By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Sony's Wi-Fi-enabled mylo communicator/MP3 player is hitting sales targets through a distribution strategy that limits sales to 900 storefronts, the company said. Retailers report varying levels of success.
The device, available for eight months, features MP3 player, Web browsing, instant messaging, photo viewer, VoIP and IEEE 802.11b wireless Wi-Fi. Its estimated street price is $350 before a $50 rebate that runs through the beginning of this month.
The product is difficult to classify, but The NPD Group clusters it with PDAs and found that the "black" version of the mylo ranked seventh among PDAs in April unit sales to consumers, up from ninth place in March (see table.)
"It has very little direct competition," said Ross Rubin, NPD industry analysis director. "Probably the closest product to it is the Nokia N800, which is also a Wi-Fi device with Web browser and VoIP capability and playback of audio and video files." The Nokia N800 took a ninth place slot in April sales for PDAs.
"Sales are doing exactly what we expected," said mylo marketing manager Phil Boyle. The product is sold through approximately 900 retail storefronts including Circuit City, Fry's, P.C. Richard & Son and Bestbuy.com as well a small number of Best Buy outlets. Sony described the distribution strategy as "managed distribution" that includes national retailers but also targets regions with Wi-Fi hotspots.
Although mylo represents a new category, Rubin said it places Sony in the position of gaining experience for future products. "It could be that Sony will take some of the lessons from this product and implement them in product that would take advantage of other wireless networks such as WiMAX down the road," he said.
A quick poll of retailers found mixed sales results.
Buyer Lawrence Stevens of Abt Electronics and Appliances, Glenview, Ill., said the mylo is "doing pretty well," but he expects stronger sales for graduation and the back-to-school season. "I anticipate it will do quite well during the summer."
New York-based Datavision said the product sold very well during November and December but have slowed since.
Sony considers the mylo the forerunner to a new category of devices that cater to kids who want to replicate their PC online experience in a portable. Boyle says mylo lets kids execute the same five to 10 simultaneous cross-platform IM chats while listening to music, surfing the Web and viewing photos as they would on their PC. The mylo user demographic has remained as the company expected, targeting youth who use instant messaging as primary means of communication and who live near Wi-Fi hotspots, as on college campuses.
Sony would not say when a next generation model is due but said the future model would include new "partners" as well as expanded capability.
The mylo features 2.4-inch color LCD screen and a slide down QWERTY keyboard for thumb typing. It offers instant messaging via services including Google Talk and Yahoo Messenger when the user is near an open 802.11b hotspot. It supports Skype VoIP and media codecs including MP3, ATRAC and WMA (secure or unsecure) for audio and MPEG-4 for video. It incorporates 1GB of embedded flash memory and a slot for Memory Stick Duo for up to 5GB of additional storage.April mylo Sales
|1||Palm Z22 32MB Color Organizer||$97|
|2||Palm TX Handheld 128MB||$269|
|3||Palm Tungsten E2 32MB||$192|
|4||HP iPAQ rx5915||$487|
|5||HP iPAQ hx2495||$346|
|6||HP iPAQ rx1955||$225|
|7||Sony BLACK Mylo||$243|
|8||HP iPAQ hx2795||$396|
|Vs. PDAs, other portable devices|
Source: The NPD Group © TWICE 2007
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.