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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Jun 2009

Audio, Hardware

DISCUSSION 24 Comments
  • Sxc

    I hope those new models come soon. I just tried out the x series in the store and wAs pretty underwhelmed.

  • Faisal Malik

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

    Whaaaa..???!!?!? Would these new video walkmans be better than the x-series Walkman? I've got the 32GB version on pre-order… help!

  • ascariss

    I would not expect a july debut for the new 'new' walkman, the x series hasn't even launched in mainland europe (afaik) and it is yet to launch in the US (june 20th), and even canada (early june?).

    Perhaps a press release in july, but this would alienate and tick off people who pre-ordered the new X. if new ipod products are due in september, then this would be the time to launch the new walkman. again who knows, I doubt we will see a walkman player this fall, perhaps it will be the rumoured android based sony ericsson and not just solely a walkman.

    There has been an image of the new xperia which could come this fall and run android? but then sony said it is waiting for android 2.0 which is due later this year.

    I am holding out on the walkman x series and waiting for something else, be it a sony, or a new nokia.

  • Zizone

    Considering recent release of new X, E and somewhat new S series, that new “video Walkman” maybe the new Walkman A series.

  • sonyinsider

    Correct. The X Series will still be very worthwhile in comparison to anything coming from Sony for a reasonable amount of time. The X is a triumph in Sony engineering.

  • sonyinsider

    What was wrong with it? Don't worry X Series owners or pre-orderers, its still a killer Walkman.

  • sonyinsider

    In certain ways they will be better, but the X Series is still very great. I've spent three replies now saying this, but I want to make sure everyone knows. :)

  • sonyinsider

    It will be a bit later, but not much. It's not going to be billed as a device necessarily better than the X Series, but a nice companion to it.

  • sxc

    I was prepared to be blown away by the sound quality. There was a Backstreet Boys song on the in store sample, which I also had on my ipod touch. I used the same headphones (ie my headphones) and it didn't sound amazingly better as I expected it to. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I think the ipod sound is pretty sucky, so I thought I would just love the X series like I loved my HD5.

    So considering the price in HK (more than the comparable ipod touch), I thought I would hold my horses and see what else comes up. Hopefully these July models will be great. If the sound quality on the July models is the same as the X series, and its cheaper by virtue of no video or no browser, then it might be okay for me.

  • Steve

    Interesting stuff. I am a big fan of the Walkman, and I do hope they will keep adding new tech (be it hardware or software) to put it on the radar of people (again).

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  • theFanboy

    “Sony has been toying around with adding 3G to their Walkman line in 2010″

    you mean, 3g radio will be there on walkman, but can't make phone calls ??

    if you can make phone calls, how wud it be any different from sonyEricsson walkman phones ?

    Adopting android is the only solution left. But then consumer electronics will become like PC business where there is lot of manufacturers making products for one s/w (windows)…….which has made product differentiation very hard….

    while Apple, and now on Palm will easily show product differentiation……
    Palm has built pre from scratch in less than 2 years…….this is what clarity of thought can establish…..

  • Faisal Malik

    Well, I guess we'll have to wait to find out what those “certain ways” are… *eyebrows furrowed*

  • Faisal Malik

    Is it true the new X-series Walkman does NOT have the playlist feature?

  • ascariss

    It has playlists, but no “on-the-go” playlists which you can make in the player.

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  • robicelus

    Christopher, can you please ask Sony to confirm a releasing date of the X series in Romania? Our local Sony Center has no clue about this and I have the feeling that they don't even care (I can tell by the way they started treating their customers lately) and I really want to get this player. I would've bought this from amazon uk but they don't deliver electronic stuff to our country. I “fell in love” with the walkman X ever since they were announced back in January but now I am getting sick and tired of so much waiting. :|

  • ascariss

    if the device will not be better than the X series, then it appears that the A818 is my last sony walkman for a long time.

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