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Sony takes on iPod Shuffle 501

Ben writes "It seems that Sony has decided to take on Apple with a low cost flash based player that will go up against the Shuffle. Pocket-lint has the low down on some of the stats, as does the BBC and Engadget." The major improvement in my eyes is that some models have an FM tuner.
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Sony takes on iPod Shuffle

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  • by Space cowboy (13680) * on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @12:01PM (#11878249) Journal
    IMHO they look like every other flash drive, apart from the circular one. It doesn't matter, I reckon Apple will be laughing all the way to the bank here - the press are describing it as "Sony takes on Apple's IPOD shuffle" - ie: they're already the de-facto standard in a market that's 2 months old.

    The other comment is - what on earth are Sony smoking - they really need to learn about branding - the models are the NW-E103, NW-E105, NW-E107, NW-E405, NW-E407, NW-E505, NW-E507. Apart from 'bigger numbers are better' (which is a guess), what does that tell me ? What are the distinctions between them ? both in-range and between the ranges (presuming the E1xx, E4xx and E5xx are 3 distinct ranges).

    Even I get this, and I write s/w for a living. You'd have thought someone in the highly-paid 'marketing director' position would have a clue too.

    • ie: they're already the de-facto standard in a market that's 2 months old.

      The flash player market is only 2 months old? Pretty sure the flash player market has been around for 5 or 6 years!

    • by MoonBuggy (611105) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @12:21PM (#11878485) Journal
      Even if they sorted that, price does matter. I realise that many people will pay for style and ease of use (hence why the iPod did so well despite the cost) but if you're trying to compete with a 'premium' player, the first thing you want to do is at least match the price.

      "Until now, the complaint was that Sony products sold at a major premium," said Gregory Kukolj, general manager of the personal audio group in Europe...
      ...The 1Gb model will still cost £200 compared to Apple's iPod Shuffle at £99. The new models will feature a OLED display though.

      If you're selling 1GB of flash at £30 more than a 6GB iPod mini, and you don't think that's "a major premium" I don't think an OLED screen is going to save you.
      • Branding (Score:5, Insightful)

        by phorm (591458) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @01:29PM (#11879346) Journal
        For a long time Sony has sold on its brandname, while it's products have started to suck in both quality and functionality/components. In this market though, Apple has brand recognition in the high ground. Sony might be able to snag a few fanboys, but I hope that they eventually catch a clue and realize that selling an overpriced player with less features (in this case less storage) is not going to gain them many fans.
        • by sterno (16320) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @02:17PM (#11879916) Homepage
          One huge problem that any IPod competitor will face is the natural lock-in of ITunes. If I bought an IPod and bought a few albums through the music store, I'm pretty much stuck with my IPod unless I want to buy the music over again. Sony can't even get away with providing some sort of import tool because it would violate the DMCA.

          Sure, there are tools to decrypt these files, but many of the average ipod users don't have a clue about that stuff. If they consider an IPod competitor, they'll be informed that their music won't carry over and they'll get another IPod.

          It's the same game Microsoft plays if on a different scale. Everybody needs windows to run the software they bought and it's too expensive to change to a different operating system because you have to get all new software.
          • If I bought an IPod and bought a few albums through the music store, I'm pretty much stuck with my IPod unless I want to buy the music over again.

            Sorry, this is a lame arguement. You should add "... and I am anal about not introducing artifacts into my purchased music..." or "... and I don't want to use Hymn [] to remove the protection". You see, you can always convert your AAC tracks into a CD/loseless and recompress the music into mp3/ogg/whatever, or just rip out the Fairplay protection and keep the music.

  • FM Radio (Score:4, Insightful)

    by linuxci (3530) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @12:03PM (#11878264)
    Never understood why all these rival players seem to include FM radios, if I wanted an FM radio I could use the one built in my phone (not sure what FM is doing in a phone either) but I never do because the quality on the move has never been that brilliant.

