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October 12, 2006 9:55 pm

Sony in bid to compete with iPod

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Sony on Thursday made its third bid in two years to challenge Apple Computer and its iPod with the launch of a range of Walkmans designed to win a bigger share of the market for portable music players.

The Japanese electronics group, which has 10 per cent of the global market for portable players, also said it was developing a video-capable Walkman as part of its effort to catch up with Apple. The US company launched a video-enabled iPod last October.

“We are developing a product that handles images, but I cannot make any comment on specific plans,” said Hiroshi Yoshioka, Sony’s senior vice-president.

Sony is hoping the Network Walkman series, combined with a Jukebox stereo system that incorporates a hard disk drive, will help it regain its lustre as the inventor of portable audio.

The company has suffered from the delayed launch of its PlayStation 3 video games console and from a global battery recall.

Sir Howard Stringer, Sony’s Welsh-born chief executive, has made revitalising the consumer electronics business the group’s priority this year.

The Walkmans – which are flash memory-based – feature noise reduction technology and would allow users to download music directly from special stereos without using a personal computer.

Sony said that about 40 per cent of portable music player users it had surveyed had indicated that they would prefer to download music without using a PC.

The new Walkman line-up comes a year after Sony’s previous effort at unseating the iPod was overshadowed by Apple’s launch on the same day of its iPod Nano. It also comes ahead of the launch next month by Microsoft of its Zune music player.

While Sony has faced an uphill battle against Apple, it has performed better in the mobile phone market, where its partnership with Ericsson has flourished.

Earlier this week, SonyEricsson, the joint venture mobile phone manufacturer, reported higher-than-expected third-quarter earnings, with pre-tax profits of €433m ($542m).

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