The Walkman Rises: Can a Nostalgic Reboot Revive Sony?

Sony Walman
Sony Walman

If you're an audiophile who waxes nostalgic when it comes to the classic Walkman audio cassette and CD players -- you're in luck. There's a new Sony (SNE) Walkman out, though if you're in America, you may need to pack a passport to purchase one legally.

The Japanese consumer electronics giant has been following Apple's (AAPL) iPod footsteps through Asia and Europe in recent years in its attempt to update its iconic brand. The Sony Walkman F800 is an impressive successor to its line of portable media players. You might not even recognize it.

The Walkman F800 -- which will retail for around $280 when it launches in Europe -- is a digital media player powered by Android 4.0.

The 3.5-inch device plays music and video, and has WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity to surf for fresh media and broadcast its contents through other devices. Storage options top out at 32 gigabytes – possibly not enough for diehard audiophiles with massive digital music collections.

Still, it's a slick device and the early reviews have been generally positive. But it is -- ultimately -- a portable digital media player.

Even Apple has struggled to move iPods lately. Sales have fallen over the past year, largely because smartphone and tablet owners no longer have to lug around an additional device to take their music with them.

This Song Fades Out Slowly

Sony could certainly use a hit. The company's TV business has suffered deficits for seven consecutive years. A few years ago, Sony was the top dog in video game consoles. These days its PlayStation 3 and PS Vita are laggards in consoles and handhelds, respectively.

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A new CEO who isn't afraid to cut costs and invest in new initiatives may be exactly what Sony needs, but any potential turnaround will take time.

Sony has been posting wider-than-expected quarterly losses over the past year, and the near-term outlook isn't a whole lot rosier. While Sony may be about to return to profitability, it's unlikely to claw its way back to become the global consumer electronics juggernaut that it was in its prime.

The Walkman may still be around, but like Jordache jeans, Members Only jackets, and the Rubik's Cube, Sony will never be as relevant as it was in the 1980s.


Longtime Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any of the stocks in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool has sold shares of Sony short. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple.

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