“Months before Sony was ready to unveil its new portable music player, it had to settle a fierce internal debate,” Kenji Hall reports for BusinessWeek. “Though the Japanese electronics and entertainment giant had invented the idea of portable music in 1979 with its Walkman cassette-tape players, Sony’s digital-era gadgets were getting creamed by Apple’s iPod. Sony execs couldn’t help but wonder: Was it time to retire the Walkman brand for something fresher?”
Hall reports, “‘The Walkman’s image was from decades ago, when it played tapes,’ says Koichiro Tsujino, co-president of Connect, Sony’s digital audio business. ‘Inside the company, some felt we should change the name.’ But Tsujino was against walking away from a brand that had helped Sony sell an estimated 350 million gizmos worldwide. In the end, his view prevailed. On Sept. 8, Sony took the wraps off a new lineup of Walkman digital-music players. The sleek, oval-shaped device with a built-in hard drive and storage space for up to 13,000 songs represents the company’s latest foray into the iPod-dominated market.”
Hall reports, “Now with newly appointed Chief Executive Howard Stringer preparing to announce a turnaround plan later this month, Sony is focusing on key products to boost profits in its core consumer-electronics and music divisions, while restoring luster to its brand.”
Hall reports explains that “in 2004, Sony shipped about 850,000 Walkmans to retailers worldwide, according to Deutsche Securities in Japan.” And Sony is targeting global sales of around 4.5 million Walkmans this year. Ouch. Even if they hit their 4.5 million target for the year, Apple sold more than 4.5 million iPods in the last 60 days.
Full article here.
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Here’s what Sony needs to do:
• Stop lying about storage capacity. Sony’s ridiculous song capacity claims are based on: Estimated at 4 minutes per song compressing in ATRAC3plus at 48-Kbps. Source: Sony. That’s great, if you like AM radio sound quality. Apple’s realistic song capacity is based on 4 minutes per song and 128-Kbps AAC encoding.
• Even if Sony stops lying, Stringer still needs to pull the plug. Sony needs to stop distracting themselves with the portable music player + online music businesses: it’s too little, too late. Sony has lost this market. Everybody knows it. Sony needs to admit it and get on with other things.
• Stop pushing iPod-incompatible DRM-laden pseduo-CDs on consumers in a weak attempt to force Apple to license FairPlay and/or add WMA support to the iPod. It isn’t going to work and makes Sony look like sore losers.
• Focus on making better TV’s and displays. Sony has slipped in recent years.
• Figure out better and more ways to work closely with Apple, instead of petulantly withholding your signatures on the iTunes Music Store Japan and Australia.
Sony’s new Windows-only ‘Connect Player’ bears eerie resemblance to Apple iTunes – September 09, 2005
Also-ran MP3 player makers miffed by Apple’s impossibly low price for iPod nano – September 09, 2005
Sony and Warner holding out on Apple iTunes Music Store Australia – September 08, 2005
Sony Connect President in wake of iPod nano: ‘we will accelerate our challenge’ to Apple iPod – September 08, 2005
Apple close to deal with Sony for ‘online music download service for Japanese iPod users’ – September 05, 2005
Bad news for Sony: millions worldwide choosing Apple iPods – August 22, 2005
Sony to combat music market ‘maestro’ Apple Computer with ‘Walkman Beans’ – August 18, 2005
Musicians stage mutiny against Sony, defiantly offer music via Apple’s iTunes Music Store – August 10, 2005
Apple’s Japan iTunes Music Store debut more bad news for Sony – August 04, 2005
Sony BMG and EMI try to force Apple to ‘open’ iPod with iPod-incompatible CDs – June 20, 2005