NEW YORK Consumer electronics maker Sony Corp. (6758.T) on Thursday said it introduced a new U.S. version of its Sony Walkman that includes the ability to play digital video, the latest potential rival to Apple Inc.'s (AAPL.O) dominant iPod media player.
The Japanese company, one of the world's biggest electronics makers, said its NWZ-A810 and NWZ-S610 series of Walkman digital music players would be available in September.
The devices will support an open platform -- which means they will play a variety of music formats such as MP3 and Microsoft Corp's (MSFT.O) WMA, providing more choices for downloading and managing music and video collections online.
Sony added that it would pull the plug on its Connect Music Services, which distributes music in Sony's proprietary ATRAC audio format in North America and Europe. Specific timing will vary, but the move will not occur before March 2008.
Sony said the models' battery life allows up to eight hours of video playback for the NWZ-A810 series, which will sell for between $140 and $230. Battery life will be more than nine hours for the NWZ-S610 series, with prices ranging from $120 to
The announcement comes amid speculation that Apple will next month introduce new versions of its ubiquitous line of iPod media players. Apple has distributed invitations to a September 5 event in San Francisco but did not specify what would occur at that time.
Apple rivals are lining up to take yet another shot at the iPod ahead of the holiday shopping season. Earlier this week, Nokia NOK1V.HE, the world's largest cell phone maker, unveiled an online music store, a gaming service and four new multimedia handsets.
(Reporting by Franklin Paul)