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Low price points and broad availability of legal music files will cause the market of MP3 players to nearly double in terms volume by 2010, according to a recent report by In-Stat research company.

The rapidly growing worldwide market for flash-based and hard disk drive (HDD)-based players will jump from 140 million units in 2005 to 286 million by 2010, according to the high-tech market research firm. Drivers for this market include falling prices, the availability of legitimate subscription and pay-per-download online music sites, increasing flash memory capacities and enhanced functionality.

In-Stat consumer survey data shows 49% of MP3 player owners own an Apple iPod. The company predicts that Apple will sustain its leading positions, however, given that sales of low-end, flash-based players were especially strong in 2005, particularly in Asian markets where some players are priced as low as $25, eventually Apple may lose part of its market share, however, not significantly, as for smaller makers it is harder to secure enough flash memory components.

“Apple continues to dominate the market for MP3 players, particularly in the US,” says Stephanie Guza, In-Stat analyst. “Apple competitors continue to face significant challenges, such as a constrained Flash memory supply, device and software integration, and the ‘cool factor’ associated with Apple’s iPod line of products.”

HDD-based models will continue to evolve into multimedia entertainment devices capable of audio, video, and imaging playback.

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