First shown as a prototype at the Consumer Electronics Show at the beginning of the year, Ritek's DataPlay digital music player has been slated for release in Europe at the beginning of 2002.

The unit uses DataPlay optical discs, a little like miniature Sony MiniDiscs, to store information. DataPlay claims it's possible to cram as much as 500MB of data on to a disc about the size of a postage stamp — enough space to store several albums-worth of music.

The discs will cost between £5 and £10 and, because it's possible to fit several albums on a DataPlay disc, there's room for some innovative approaches to selling digital music, too.

For example, a customer might buy a disc with five albums by a single artist on it, but pay for only one of those albums at the time of purchase. If the customer decides they like the album, they could pay to 'unlock' the other albums stored on the disc by buying them over the web. The discs include built-in copy protection using SDMI (secure digital music initiative).

Exactly when the Ritek DataPlay will be out in the UK and much it will cost remains to be seen. Does the world really need yet another format? After all, MiniDisc never really took off, so why should this?