    If they want to include a radio at least include a DAB one (the digital radio service in the UK).
    • Re:FM Radio (Score:5, Interesting)

      by RonnyJ (651856) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @12:10PM (#11878353)
      I'd love to have both FM and AM on my mp3 player - the sound on AM might not be that good, but I enjoy listening to talk stations such as Radio 5 (a BBC news/sport channel in the UK). I'm sure basic FM/AM support wouldn't be too expensive, and I'd be swayed towards a model with this feature.

      Yes, a DAB radio would be nice, but I don't really need it, and I think the extra cost would be too much for most people.
      • Creative's MuVo player line (the first major brand MP3 player that I know of to do the "doubles as a teeny and convenient USB flash drive" deal) now are USB 2.0, have LCD displays, and at least some of the models have an FM tuner. I got one of the first-generation 128MB ones (no display, no tuner), and it's performed pretty well. Even with just 128MB, though, the lack of display sometimes frustrated me; I can't imagine trying to use the 1GB Shuffle for anything beyond its apparently single use of random pla
    • Re:FM Radio (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sfid (33738)
      > if I wanted an FM radio I could use the one built in my phone

      Yeah, well, but then you also have to carry another pair of headphones because cell phones never seem to have a standard 3.5 mm plug. It seems strange to me that Nokia and SE don't include such a connector a phone nowadays with built in MP3 players in their phones (in addition to the FM radio which has been present in most models the last few years).

      > If they want to include a radio at least include a DAB one (the digital radio service i
    • Re:FM Radio (Score:2, Insightful)

      by 3nuff (824173)

      The whole reason that I have an iPod is so I don't have to listen to FM radio.

      I suspect the majority of people who buy portable players do so because they don't like the selections that radio offers them. Why include another battery sucking feature that most people won't use?

      Of course this is a generalization, but somehow I have a hunch it's true.

    • Re:FM Radio (Score:3, Informative)

      by Paul Slocum (598127)
      I use the FM radio on my mp3 player all the time to listen to NPR. So many times I'm listening to a news story or interview in my car and I use my mp3 player's tuner to listen to the rest of the story while I'm in line at the post office or at my desk at work.

    • Re:FM Radio (Score:5, Informative)

      by starphish (256015) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @12:38PM (#11878656) Homepage
      FM receivers on these devices are popular at gyms. An area of society that eludes most Slashdot readers. Most of the TV's at the gyms are muted, and broadcast the sound on an FM frequency. A quality FM receiver is not needed there.
  • by yagu (721525) <yayagu@gmail . c om> on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @12:03PM (#11878272) Journal
    For me, the inclusion or addition of an FM tuner to an mp3 player has now become a negative rather than a plus. My experience has been the FM tuners are all pretty bad, and so the only conclusion I can draw is the FM tuner has been added solely for the sake of making it more attractive, not enhancing the quality of the user experience. So, more circuitry, more electronics to support a poorly implemented FM tuner just means more things to go wrong with the device.
    • Often the TVs at the health clubs broadcast their audio over FM- each TV on a different station. And since it seems that everyone at my gym has white headphones, maybe Apple should consider the feature...
    • For me, the inclusion or addition of an FM tuner to an mp3 player has now become a negative rather than a plus. My experience has been the FM tuners are all pretty bad, and so the only conclusion I can draw is the FM tuner has been added solely for the sake of making it more attractive, not enhancing the quality of the user experience.

      Actually, what I want is an AM tuner. I have a 5GB iPod, and if I had an AM tuner, it would be great. On the way to work in the morning, I want to listen to the news, and

    • There is audio content out there on FM besides music. In the US, it's National Public Radio, primarily, outside the US, there's CBC, BBC, etc.

      In the past, this has been my primary objection to the iPod (lack of FM), however, I'm starting to think I can get along without it, now that I've started to use Audio Hijack [] from Rogue Amoeba. I can programmatically capture the broadcasts I want, similar to how Tivo works, as long as there's a station that does an internet broadcast, and copy the MP3s to listen to
  • To me it looks like Sony is trying to get rid of their discman shells and decided why not let's make a compact flash player. And really 256MB, 512MB, and 1GB seems timid compared to the amount that could be in there. Heck, my mini practical fits in the biggest one.
  • by carpe_noctem (457178) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @12:04PM (#11878280) Homepage Journal
    The major improvement in my eyes is that some models have an FM tuner.

