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Sony Walkman To Play Non-DRM Music

Sony will allow its Walkman portable audio player to support non-DRM music and will cut its Connect music service in Europe, the company announced at a press conference at the IFA trade show, here.

“Customers don’t want to be locked into one service, consumers are demanding choice in music,” said Jeffrey Van Ede, Sony Europe audio marketing VP.

Two new series of Walkman players (see p. 80) will play DRM-free MP3, WMA and AAC format music and support secure WMA files from subscription-based music services. In addition, Sony will phase out its Connect music service and the ATRAC format in Europe by March 2008, Van Ede said. Additionally, the Walkmans will come with Windows Media Player 11 and will later be offered with Sony’s Media Manager, currently used with the PSP, Van Ede added.

The A810 sports a 2-inch LCD, video playback and a battery life of 33 hours of music and eight hours of video playback.

The new S-series will offer a smaller form factor, smaller LCD screen at 1.8 inches and no video playback.

“There has been a fundamental shift in legal downloading, and that is toward DRM-free music,” Van Ede said.

Europe accounts for 27 percent of Sony’s electronics business, while the U.S. share is 22.9 percent, said Sony Europe president Fujio Nishida.

Competition in the consumer electronics market is fierce, Nishida said. “Anyone can source a few chips and make a digital camera and an MP3 player,” he said. “We have to fight back with our huge range of devices and content.”

HD will figure highly in that battle plan, he noted. By March 2008, 75 percent of all Sony electronics products will be HD compatible, Nishida said.

To spur demand of Blu-ray products, European consumers who purchase Sony Blu-ray Disc players will receive a free copy of the “Spiderman Trilogy” in Blu-ray, Nishida said.