Sony struggling as Walkman hits 30th anniversary

"We can deliver a totally new kind of thrill to people with the Walkman," said the silver-haired Morita, proudly wearing a gray factory-worker jacket and surrounding himself with dozens of colorful Walkman machines. "We must make more and more products like the Walkman."

Morita acknowledges in the video that the Walkman doesn't feature any groundbreaking technology but merely repackaged old ones — but did so in a nifty creative way. And it started with a small simple idea — enjoying music anywhere, without bothering people around you.

The original Walkman was as big as a paperback book, and weighed 390 grams (14 ounces). It wasn't cheap, especially for those days, costing 33,000 yen ($340).

But people snatched it up.

Other names were initially tried for international markets like "soundabout" and "stowaway." Sony soon settled on Walkman. The original logo had little feet on the A's in "WALKMAN."

Many, even within Sony, were skeptical of the idea because earphones back then were associated with unfashionable, hard-of-hearing old people. But Morita was convinced he had a hit.

The archival exhibit shows other Sony products that have been discontinued or lost out to competition over the years — the Betamax video cassette recorder, the Trinitron TV, the Aibo dog-shaped robotic pet.

The Walkman exhibit, which runs through Dec. 25, shows models that are still on sale, some about the size of a lighter that play digital music files.

Also showcased are messages from Morita and his partner Masaru Ibuka, who always insisted a company could never hope to be a winner by imitating rivals but only by dashing stereotypes.

"All we can do is keep going at it, selling our Walkman, one at a time," said Sony spokeswoman Yuki Kobayashi. "Thirty years is a milestone for Sony. But we hope the Walkman won't be seen as just a piece of history."

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