Sony is releasing a new lineup of Walkman
portable music players for this holiday season as it tries once again to gain back market share from Apple’s iPod in an area where it
once was king.
Sony’s strategy this time around: Release new products that have features that the iPod doesn’t have, such as the
ability to upload music directly to the device from a CD player. Also included: a
noise canceller to erase surrounding noise to make the music sounds better.
Sony explained that the new Walkmans are to target music lovers who value higher sound quality and consumers who find managing music on a computer to be too complicated. “Sony has a lot of strengths that Apple doesn’t have,” said Hiroshi Yoshioka, senior vice president at Sony in charge of the audio division. “This is a device that takes advantage of them.”
Sony, of course, is credited with the birth of the music-player market, which it made famous with its Walkman portable cassette players 27 years ago. But the company has been struggling to regain market share ever since it was late to the digital music scene. Apple is currently at the head of the global market with over 75 percent of U.S. retail sales in the second quarter of this year, compared with less than 10 percent for Sony.
This winter will be Sony’s first holiday season after restructuring its audio business under Yoshioka.
Success in the music-player business is just what Sony needs to get back on track after years of disappointing results (not to mention current issues with battery recalls as well as delays in the release of its PlayStation 3 gaming console).
But price may be yet another issue. These new Walkmans will likely be more expensive than the Apple iPod or the newly announced Microsoft Zune. Uploading music directly from a CD and noise cancellation are cool features, to be sure, but are they cool enough to steal away consumers at a higher price in an already crowded market place?