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Sony Shows Off Android Walkman Device At IFA

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The Walkman brand has taken a beating over the last decade or so. The culprit, of course, is the iPod, and while other players do sell perfectly well all over the world (Apple’s reach isn’t always good enough), Sony, Creative, and iRiver just aren’t the powerhouses they used to be in the portable audio sector.

Sony’s looking to get back into the game, and is demoing a prototype Android-based media player at IFA. While I’d love nothing more than real competition in the player space, I don’t quite see this thing taking off.

On one hand, you have some obvious pluses: it runs standard Market apps, many of which will work just fine with a wi-fi connection. But to be perfectly honest, if what you want is a portable app machine, you’re probably already leaning towards an iPod touch. You can access Music Unlimited through this guy, though.

Sony was also smart to include a button that gives you access to play controls whether the phone’s locked or not. Reminds me of the Zune HD; the little button on the side always brought up the playback/volume controls if you had something playing. And there’s both a customized interface and improved sound quality over the rest of the Walkman line. You can “flick” videos to DLNA-enabled devices and so on.

But look at it. It’s huge, for one thing, not exactly the type of gadget you really want to carry around in your pocket in addition to a phone. The HDMI and DLNA suggests a home media device, but what about your TV shows and movies? You’ll be wanting a set-top box for that, and a hi-fi for your music. It doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere, does it?

What could Sony have done to make it more enticing? Personally, I think a smaller, more pocketable form factor would help, but that’s certainly not all there is to it. Differentiating from the market leader seems to be the move right now — iPods have become a commodity, people are looking for something new.

At any rate, the device isn’t likely to show up any time soon. The Sony rep made noncommittal remarks, saying they “may expand this kind of product in the future after getting some feedback.” In other words, it’s a proof of concept and if it blows up, they’ll make it. I’d say head back to the drawing board.

[image: Stephen Shankland, CNET]