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New Sony Players Drop Price to Match iPod

By Richard Menta 3/9/05

It was only last October that I wrote about Sony's "new" digital music portables. Both were unimpressive looking devices and had very high prices for flash players.

The Sony NW-E99 and NW-E95 sold for $300 for 1GB and $255 for 512MB respectively. The Sony NW-S23 S2 Sports Network Walkman sold for $230 for only 256MB.

Two months later Apple released the iPod Shuffle, a most simple device that didn't even have a screen. Then Apple dropped the bombshell. The iPod Shuffle only sold for $149 for its 1GB model, almost $100 less that Sony's NW-S23 S2 that also had only one-fourth the capacity.

Needless to say the iPod Shuffle is a runaway hit. As for Sony, I don't see many of those players around.

So out goes Sony's new players and in comes even newer players, portable units that Sony has priced to match Apple.

The first is their new line of flash network players is the most interesting looking unit they have released since their first digital music player way back in 2000 ( the Parker pen shaped Vaio Music Clip). These disk shaped players weigh in under an ounce and come in six colors. More important, the prices of the players go head-to-head with the Shuffle. The 256MB NW-E103 sells for $89.95, the 512MB NW-E105 for $99.95, and the 1GB NW-E107 for $149.00.

Due to be released in the coming months, Sony has announced their 400 and 500 series players that are more akin in shape and size to the iPod Shuffle, but with OLED displays. The 500 series units add an FM tuner to the mix. Otherwise, both players are basic straight ahead portable units with minimal frills.

The 512MB NW-E405 will sell for $130, while the 1GB NW-407 sells for $180. Again, these prices put them right line with the Shuffle. The 512MB NW-E505 will retail for $150, while the NW-E507 rounds things out at $200.

Wall Street took kindly to the pricing of all the above units, raising Sony's stock price, but more importantly causing a drop in Apple's share price by about 5%. The Street is obviously impressed by the effort and resources Sony is plowing into winning market in the digital portable arena. None of these players may be an iPod Killer, but put enough of them in Wall-Marts across the country and they probably will sell a respectable number of units. Mostly, this is because Sony is not employing a price premium on their digital music products.

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