Thurrott: Sony Network Walkman is abysmal, get ‘near perfect’ Apple iPod shuffle instead

“When Apple Computer’s iPod soared to prominence a few years ago, I predicted that it was only a matter of time before the competition caught up and even surpassed that device. Boy, was I wrong. Despite an almost constant onslaught of products from companies such as Creative, iRiver, and Rio, Apple has maintained and even extended its lead. Today, the iPod is the de facto standard for portable audio and a must-have fashion accessory for teenagers, college students, and commuting professionals,” Paul Thurrott writes for Connected Home Media.

“Lost amid all the iPod hoopla, curiously, is Sony, which started the portable audio craze in the late 1970s with its seminal Walkman cassette-based device. Sony eventually expanded its Walkman line to include CD-based devices and controlled the market it invented for over 20 years. But Sony stumbled badly in the digital age. The problem was that Sony owned both content (movie and music businesses) and delivery (Walkman) systems. Sony’s content-creation businesses wanted Sony’s electronics division to make sure that none of their content was being stolen with Sony devices. Thus, Sony’s first digital Walkman products were sad jokes, limited to a proprietary Sony audio format called ATRAC,” Thurrott writes. “The end result was that Apple was able to waltz into a market it didn’t even fully understand at first and walk away with the crown, thanks to great design and customer research. Sony, the one-time king, could only watch in horror as Apple sold millions and millions of iPods, and as its own digital Walkman products faltered in the market.”

Thurrott looks at Sony’s “horribly named Network Walkman Digital Music Player NW-E500 series” and writes, “Without understanding the limitations of the Sony Network Walkman, you might see its razzle-dazzle display and assume the iPod had finally met its match. Don’t be confused. The overall user experience of the Sony Network Walkman is abysmal. For the time being, at least, Apple has nothing to fear. My advice is to stick with the surprisingly affordable iPod shuffle—which is near perfect, in my opinion—or check out a Creative MuVo if you absolutely must have a screen.

Full article here.

Related MacDailyNews articles:
iTunes Music Store Japan? Apple to hold ‘special music event’ in Tokyo on August 4 – July 26, 2005
Sony grabs Japan flash-based music player lead from Apple ahead of Japanese iTunes Music Store – July 14, 2005
Sony debuts US$199 1GB iPod shuffle killer, bills it ‘small as a pack of gum’ – July 06, 2005
Sony’s portable music player sales tumble in face of Apple’s iPod success – January 28, 2005
Mossberg: Sony Walkman ‘laborious, weak, lousy, confusing, stinks’ vs. Apple iPod – July 28, 2004
Washington Post: Sony’s internet music service ‘is an embarrassment to the company that gave the world the Walkman – May 29, 2004


  1. OK, who is this guy and what has he done with the REAL Paul Thurrott? The one who enjoyed linking the words “beleaguered” and “Apple” together? The giveaway is in the line: “Boy, was I wrong.” The REAL Paul TurdRot would NEVER admit that. This guy’s a fake.

  2. Lets hold off on the love fest. On Monday he wrote:

    [I]Popular software is just hacked more often than infrequently-used software. And [B]this is how we learn that Apple doesn’t necessarily design more secure software than Microsoft.[/B] In fact, there is absolutely no way to know how Apple would perform if its OS X software was used by 600+ million people rather than just 14 million people. The popularity of iTunes–and its attraction as a target for hackers–should be an interesting test.[/I]

  3. Last week Paul blogged on his internet-nexus site that he had gotten one of these Sonys, initially loved the display and hated the software, but was still going to evaluate it over the next few days. I guess he’s come to his conclusion.

    I’m Mr. iPod Zealot, but I must say the displays on these are really cool. However, not surprisingly, that’s apparently that’s about the only thing good to say.

  4. It’s a bit of a mixed bag, that Sony. Rubbish controls and software, but that display looks good.

    I reckon Apple will have to put something like that display in the updated shuffle, especially if the capacity increases. Getting to the right song even on my 512 shuffle is sometimes a pain.

  5. I thought the whole point of the walkman brand was that it was synonymous with portable music – why do they need to lengthen an already long name by adding “music player” into it?
    Surely even “Sony Digital Walkman NW-E500 series” (I assume NW stands for Network?) would be better than “Sony Network Walkman Digital Music Player NW-E500 series”. Either way it’s a crap name in comparison to “iPod” or even “Apple iPod” or the longest “Apple iPod Shuffle”. Of course if they can’t get the simple things like a short name right what hope do they have?

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