    Well, I guess that's -kind- of like the shuffle... I mean, you still know exactly what songs are going to be played, you just don't know the order.
  • I want AM (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aggrazel (13616) <> on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @12:04PM (#11878281) Journal
    Dang it, why is it so hard to find an MP3 player with a decent AM radio built in? I keep my portable AM radio in my pocket right next to my mp3 player and it has no problem with interference when the MP3 part is turned off. I use it to listen to baseball games... would be nice to have it all on one device.
    • ..And I'd like an iPod with FLAC support, or how about OGG support? Oh, and how about an Intel chip with an integrated memory controller? Or a video card with swappable DDR2 ram?

      Us tech geeks have plenty of wants. The problem is we represent a very small percentage of the population, and therefore, "we don't matter". AM is a technology soon to disappear altogether with the emergence of Satellite radio, Microwave-based wireless techologies (I can't wait to see a WiFi-based MP3 Player, play streams directly
    • The problem with AM (Score:4, Informative)

      by Ironsides (739422) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @12:13PM (#11878390) Homepage Journal
      The problem with AM is two fold. First, the wavelengths are much longer, so the small antennas can't pick them up as well. Second, AM has to have the amplitude of the signal preserved perfectly during amplification or you get distortion in the audio quality. In FM you can distort the hell out of the original signal, you just care about the fruency it is at. This makes AM tuners harder to implement than FM tuners.

      It's more a problem of the technology behind AM than anything else. Not that they don't want to implement it.
    • Dang it, why is it so hard to find an MP3 player with a decent AM radio built in? I keep my portable AM radio in my pocket right next to my mp3 player and it has no problem with interference when the MP3 part is turned off. I use it to listen to baseball games... would be nice to have it all on one device.

      FM radio can use the headphone wire as an antenna. AM requires a completely different antenna, one that would double the size of these devices and still have crappy reception.

      I'd like the AM radio for
  • Which Sony (Score:5, Funny)

    by Skraut (545247) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @12:05PM (#11878286) Journal
    Ok is this the Music Sony we hate, or the Gaming Sony we Love... It's electronics, but it has to do with music. Arrrgh I don't know if I should love this or hate this. Somebody tell me I can't think on my own.
    • by Mold (136317) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @12:23PM (#11878500)
      Doesn't matter. It's competing against Apple, so you have to switch to Apple fanboy mode.

      Really, we need some official rules on how to post.

      Here's how you rate the people/organizations posted though:

      1) Apple
      2) Garage / Lego nerds
      4) Everyone not on this list
      5) US Government
      6) RIAA/MPAA
      7) Yakov Smirnoff

      Or something.
    • Ok is this the Music Sony we hate, or the Gaming Sony we Love... It's electronics, but it has to do with music. Arrrgh I don't know if I should love this or hate this. Somebody tell me I can't think on my own.

      It's the Sony that's competing with the iPod: Therefore we hate them.

      And to save you future mental anguish:
      When the PSP comes out it'll be the gaming Sony that's competing with Nokia's N-Gage, so we'll love Sony that day. As far as content-provider Sony, we despise them... except when they make Spid
  • they don't get it (Score:2, Insightful)

    by goalive (729667)
    It's not iTunes compatible! What Sony and other companies just don't get is that the software behind the iPod hardware is what drives the sales. iTunes is an excellent player. The only problem is, if you use it you can't sync with any hardware except Apple iPod hardware. For millions of people this isn't an issue, and it's a small but very important point that Sony and others forget.
    • iTunes isn't any different to all the software that's out there... it even has some things missing (doesn't support folder.jpg for example).

      If you mean the store.. that's only attractive to those who don't mind paying physical media prices for a lossy compressed copy.
    • I have a Creative Muvo Slim and it is recognized perfectly in iTunes on my iBook. Well not so perfectly, the resource forks on the files sometimes cause some problems with playback but this is rare and all you have to do is open a terminal and delete them all before disconnecting. There is actually software around to do this, or you could easily write your own script.
    • by Dominatus (796241)
      Right, I see a ton of college students going. "Damn I wish I could get a portable mp3 player that worked with iTunes, I just so love iTunes. I hear there's one out there, an eye...pod? Yeah that's it."

