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MP3 of Fat Lady Singing Plays for Car Cassette Deck

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A piece in the New York Times over the weekend confirms the next piece of factory-installed automotive equipment to pass on, after the cigarette lighter: the cassette deck.

To wit:
For the 2011 model year, no manufacturer selling cars in the United States offers a tape player either as standard equipment or as an option on a new vehicle. The most recent choice for a factory cassette deck was the 2010 Lexus SC 430.

“Lexus was the last holdout," said Phil Magney, vice president for automotive research for the IHS iSuppli Corporation, a firm that does technology industry analysis. "We actually stopped tracking cassette players in cars some time ago. Now the question the automakers are asking is, how long has the CD got to go?"

The answer may lie in the progressive ascendancy of the digital music device, especially those using the MP3 and similar file formats, as the preferred source of music in cars. The iPod and its ilk are easing the journey along the path to the increasingly popular concept of file storage known as the cloud -- that place in the Internet ether from which music is streamed, generally through a Web-connected mobile device that communicates with the car by a wireless Bluetooth connection.

"We went from radio to tape to optical and then to flash memory or a hard disc drive, and now we’re moving away from memory and to storage of our tunes in the cloud," said Mike Kahn, director for mobile electronics of Sony Electronics.

"Ford’s Sync infotainment system, developed with Microsoft, employs a similar technology, and at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last month, a host of carmakers, including General Motors, Mini and Toyota, showed off similar streaming options."
There is, however, still a market for cassettes. And it's literally a captive audience:


With no mp3 players permitted (Lil' Wayne spent a month in solitary confinement while serving a one-year sentence on a weapons charge at Rikers Island, after being caught with an mp3 charger and headphones. Another inmate was found with the player itself), and CDs banned in many institutions for safety reasons, cassettes are the music delivery system of choice (is "choice" the appropriate word in this case?) for those behind bars.

A couple of years ago, Reuters interviewed a fellow named Bob Paris, proprietor of Pack Central, a Los Angeles-based company that supplies cassettes to the incarcerated. According to the article, "The screws that hold many cassettes together are ... verboten, so ... Paris must manually remove them. A bigger problem is that the labels have largely abandoned cassettes."

"People thought I was nuts when I invested tons of money in analog prerecorded music on tape," Paris said.

But Paris apparently knew something they didn't.

"I have dodged every conventional bullet that has hit most music retailers," he said. "I don't have to worry about downloading, legal or illegally. The beauty of it is that prisoners don't have Internet access and never will."

What are they listening to on the inside?

Perennial sellers include Al Green's Greatest Hits, Linkin Park's Hybrid Theory, Michael Jackson's Thriller, Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon and a best-of collection by the Stylistics.

Every possible precaution has been taken. From the Encyclopedia of American Prisons by Carl Sifakis:

In a "you couldn't script this better if you tried" coincidence, former Koss VP of Finance Sujata "Sue" Sachdeva, has just begun an 11-year term for embezzling $34 million from the company. Too bad she can no longer get the employee discount.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.