other things like an SD slot which more than make up for it.

The consumer will decide

"It's down to the consumer at the end of the day," O'Toole pointed out. "If you want an iPod, you're probably going to buy an iPod. When you buy the iPod and two weeks later realise the limitations of trying to transfer content and manage your actual music library, then that's when people may consider alternatives."

O'Toole would not reveal any hard facts about Creative's upcoming iPod touch competitor, but he did indicate that it would be something special.

"We are working on a new flagship player. X-Fi is definitely an area we are addressing. Beyond that I can't really say anything more at this point. All I'll say is that it's going to blow your socks off, it's going to be that good.

"And yeah in terms of having a touchscreen, if you look at the trends in general, there are some things that you just can't avoid. Apple has been good in driving the market forward. It's become a necessary feature now. There's always the possibility that you'll see something in 2008."