      No. People want iPods for iPods, because their sleek sexy and trendy. Every *single* person I know only started using iTunes to listen to music *after* they got an ipod, not before. iPod sales drive iTunes usage, not the other way around.
      • by diamondsw (685967) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @01:21PM (#11879245)
        iTunes and the integration and user experience is what drives the buzz, which is what drives the iPod sales. Had the iPod been as clunky as other players, do you really think iPod owners would gush about them?

        People might get it because other have told them they should, but WHY are people saying that? Because they've used it and realized yes, this is how it should be - simple, elegant, and It Just Works.
  • by skintigh2 (456496) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @12:05PM (#11878298)
    I bought my iRiver iHP-140 40GB player because it had a tuner and ogg support. The only other one I considered was one with a built-in FM transmitter, but that thing was a brick and seemed to have supply issues. You'd think for the cost of the iPod (twice what mine cost) it would at least have a tuner.
    • If I made a top ten reason why I wanted my player it would be
      1) use at the gym
      2) use at the gym
      3) use at the gym ...

      There are a bunch of TVs there, each tuned to a different channel and broadcasting their sound on FM.

      Anyway, I don't go to that or any gym anymore, but I still use the tuner at work.
  • by tabkey12 (851759) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @12:06PM (#11878299) Homepage
    I actually think these new players look rather good but I would never buy one. Why? Because of the truly appalling software that Sony gives out to sync your computer with your player.

    It conforms to NO Human Interface Guidelines at all, it has huge amounts of extremely choppy and pointless animations and is such a CPU hog that it doesn't respond even when the only application open on a 2.6GHz P4 laptop. Quite unbelievable.

    Now if I could sync it with iTunes, that would be another matter.

    • I actually had to sell my minidisc player beacause I detested the sonicstage software so much. However, it looks like these new players may support mp3 directly (perhaps just like every other flash player by plugging it into your usb port) I have yet to see this specification though. That said, why not just go out and buy any of the other 50 models of flash player out there? I do not see Sony bringing anything new to the table. At least the shuffle is somewhat unique.
    • Unfortunately, most Windows & Mac users expect to be graphically entertained during even the most basic operations, no matter how much bloat that involves. All you really need is to copy files from one filesystem to another; everything else is fluff.
  • looking things, if you ask me. Apple has some very nice design when it comes to mp3 players, IMHO.

    But (good for Sony), the players all have native mp3 support....I always hated the fact that they used their propretary ATARC3 for minidisc players

  • by Leo McGarry (843676) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @12:06PM (#11878305)
    We can only pray that it goes as well as it did the last time Sony took on an iPod [].
  • Nice (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mr_Silver (213637) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @12:06PM (#11878307)
    Personally, I think it looks like a pretty good competitor. It definately looks good [], it has a display, charges from USB and comes with a decent battery life.

    However, as we all know, Sony are a music company too which means that however great this is, they'll crippled or fudge it up in some spectacular way meaning that, yet again, it'll be a flop.

    My guess is that it'll be the required usage of SonicStage.

    • Re:Nice (Score:5, Informative)

      by Mr_Silver (213637) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @12:11PM (#11878365)
      My guess is that it'll be the required usage of SonicStage.

      Damn, I should have read the press release [] (emphasis mine):

      The new Network Walkman models easily play back both MP3 and ATRAC3®/3plus(TM) music files, as well as support WMA and WAV formats. They are compatible with Sony's Connect(TM) online music store and include SonicStage® software to import, manage and transfer music collections.

      Oh well, never mind Sony. Better luck next time.

    • Well, by definition it's a subjective thing, but I think it's pretty ugly. That's me.

      In anycase, I find it pretty sad that Sony is reduced to ripping off Apple's transparent iMac look circa 1993 and then adding the ripped off iPod mini multi-color look circa 2004 (or dating all the way back to the iMac, I s'pose).

