Sony is working on the next generation of its popular Walkman that can store and replay music downloaded from the Internet.
Nobuyuki Idei, Sony?s president, confirmed at the announcement of the consumer electronics giant?s Super Audio CD in Tokyo, that it is attempting to store compressed audio in its Memory Stick Walkman, which is already sold in Japan as a miniature storage device for digital camera images.
The Memory Stick is a miniature flash memory card designed to fit into devices that are about the same length as an AA sized battery. Consumers would be able to download music onto the Memory Stick and play it on portable Walkman style players and car audio systems.
The offering is currently available in 4, 8 and 16Mb versions, but a 32Mb release is due to follow and a 64Mb version that can hold two hours of audio is believed to be in the works.
Idei?s sneak preview into Sony?s plans for a digital Walkman comes in the midst of an industry war on how music will actually be sent, received and played back. At the centre of the dispute is the MP3 compression format, which has been condemned by music giants because they claim it makes it easy to pirate music from the Internet.
Sony's US based record company, Sony Music Entertainment, last year joined the Recording Industry Association of America?s (RIAA) Secure Digital Music Initiative, which is developing a format for selling copyright protected music over the Internet and hopes to break the hold MP3 has on the market.
The installed base of MP3 players, including software and hardware versions, is estimated to be more than 10 million.
Sony has stated that it will not sell MP3 products and has stressed the need for a secure system to download music from the Internet. According to sources, it is waiting until a secure system is available before it launches its Memory Stick style product, although the offering is slated to be rolled out this year.
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