The portable digital music marketing war is about to heat up in South Africa, with the appointment of Cape Town-based Reviva Technologies as the local distributor of portable digital music devices by Creative Technologies.

Singapore-based Creative Technologies is better known for its PC peripheral business, including Soundblaster cards and other devices aimed at enhancing gamers' experience on the desktop.

Creative says it was the first to bring a portable digital hard drive music system to market in the late 1990's – a position that US company Apple have taken over with its iPod range.

As part of its strategy, it has moved the audio-visual product side away from its established SA distributor, Sahara, and awarded it to Reviva Technologies.

Reviva is a start-up company that has been importing and distributing a number of portable devices, including the MPIO range of portable music players in flash drive and hard disk formats and other products aimed at the personal wireless market such as Bluetooth headsets.

The international digital portable music player wars are expected to heat up as the market potential is huge.

According to research firm International Data Corporation (IDC), the global market for portable music players capable of playing songs downloaded from a computer is expected to reach nearly $58 billion in revenues by 2008.

Between 2004 and 2008, the market for compressed audio players (MP3 format) is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 20%, the market researcher says.

Reviva MD Stefan Rabe says his firm and Creative Technologies plan to start a marketing campaign to position their product as a brand leader in this country.

“Creative are very serious at regaining a market leadership position that they rightfully see as theirs,” he says.

South Africa sits at the tail end of the supply chain for the other two major market players - Apple and Sony. Apple's iPods only reach SA shelves once their other major market orders have been fulfilled and Sony's Yepp products have still to make some impact in the local market, Rabe says.

He also says that Creative's Nomad range of portable digital music players are compatible with most music download formats, unlike those of its rivals that force a consumer to use their proprietary systems.