      Sony have done so much iconic (& great, IMHO) design: I'm really surprised to see them throw in the towel like this.
  • Ipod competitors (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Danathar (267989) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @12:06PM (#11878311) Journal
    Stats don't matter, style does.

    Apple understands style, SONY only understands style sometimes.

    There have been other MP3/flash players that have better stats than the Ipod or the Ipod Flash. People buy these things cause it's "cool" to have an Ipod.
    • by emilymildew (646109) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @12:27PM (#11878537) Homepage
      Insightful? Do you think the iPods would have become popular if they weren't really easy to use and had a great interface?

      Jesus. Not everybody is a slave to fashion. I hate when people say that they're bought because they're cool. They BECAME cool because they work better than anything else out there for the majority of people's use.
  • whaaaaaah? (Score:3, Funny)

    by revery (456516) <> on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @12:07PM (#11878322) Homepage
    Sony unveils new MP3 playing screwdriver []... Steve Jobs cowers in mock fear on way to bank...

    Is anyone buying this?

  • by bigtallmofo (695287) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @12:08PM (#11878325)
    As a retirement gift this week, the ousted Sony CEO (Nobuyuki Idei) was given an iPod [] of all things! He didn't find it very funny considering he is famous for declining Apple's offer to participate in the iTunes music store.

  • Kudo to Apple... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by AmoHongos (467830)
    for marketing the inability to see what track is playing as a "feature." Life may be random, but I want control of my music.
    • Re:Kudo to Apple... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mmeister (862972) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @12:55PM (#11878892)
      Actually, Kudos should go to Apple for truly thinking outside the box.

      Until the shuffle came along, most flash-based player manufacturers thought "People need to see what song they are listening to" and thus tried to cram a poor interface with display on a tiny gadget. But Apple said "let the interface be clean and simple, and let there be new no display -- and there was no display". "Let the users listen to songs that they like, and they listened to songs that they liked, whether it was in a playlist order or a random order -- they still liked the songs."

      I didn't think I'd like the iPod shuffle without a screen, but I wanted a flash-based player (& iTunes support).

      Having had a shuffle since Macworld, I can say it is the only player I use (I also have a 20GB iPod). Screen? Don't really need the screen.

      And here's a tip -- ONLY ADD THE SONGS YOU WANT TO HEAR!! Then it doesn't matter if it is in playlist mode or shuffle mode, you'll always be listening to songs that you like.
  • Every month (Score:5, Informative)

    by bonch (38532) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @12:08PM (#11878335)
    Every month, someone "takes on" an iPod. The next month, we don't hear about them again.

    FM tuner? I can buy one of those as an accessory add-on thanks to the burgeoning "iPod economy," as Jobs puts it. I even have that FM broadcaster that lets me dial into the frequency with my car radio to hear my iPod through my car speakers without any special hookups.

    I don't see Sony's player going anywhere. They feature a display, which Apple abandoned as being pointless in a tiny flash player (and they're right). And it's still more expensive.
    • Re:Every month (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ad0gg (594412)
      "I don't see Sony's player going anywhere. They feature a display, which Apple abandoned as being pointless in a tiny flash player (and they're right). And it's still more expensive."

      Yeah cycling through 100+ songs(512 version) trying to find a song is really enjoyable.

      • So create a playlist with the song you want on top and turn off the shuffling. Or, get an iPod that has a screen.
    • Firefox with two tabs: 49,532K Opera with two tabs: 20,188K Opera with 13 tabs: 31,780K

