According to a post on the Sony Insider blog, Sony is gearing up to release a touch-screen Walkman to contend with Apple's iPod Touch (get in line Sony). The blog's author, who cites no sources and saw fit to post his own product mock-up, claims the new Walkman includes a 3-inch OLED screen, Wi-Fi, a Web browser, YouTube browser, and an integrated Amazon MP3 download store. Apparently, the device will be unveiled at CES in January. We couldn't reach any of our sources at Sony for comment.
I want to give the Sony Insider the benefit of the doubt, and I have to admit the product sounds exciting. The part of this story I have a hardest time believing is that Sony would announce its Walkman in America. Historically, Sony's U.S. division has had a hard time creating buzz on its MP3 players, partly because they tend to pop up in Asia months before reaching U.S. soil, and partly due to their unbearably complicated product names.
Which is not to say I blame Sony. I have no problem believing that Japan's appetite for Walkmans and Rollys outstrip America's by a hundredfold. The iPod's stranglehold on the American psyche is well-known, and an MP3 player named the NWZ-S738F isn't going to change that, no matter how many awards we give it.
All rants aside--will we see a Wi-Fi-enabled touch-screen Sony Walkman in 2009? I don't see why not. Sony's own Xperia X1 smartphone already has all the ingredients. Of course, the X1 runs around $800 in the U.S.--which brings me to my next question.
Will we see a Wi-Fi-enabled touch-screen Sony Walkman for sale in the U.S. in 2009? That's hard to say. The Sony Insider post wasn't too clear on that part. My sense right now is that no one, not even the mighty Apple, is blind enough to release a risky and potentially expensive MP3 player in the U.S. for 2009.
On a smaller note, I have a hard time believing Sony would partner with Amazon (or anyone) for their device-integrated MP3 store. Personally, I think it would be a great move, but Sony always tries to go with a vertically integrated solution first. Just take a look at Sony Connect, the PS3, Blu-ray, or the most Sony of all products, the MiniDisc. Maybe this is Sony turning over a new leaf, but I wouldn't bet on it.