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Economics, Marketing

When the Walkman was cool

Sony WalkmanThe Sony Walkman was the iPhone of the 1990s.

Many of us even referred to other portable music players made by Akai and Sanyo for example (remember them?) as Walkmans too. That’s how strong the brand was.

The Walkman was smart, cool, advanced and a must have, evolving from cassette, to disc, to minidisk, to phone and MP3. But while Sony was the King of innovation back then, it got lazy.

Today Sony informed the Japanese sharemarket that it’s expecting a full year net loss of more than $1billion, and while it hasn’t had much luck this year because of the impact of the Japanese disasters, the Thailand floods and the appreciating Yen, this will be its fourth consecutive annual loss.

So where did it all go wrong?

As a portable music brand, Sony failed to innovate and lead in the digital music space. While its hardware was attractive, its software was clunky and hard to use. Enter the iPod and iTunes in 2001, with a user friendly interface, and seamless synchronisation, and the Sony Walkman never really recovered.

It’s bread and butter TV division isn’t doing too well either, now up against the likes of Samsung. It’s set to loose more than $2billion this year.

Sony’s saviour is its gaming unit, where it’s sold 55.5 million Playstation3 consoles, just 2 million under Microsoft’s XBox, in an industry worth more than $100billion a year. The PS3 is Australia’s most popular gaming console.

Still, while it may be a generational thing (I’m only 30), but whenever I hear the name Sony, the first thing I associate with the brand isn’t ‘Playstation’, it’s still ‘Walkman’, and that’s what I takeaway with me when I hear the brand Sony.

What do you associate Sony with?

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