J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
The Hottest Gadgets and Gizmos from Japan

Issue No. 178
Thursday February 3, 2005

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Name: Green House Pico Card
Category: USB flash memory
Price: 2,800 yen for 128MB, 4,480 yen for 256MB,
and 7,580 yen for 512MB
Release date in Japan: Early February 2005

The Gist: In a refreshing departure from the standard "stick
type" USB flash memory form factor, Green House has
announced a stunning new product called the "Pico Card."

When you think of USB flash memory, what image comes to
mind? For most of us, it is the same "stick." Maybe 5cm
or so long, and probably a centimeter or two thick.
Some Gadget Watch readers may recall a few exceptions,
such as the rubber ducky-shaped USB flash memory, or
perhaps the world-famous SushiDisk...but for the most
part, USB flash memory has all had the same form factor.

Until now, that is. The "Pico Card" is shaped like a card,
as its name implies; it is no more than 4.2mm (0.16 inches)
thick. The card can easily fit into a pocket, purse, or
perhaps even wallet. Yes, it really is THAT thin; and
when you're a sucker for thin electronics like I am, you
can't help but be astounded why nobody had come up with
something like this sooner.

But that's fine by me. Green House has done a nice job
executing the Pico Card. A USB connector is stored inside
of the card itself -- when you're ready to connect it to
your PC, extend the connector, and you're ready to go.
As an interesting new service that I hope catches on,
Green House is offering the "Name-On Service," which
essentially allows users to put their own designs on their
Pico Cards. This includes names, logos, patterns, designs,
and perhaps best of all, the ability to choose custom body
colors. No longer are electronics with custom body colors
reserved for celebrities with too much money.

More info:
Name: Aiwa XDM-S900, S990
Category: Portable audio
Price: 25,000 yen for 512MB, 30,000 yen for 1GB
Release date in Japan: February 21, 2005

The Gist: Sony has announced two new players in their
"XDM" line of Aiwa portable digital audio players. Though
some may consider them expensive in view of Apple's recent
1GB iPod shuffle announcement at 16,000 yen, Sony once
again wins in the battery life department -- both players
offer playback times of up to 100 hours on a single
AA battery.

Other features include the ability to play ATRAC3plus,
ATRAC3, and MP3 files, automatic launching of the "MP3 File
Manager" software when the player is connected to a PC,
and an FM tuner.

These new series players use an aluminum body, are roughly
88.6 x 24.6 x 24.3mm (W x D x H), and weigh about 60g
including the battery.

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Name: Kenwood M256A3, M512A3
Category: Portable audio
Price: 17,000 yen for 256MB, 22,000 yen for 512MB
Release date in Japan: Late February, 2005

The Gist: As the saga of portable digital audio players
continues, the public now welcomes a well-known audio maker
name: Kenwood. The company had dropped hints at entering the
portable digital audio market last year, and it appears they've
finally accomplished what they set out to do. Kenwood had
previously offered MD and CD players, but this is the company's
first foray into dedicated MP3 devices.

Kenwood has set out into the market with one strategy in mind:
throwing around the weight of their company name's association
of high quality audio products. In Kenwood's words, obviously
taking a stab at Sony and Apple, they "plan to bring users and
audio quality expected of an audio maker." Whether or not this
strategy will work with consumers, only time will tell.

Continuing to the players themselves, they appear to go by just
their product codes; in a startling breach of Japanese
electronics industry protocol, Kenwood hasn't given them fancy
English nicknames. The 512MB "M512A3" will be available in white,
black, orange, and blue body colorings, while the 256MB "M256A3"
will be available in white and black colorings.

On the front of the player lies an LCD display backlit with a
blue LED, capable of displaying standard details such as time,
file name, and so forth. Supported audio formats include MP3,
WMA, and even files that take advantage of WMA DRM; certainly
needed in this day and age.

I could rattle off some more specifications here, but I think
it's all second nature to most of us now: five equalizer settings,
support for the USB Storage class (though MP3 files must be
transferred using "Kenwood Media Explorer"), and an FM tuner.
See? Nothing unexpected.

One item that was unexpected, however, is the "Scroller."
Apparently similar in construction to the scroll wheels featured
on some Japanese mobile phones, the Scroller allows for
one-handed operation of many of the player's key functions:
mode selection, song selection, play and pause, and so forth.

Kenwood quotes an MP3 playback time of about 12 hours using a
single AAA battery. At 71.3 x 16.5 x 28.5mm (W x D x H), the
M256/512A3 weigh roughly 39g including the battery.

More info:
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Written by: Liam McNulty
Edited by: Burritt Sabin (

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