Just as vinyl gave way to compact discs, could music CDs be replaced by a fingernail-sized memory card? Maybe not, but SanDisk, four major...

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Music industry

Just as vinyl gave way to compact discs, could music CDs be replaced by a fingernail-sized memory card?

Maybe not, but SanDisk, four major record labels, Best Buy and Wal-Mart Stores hope albums sold on microSD memory cards will be a new source of sales.

The companies are unveiling plans today to sell memory cards loaded with music in the MP3 format, free of copy protections.

Called “slotMusic,” the new format is backed by record labels Universal Music Group, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and EMI Group.

Unlike when the CD was introduced and people had to buy new players, many people already have the ability to play slotMusic albums, since many cellphones and multimedia players support microSD cards.

These new albums will come with a small USB dongle that lets buyers use them with computers, too.

SlotMusic albums will be sold on 1 gigabyte microSD cards, able to hold a full album and related content such as liner notes and cover art.

Buyers will be able to use extra space on the cards to hold songs and photos from their own collections.

The cards and dongles will come in boxes similar to CD packaging, and be priced similar to CDs.

Electronics

Compatibility focus of digital consortium

Buy a CD or DVD, and it should work on a variety of devices and personal computers.

Buy the same music or movie online, and you’re on your own.

Songs bought at Apple iTunes will generally work only with Apple products like the iPod, while many movies sold in Microsoft’s Windows Media format will require a Windows computer or device.

Leading entertainment and consumer-electronics companies — including Microsoft — are trying to change that.

They have formed a consortium, the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, to come up with technical specifications that content distributors and manufacturers can follow to ensure compatibility. The idea is to let people know that content and devices carrying a special logo will play nicely with one another.

The technical details are still being worked out, so consumers aren’t likely to see products until at least next year.

Telecommunications

RadioShack stores to spruce up displays

Taking a cue from competitor Best Buy, RadioShack says it plans to change its wireless and GPS displays in 4,000 stores so shoppers can compare products and features side by side.

In time for holiday shopping, the consumer-electronics chain is installing interactive displays and enhanced signs to create a more organized store, said Peter Whitsett, executive vice president.

Stores will be easier to navigate and displays will house entire product categories, he said.

Best Buy has been going after a bigger share of the wireless business, which represents one-third of RadioShack’s annual sales.

Best Buy stores have expanded wireless departments to include several carriers’ phones that are displayed for comparison and branded as Best Buy Mobile.

Telecommunications

AT&T had to add

capacity for iPhone

AT&T was caught off guard by the popularity of Apple’s iPhone 3G in some parts of the country and had to add network capacity.

Universities that bought iPhones and developed applications for students were among the groups that created “hot zones” for AT&T’s network, Chief Technology Officer John Donovan said last week at a Goldman Sachs conference in New York.

Some customers have sued Apple and AT&T, saying the high-speed network the phone uses is overloaded and unable to deliver promised performance. Apple sold 1 million of the devices in the first three days after their July debut. About a fifth of AT&T customers have phones that use the network.

The iPhone 3G switches over to slower networks because of the “high volume” of the devices sold, according to a complaint filed in San Diego last month by a customer seeking class-action, or group, status on behalf of other users. Another customer sued Apple the same month, complaining of dropped calls and slower-than-promised download speeds.

Compiled from McClatchy Tribune news service and The Associated Press