Creative is planning a fight back into the MP3 player market by introducing a player equipped with its patented X-Fi technology. In an interview with Tech.co.uk, Darragh O'Toole, product group manager at Creative, said that the company is going back to basics to build a player which sounds better than the rest.
X-Fi is Creative's famous audio upsampling brand. Soundcards equipped with X-Fi can make MP3 audio sound vastly better by repairing the parts of the music that were damaged during compression, replacing the highs and lows in the process.
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O'Toole said: "Our plan for X-Fi was that we started with soundcards and we wanted to expand - we called it the X-Fi universe - so you'd have X-Fi everywhere. We've started that process now. So we've had the Xmod coming out; the Xmod Wireless; the Xdock Wireless.
"We're working on X-Fi headphones too. So the next step is to put it in our MP3 players. We have no release dates yet, but we do expect it to happen. They are being actively developed as we speak.
"One of the main considerations we have is battery life. X-Fi uses its own internal processor which would obviously drain the power of a portable device. If a great feature vastly reduces your battery life, the benefit of that feature is reduced significantly. So power management is a huge issue to be resolved - we need to make sure that when we put X-Fi into an MP3 player it will be an effective implementation.
"We have some very clever engineers who are working on optimising the algorithms for use inside a new batch of Zen MP3 players."
O'Toole told us that having X-Fi in a portable device would make MP3s sound a lot better than in current portable audio devices, such as the iPod.
"So instead of working on adding lots of different extras, we're going back to basics. We just want to make a product which works really really well and sounds ridiculously good, like the rest of the X-Fi range.
"Creative has always been seen as an audio innovator, so our market share can be increased by using our X-Fi technology. We work best when our products are innovative, like X-Fi, the first Jukebox and the first webcams. All we want to do is make the audio listening experience better, and we think people will want to pay for that."
Creative is launching a range of new products, including X-Fi audio streamers. The Xmod Wireless and the Xdock Wireless stream X-Fi-upmixed audio around the home so that you can have your favourite music playing in any room you like.
This is not an original concept, but the introduction of X-Fi is new and likely to secure Creative a good percentage of the audio streamer market.
There is absolutely no information available as to when a 'Zen X-Fi' might be released onto the market. But it goes without saying that such a device would be very exciting and would likely reinsert Creative back into the middle of the MP3 player battle for market share.