August 30, 2007 / 1:18 PM / 12 years ago

Sony sees new Walkman with 10 percent or more of market

BERLIN (Reuters) - Sony (6758.T) aims to win at least 10 percent of the portable media player market with its new Walkman that can play digital video and more music formats, the president of Sony Europe told Reuters on Thursday.

An undated handout image of Sony's NWZ-A810 video walkman in this picture released on August 30, 2007. Consumer electronics maker Sony Corp. 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 dominant iPod media player. REUTERS/Sony Corporation/Handout

Sony, inventor of the once-iconic cassette Walkman, has seen its market share dwindle into the single digits with its proprietary ATRAC audio format and amid stiff competition from Apple’s (AAPL.O) iPod and multimedia mobile phones.

“We listened to the customer,” Fujio Nishida said of Sony’s decision to phase out ATRAC in favor of an open platform that supports MP3 and Microsoft’s (MSFT.O) Windows Media technology.

“Today we may have only single-digit market share but we aim to make it double-digit at least in the next couple of years,” he added in an interview at IFA, Europe’s biggest consumer electronics trade fair, which is being held in Berlin.

The new Walkman will go on sale starting from September or October in European countries including Germany and will sell for prices starting at 99 euros ($134) for the most basic model to 249 euros for the top-end version with 8 gigabytes of memory.

Nishida added that he expected prices for LCD TVs to fall by 30-35 percent this year amid fierce competition. “I hope that will slow to 20-25 percent next year and maybe slow down further after that,” he said.

Profit margins would inevitably be squeezed further but he declined to say by how much: “There’s still a lot of room to reduce the cost of the panel and the cost of components.”

Sony also launched two new players for the next-generation Blu-ray optical disc format for the European market at IFA.

Nishida said the cheaper of the two, which will retail for about 599 euros ($816), should create a commercial market for blu-ray players in Europe, where they only went on sale earlier this year.

“We expect big business coming for Christmas, he said.”

Sony’s PlayStation3 games console, which contains a Blu-ray disc player, also retails for 599 euros in Europe.

Sony is the main sponsor of the Blu-ray system, which is vying for dominance with rival standard HD-DVD, supported by a Toshiba-led (6502.T) group.

Nishida added that it would take about two to three years for high-definition television (HDTV) to become mainstream in Europe, where few programmes are broadcast in HD.

He said Sony was trying to educate the public about the benefits of HD, for example by showing consumers how they could hook up their own HD camcorders to HD televisions at home.

“It’s not booming or exploding but at least we try to show the solution at the store,” he said. “That’s all we can do.”

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