The New York Times recently reported about Sony playing catch-up to Apple in the portable MP3 player market. That and a new Squeezebox got me thinking; I've spent about $1000 on MP3 hardware. And none of that has gone to a traditional music or stereo manufacturer. I've bought two portable MP3 players from Archos and two network MP3 players from Slim Devices. None of these are traditional music devices. The Archos is more like a USB hard drive that happens to have an MP3 decoder. The Squeezebox is a tiny network device, not a stereo component. Both are hacker friendly, too: there's Rockbox for Archos and Slim actively encourages development.
Which is all a long-winded way of saying that the MP3 market is being owned by computer companies, not stereo companies. And it's nice, too. I love having 20 gigs of stuff in my car that I can sync to work. I love having 40 gigs of music on my stereo, letting me move from Górecki to Bach to Schönberg to Messiaen to Wendy Carlos without having to fumble for CDs. Isn't it amazing that companies like Sony missed it?