“Analysts say Sony poses the biggest challenge yet to the iPod, although they add that Apple should still be up to the challenge of defending a market that has become a key part of the company’s overall success,” Benny Evangelista writes for The San Francisco Chronicle.
“‘We think this is the year Sony starts breathing down Apple’s neck in music,” said technology analyst Richard Doherty of the Envisioneering Group. ‘Customers who look to the iPod as the only advanced styling and fashion statement out there are going to take more than a second look at the Walkman.’ Sony made wearing headphones in public fashionable and introduced the concept of a purely personal stereo system that could be enjoyed anywhere, from the street to libraries to public transit. The Walkman line broadened into several generations of products that played tapes, the radio and CDs,” Evangelista writes.
“Apple’s marketing prowess pushed the iPod and the smaller iPod Mini past the Walkman to become pop culture’s new slick, cool portable music device. Apple, which had been solely a computer-maker, is now known as much for music. Its online iTunes Music Store has sold 95 million songs, and Apple has sold more than 2 million iPods,” Evangelista writes.
“Last week, Sony introduced a silver, 20-GB model called the Walkman NW- HD1. The player, due to hit store shelves in the United States and Japan in mid-August, will weigh about 4 ounces and cost about $400, the same price as the 5.6-ounce iPod with the same size hard drive. Sony officials also tout the NW-HD1’s 30-hour battery life, compared with eight hours for the iPod,” Evangelista writes.
“The new Walkmans and Pocket Players will tie in to Sony’s SonicStage music management program, which can play songs encoded in the popular MP3 and Windows Media formats on the computer. However, the program has to convert songs to Sony’s proprietary Atrac3 format, the only file type the portable players will support,” Evangelista writes. “‘Are they going to kill Apple? Absolutely not,’ said Van Baker, a vice president at research firm GartnerG2. ‘If Sony Connect is compared to iTunes, there ain’t no comparison. It’s hard to argue with Apple’s success. Right now, the business model is to use your music to sell your hardware.’
“Doherty said he believes Apple and Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs have ‘several things in the fire’ to keep Sony’s Walkman from outrunning the iPods,” Evangelista writes. “‘No one on the planet dares ignore Steve Jobs,’ Doherty said. Consumer electronics-makers like Sony and Panasonic have ‘a fear of what he sees that they’ve missed.'”
Much more in the full article here.