Sony Plans Slow Death for Walkman


This may be the swan song for the Walkman.

Sony (Stock Quote: SNE) announced that it has stopped manufacturing the Walkman cassette player in Japan, where it has been made since the late 1970s. The Walkman is one of the best selling music devices ever and has been Sony’s signature product for more than 30 years. Of course, for some, it may come as a shock to learn that Sony still makes Walkmans at all.

Sony has continued to stock shelves in Japan with new Walkmans as recently as April of this year, but now, the company’s Japanese website indicates that production has stopped and once the current models sell out, there will be no more Walkmans available in that country.

However, contrary to previous reports, the Walkman is not completely dead. The Associated Press reported this morning that Sony will continue to manufacture the Walkman in China to supply customers in the U.S. and Europe.

Still, this news is indicative not just of the changing times for music consumption, but also of the difficulties Sony faces to remain relevant, at least in the music world.

Rumors of the Walkman’s demise resonated throughout the blogosphere and the mainstream media all weekend, providing the kind of press coverage that most companies would kill for. In Sony’s case though, the media was covering the end of one of their old products, rather than the launch of a new one.

And it’s not hard to see why. The Walkman debuted back in 1979 and since then, about 220 million copies have been sold worldwide. For a long time it was a symbol of the hip music listener.

Obviously, the company still has some very successful products, including the popular PlayStation video game console and their Bravia HDTVs, but its standing in the portable music department appears to be slipping. The Walkman is being phased out, they gave up on the minidisc player, and how many people are still interested in their Discmans and MP3 players?

Earlier this year, Sony also made news when it ceased production of the floppy disc. Perhaps Sony is eager not to be seen as the company of the past, but then again, maybe it would be wiser to embrace its vintage gadgets and focus on giving them a hi-tech makeover, the way that companies like Polaroid have done.

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