San Francisco Chronicle: Sony Walkman vs. Apple iPod

“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.

62 Comments

  1. first post ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />

    who cares? the real news is (off the subject but i got first post, whatever that means)….apple hasn’t released a software update in, it seems, weeks and there are still tons of viruses being released for windoze. every day brings several new, strangely named baddies. just think about it…

  2. The biggest thing Apple needs to do with the iPod is extend the battery life. This is the ONLY major feature that ‘competitors’ can brag about in comparison witht the iPod. Once Apple does that, there won’t be much of a reason to buy anyone else’s product.

    Unless you’re cheap. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”raspberry” style=”border:0;” />

  3. What the hell kind of battery technology does Sony have that can give the same size player (a little lighter) more than 3Xs the battery life? Is there somthing Apple isnt putting in the iPods? I somhow doubt that 30 hours is a real world number

  4. Just you wait.
    Microsoft is gonna jump in the game that plays the only the best media format out there today – Windows Media.
    It is going to feature a 2 inch screen for playing video, which is so detailed you can almost make out what you are watching. It will weigh only 2 pounds, easily stored in its own media bag, which weighs only an additional 2 pounds and includes a portable charger, since it will need to be charged every two hours. It will change the way we live.

    Coming in 2012.

  5. The only way the others are EXTENDING the battery life is compressing the music tighter. If you were to take all your music and re-encode at 64 (instead of AAC 128) then you could concieveably have 16 hours of play time as long as you don’t skip around. On my iPod, if it set it to play a playlist that only includes AAC music and set it to shuffle, I’ll get about 8 hours. If I use MP3 160 or skip forward through the list, the battery time is cut every time the HD has to spin more often.

    Go here ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” />

  6. So it will only play music in Sony’s own format?

    In other words, you will have to convert your whole library to ATRAC — or whatever it is called — rather than using open formats like AAC and mp3 which is still the dominant format.

    That’s a non-starter for me.

  7. “‘We think this is the year Sony starts breathing down Apple’s neck in music,” said technology analyst Richard Doherty of the Envisioneering Group.

    Wrong body part, Doherty. Been sniffing around Apple’s feet in music and iTMS just blew down a reminder of how far they’ve got to go [1.5M-two-weeks-Europe].

  8. An iPod with 12 hours (real) battery life would be nice, though. With the batteries degrading over time, 2 years after purchase the battery will then still hold about 8-10 hours – so we wouldn’t have to replace them too soon. (And just consider that Apple WILL have their hands full in about 2 years from now, replacing all those drained batteries.)

    Apple now uses off-the-shelf parts for their iPod design to be cheaper off. Apple has not done its very own design of all the components and the circuit board. This can cause power requirements to be high. With iPods selling really well now, Apple should consider doing extra research in how they can reduce battery drain. Just adding a higher buffer memory would also help, up to 256 MB from 128 MB, but only the user doesn’t touch his/her iPod and only play full playlists – but people tend to shuffle.

  9. Tom,

    First post and more specifically the acknowledgement of first post means that the person who gets it and acknowledges it has little else to do in life other than read MacDailyNews and quickly reply. They have so few accomplishments and such low self-esteem that they must grasp at any form of recognition they can find. They are socially the lowest of the low, second only to someone who would spend time explaining the disorder known as “First Post.”

  10. I can just hear people in the streets:
    “Oh, cool, you’ve got the new NW- HD1!” Brilliant marketing. Name a music player like a 1980s motorcycle! What’s NW standing for – no way?

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