Dell Inc. failed once to move into Apple Inc.'s digital-music turf. Now, it is plotting another foray.
In recent months, Dell has been testing a digital music player that could go on sale as early as September, said several Dell officials.
Launching the player — along with an online download service and related software — would be part of a strategy that Dell Chief Executive Michael Dell hopes will move the company into a broader range of consumer markets than it has served before.
Dell first entered the music market in 2003 with a line of MP3 players that let users buy music from a variety of Web sites. But sales were disappointing.
When Dell stopped making music players in 2006, its U.S. market share remained below 3 percent, estimated analyst Rick Doherty of Envisioneering Group, who follows the MP3 player market.
This time, if the company goes ahead with the music player, the strategy is different, said Michael Tatelman, Dell's vice president of consumer sales.
Instead of simply selling a piece of hardware tied to someone else's music service, as it did in 2003, Dell is working on software for a range of portable PCs that will let users download and organize music and movies from various online sources.
The music player Dell has been testing — the product's name couldn't be learned — features a small navigation screen and basic button controls to scroll through music play lists.
It would connect to online music services via a Wi-Fi Internet connection, and Dell executives said they would likely price the model currently being tested at less than $100.
The executives said the device has gotten a favorable reception from testers. Software would connect the device to an online subscription service that Dell expects to launch later this year.
Through licensing agreements with online music providers, Dell's new service will let consumers download songs and move them between devices like PCs and cellphones.