retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Go figure.

The New York Times reports that last week, Sony Corp. “confirmed that it has ceased making tape-based Walkman players in Japan, where the first one debuted in 1979 ... Sony said that it would still be making Walkman products in China for Asian and other markets, including units that play CDs, minidiscs and MP3 files.”

Now, this is surprising on several levels.

One, it is almost impossible to imagine that anybody, anywhere is using a tape-based player. I cannot even remember the last time I saw one.

Two, I cannot even remember the last time I saw a CD-based Walkman ... which makes it surprising that Sony is still making those.

Which leads me to my third point. The story does note that Sony is making these Walkmen for “Asian and other markets.” Sometimes, it is good to be reminded that one’s American-centric view of the world is just that.

A fourth point, and again, an unexpected one: “Sony says that it sold more than 400 million Walkman-branded products through this past March, and more than half that number were cassette-based models. A check of Sony’s United States product web site shows that it is still selling two cassette players, one a portable for $30, the other a boombox player at $50.” I guess it is also good to be reminded that while I live in a world of iPods, and occasionally whine because I haven’t got the latest and greatest Apple product, not everybody has the same technological advantages that I do.

But, speaking of technological advantages...

Here’s the other intriguing line from the Times story:

“The late Akio Morita, one of Sony’s founders, believed in the late 70’s that the world would embrace a portable ‘personal’ stereo machine that used headphones. He was right.”

True. But he also wasn’t right enough ... because Sony was unable to translate that insight into sustainable thought and market leadership in this segment. That’s a lesson that companies need to take to heart.

A short piece from the Times ... but one that is eye-opening on a variety of levels.

- Kevin Coupe
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