Google Android And The Upcoming Sony Walkman Product Strategy


Engadget recently picked up on a story about Google’s Android mobile operating system on a Sony Walkman that stemmed from two reputable Japanese sources (Impress Watch and Nikkan) for technology information. Well, it sure sounds about right to us. Throughout Sir Howard Stringer’s speech at CES 2009, he spoke incessantly about adopting open standards, and Android is probably the fastest way to do it at this point. During his powerful “CES Seven” speech, Stringer stated that Sony must “ open technologies. Open technologies are winning the game. Closed systems are being disintermediated. We’ve seen it before in other industries such as the commoditization of long distance telephone service, and the rise of Linux. Now, it is seriously impacting consumer electronics. Consumers expect choice, and expect services to work with any device.”

The current operating system that runs on various Sony Walkman devices is a closed system, and doesn’t have the rich, inviting atmosphere for developers that other companies are nurturing. Sony has never released a SDK for any of their Walkman devices, which is a major turnoff to software companies. Sony needs Google’s Android operating system more than they realize simply before it is too late; consumers want a device that has the same intrinsic value as other devices in the market. It’s just not about having a Fart application on an iPod Touch. There are hundreds, if not thousands of useful applications available for portable devices that are changing the way we live. While it’s nice to have a beautiful OLED screen and noise cancelling, Sony knows that they will become irrelevant with portable music players if they don’t adopt something revolutionary soon. Every other major portable mobile device/music player will have some sort of open system for development and a store to sell it, or already does – Apple has the App Store, Windows Mobile has a marketplace, Microsoft’s ZuneHD will have a marketplace, and so on. When Sony embraces an open system, such as Android, then the perfect marriage of above average sound quality and an open platform will finally be achieved. It’s a move so radical that it completely carves a new direction for the company to walk upon, and opens the door for the Playstation Store and its Video capabilties to become a brand-name store and available on the go. The 2010 Walkman will be the framework for this.

Speaking of years, lets briefly talk about what Sony is planning to do for 2009 and 2010 with their portable music players. They have already created one of the most successful Walkman players to date with the touchscreen Walkman X series, but the hardware is dated and it doesn’t have the power to do much more than it already does – OLED, noise cancelling, Wifi, Slacker, etc. The next Walkman will have advanced hardware, capable of higher resolutions than the limited video capabilities of the current X series. When they adopt Android, it will most likely be a custom version with Sony styling. Don’t expect to see Android on a Walkman that you can currently use on T-Mobile’s G1 phone – this will be a different flavor of Android, but very similar. Furthermore, video conversion is just about the only feature missing from the Content Transfer application, but it is coming, and will be simple (we aren’t 100% sure if this will be software related, or simply done on the hardware itself without need of conversion). In addition to being able to transfer music and videos back and forth to other consumer electronic devices, the next Wifi equipped Walkman devices will also have the ability to transfer music over a home network – such as from your laptop to your Walkman, PS3 to Walkman, and so forth. Sony is also looking towards enabling content download (audio, video) straight from the Internet.

It doesn’t stop there, though. Sony has been toying around with adding 3G to their Walkman line in 2010, but nothing has been finalized. This would allow subscription services to really take off, as content would arrive in the Walkman directly with no need for interaction with a PC. Sony also wants to further integrate recommendations into the Walkman interface through SensMe – so as you listen so a song, you can access a list of music from artists that sound similar, like Slacker/Pandora. Finally, they are indications will also roll out a peer to peer system within Walkmans probably later in 2010.

Expect new Video Walkmans coming soon sometime during July to September, and 2010 models coming in January to March.

This is a Sony Insider exclusive, brought to you here first.

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