The major labels have teamed up with SanDisk to offer yet another new physical music format, only this time with an eye towards the digital future - specifically, mobile.

The new format, called "slotMusic," basically is a standard 1 GB SanDisk microSD removable memory card that the labels will load with music from their top artists.

At launch, each card will contain little more than a singular album, stored in DRM-free 320 kbps files. In time, however, SanDisk senior VP and GM of SanDisk's audio-video business unit Daniel Schreiber says labels and artists may use the new format to offer additional content not already found online - such as album art, interactive booklets, lyrics pages, etc. Some artists, for instance, have plans to add master tracks so fans can remix them.

All involved declined to say precisely when the cards will be available in stores, nor mentioned pricing. However Schreiber said that they would be available by the holiday sales season, for a price comparable with today's CDs. A blank 1 GB microSD card retails for around $8, depending on the retailer.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Universal Music Group will issue 29 albums under the new format at launch, and they will cost around $15.

While SanDisk stresses the vast ecosystem of consumer electronic products that support the microSD format today - such as computers, game consoles, its own line of Sansa MP3 players and other devices - the real focus of the effort is mobile. Most music-enabled mobile phones today contain a microSD card slot for removable storage.

However, initially there are no distribution or promotional relationships with either mobile operators or phone manufacturers. Retailers Best Buy and Wal-Mart are the only two distribution partners at launch.

It’s not clear whether the cards will be sold alongside the mobile devices available at those locations or in a separate music section.

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