In announcing the demise of the portable cassette player last year, Sony made me feel ridiculously old — I think I had my first Walkman when I was 10 and blasted my home-duped Pink Floyd cassette (“Dark Side” on A, “Wish You Were Here” on B) until the tape disintegrated.
But now the Walkman is back — Sony is showing off an Android-powered Walkman prototype that will connect to Sony’s cloud-based music service, which reportedly has 10 million songs, as well as run Android apps. The company plans to target audiophiles with the device and its S-Master MX suite of audio technology for clarifying and improving quality.
As an amateur audio engineer and mixer, I’ll tell you Apple’s audio output across all devices is really mediocre. The intuitive music library management functionality of the iPod was its chief selling point (and something no one else has gotten close to), not it’s sound quality. As I still yearn for the quality of my LP records (or at least a CD), this new Walkman seems very alluring — this could be the first real competitor to the iPod Touch.
But Sony tends to be good at identifying a target market. Though Sony stopped making cassette-playing Walkmen, it’s kept the name for its MP3 players — in particular the W series headphone-style MP3 players, which are aimed at athletic types. The fast-charging (3 minutes plugged in equals 60 minutes of music) 2 GB players are designed specifically to deliver high-quality audio during activity — think running or time at the gym. In addition to staying out of your way, a water-resistant seal keeps your filthy sweat from corrupting the electronics.
To market the latest generation, Sony has teamed up with Active Networks and its owned and operated site Active.com to run a highly interactive marketing campaign aimed at runners. Reaching around 3 million U.S. uniques a month, Active.com is an online social community for sports and athletic activities that also focuses on healthy living.
In addition to providing branded content for the website, Sony has collaborated with Active.com to build runner-focused communities on numerous levels. Check out the First Race Community, which aims to help runners approaching their first 10K, half-marathon or marathon. The electronics company is also hosting a booth at Active’s Rock’n’Roll Events. Finally, the two companies will assemble 120 amateur athletes across the nation to be brand ambassadors for “Team Sony.”