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slotRadio is not a radio. Discuss.

imageAs my column discussing some of the contrarian products launched in 2008 focused on startups, I didn’t mention slotMusic, but it certainly would have qualified had I expanded the column to bigger companies.

SanDisk’s first slotMusic player was about as basic a digital music player as there has ever been and today at CES, SanDisk is launching a follow-on bundled with 1,000 songs on a microSD card for $100. The spin is that there is so much music that the consumer is enjoying a radio-like experience. Outside the content angle, though, this could be considered a step-up slotMusic player. with a 1.5″ OLED screen (and still presumably no USB). I wonder if SanDisk will also make the music card available on its own for use with other products that might fit the bill, such as its own Fuse.

If 1,000 songs for $100 sounds too good to be true, the songs are tied to the card (unlike most slotMusic albums that are DRM-free). slotRadio has been announced a day after latecomer Apple has finally announced that its market-leading iTunes store will go DRM-free by the spring. slotRadio has also appeared as more Internet radios continue to appear in the home and elsewhere.

SanDisk deserves credit for trying to make digital music more accessible and available through distribution that hasn’t been able to capitalize well on the transition (at least from the content side). And maybe this is all a ploy to get more microSD players in the market, but I thought that that SanDisk had given up for good on DRM-protected memory cards with Gruvi. Revisiting protection¬† risks clouding the DRM-free messaging around slotMusic.

Update: After a bit more investigation, it turns out that the first slotRadio player from SanDisk can indeed receive FM radio, but that seems even less of an incidental feature as it is on the Zune.  It also has a USB port. slotRadio cards can be played only on the player for now, but SanDisk has plans to expand support, including via a firmware update to the Fuse.