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Friday, 13 October 2006 09:07

Sony walks back into Walkman business

The market is already more crowded than an oriental bazaar, but that hasn't stopped Sony from trying once again to relive its glory days of the 1980s, when the Walkman portable CD player was a must have accessory to hang on your hip. With the release next month of the new Network Walkman range, which incorporates a hard drive, Sony has made no bones about the fact that it intends to take on Apple's iPod.

However, Sony will have to get in line to take a crack at Apple's portable music scene domination because there are some other pretty big names with equally big pretentions, such as Microsoft for instance.

Sony, which has a respectable 20% share of the Japanese market for portable music players and about 10% globally, believes that it can win over iPod users with superior sound quality using its noise cancellation technology.

In addition, the Japanese electronics giant is touting the ability of the new Walkman to download music directly from a CD player, cutting the PC out of the picture.

There is almost a feeling that Sony is caught in a time warp with regards to the portable music player market. Sound quality has not been raised as a major issue with iPod users and the iPod's relationship with the PC and Mac based iTunes music store and system has been credited with much of the Apple music player's success.

While the CD player is still a standard accessory in most homes, music downloads are becoming the favoured way among many consumers to source music and there is a gradual shift toward computer-based media center type devices that store downloads on hard drives.

Whether a portable player that can download directly from a CD player is a sufficient lure for consumers is questionable.

Another important factor that Sony has yet to reveal is whether new Walkman range will include a tie-in with any online music stores. The other major players have acknowledged this as an important component of their strategy to take on the dominance of the iPod-iTunes duet.


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Stan Beer


Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.



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