      OS X[.3] (G4, 1.256GB ram):
      Safari with one tab: 29,340K. Safari with 20 tabs: 36,500K.
      Firefox with one tab: 30,011K. Firefox with 20 tabs: 35,790K.
      I'd say your numbers are either bogus, a worst-case scenario (flash on both tabs in firefox?), or all the tabs in Opera were of a blank page. A link to benchmarks would be more accurate, kthx.
    • by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @01:17PM (#11879199) Homepage Journal
      It was bad enough that the shuffle looks like a pregnancy tester, why does Sony's product look like some sort of eyeliner package?
  • by Ironsides (739422) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @12:09PM (#11878342) Homepage Journal
    A 70 hour battery life on a AAA? A 3 minute quick charge that lasts 3 hours and at max charge 50? These are things that some people look for and can use. Those are insane battery life spans for something like this will be a real selling point. The IPod Shuffle only offers up to 12 hours at most currently. I can't remember how many times I've tried to turn on my MP3 player only to find it was dead, having forgoten to put it on the charger or replace the battery. With lifespans like these, one would only need to recharge once a week in most cases, vs. once every day or two for the shuffle.

    Now all we need to do is find out if the audio quality is just as good.
    • Sony are really good at battery life. Minidisc players seem to last months (I think my old one has had maybe 3 batteries in it in its lifetime - and that's a standard AAA).

      The ipod seems to need charging once every couple of weeks which is a pain.
    • A 70 hour battery life on a AAA?

      Equally important is that the batteries are replaceable and generic. It's easy to carry an extra one with you (if being musicless is going to be a crisis for you, that is), and you can buy them anywhere.

    • by moonbender (547943) <> on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @01:24PM (#11879276)
      70 hours? Odd. The Register reports 50 hours [], with a catch: "Sony claims the devices will operate for a staggering 50 hours on a single charge, but that's when playing back 105Kbps ATRAC 3 files in "power saving mode". It's not clear what this mode is - presumably it's with no EQ and the display turned off. Still, it's a big leap over the Shuffle's 18-hour play time."
    • by poot_rootbeer (188613) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @01:40PM (#11879477)
      Those are insane battery life spans for something like this will be a real selling point.

      Yes, "insane" is a good word to describe it. Remember the touted battery life of Sony's PSP, vs. the real-world performance?

      Unless Sony has discovered a radical new MP3 decoding chip or audio amplification circuit that no one else knows about, I'm likely to disbelieve that their products actually do have ten times the battery life of similar devices.

      More likely what's going on here is that Sony's still transcoding all your music to ATRAC3 -- it's a power-friendly format to decode and you'll never notice the difference through $10 earbuds anyway.
  • "The major improvement in my eyes is that some models have an FM tuner."

    My eyes don't care about an FM tuner, they care about the nice "backlit LCD screen" but according to Engadget [] these will have OLED screens, which (from the pictures) look sweet!

    • OLED @ Wikipedia (Score:3, Informative)

      by slashd'oh (234025)

      Wikipedia OLED []:

      "An organic light-emitting diode (OLED) is a light-emitting diode (LED) made of semiconducting organic polymers. These devices promise to be much cheaper to fabricate than inorganic LEDs. Varying amounts of OLEDs can be deposited in arrays on a screen using simple "printing" methods to create a graphical colour display, for use as television screens, computer displays, portable system screens, and in advertising and information board applications. OLED panels may also be used as lighting dev

  • by Danimoth (852665)
    "None of these'll be out for a couple more months, but the NW-E405 will sell for $130, the NW-407 for $180, the NW-E505 for $150, while the NW-E507 rounds things out at $200." Seeing how they wont be released for a few more months, and are (at the higher ends) closer in price to an iPod mini (with 4x the capacity) than to a Shuffle, I don't really see these as all that comprable in any other form that size.
  • The major drawback (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ABaumann (748617)
    Apple has already got people hooked on iTunes. Until a "better" service/program comes out, people will continue to use iTunes. And when they want to play their music on the go, they'll get an iPod. (or an iPod Shuffle if you want something portable)

    Apple has simply done with the music industry what they've already done with their computers. They've made software that's so good that it's almost (and is, in my case) worth it to pay more for hardware that will work with said software.
  • Doubts (Score:5, Interesting)

    by American AC in Paris (230456) * on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @12:10PM (#11878355) Homepage
    I'm not convinced that the features are worth the extra cost. Is a tiny screen and the extra battery life really worth paying 50-100% more than the iPod shuffle?

    The iPod isn't a blazing success because of technical superiority; the iPod isn't a blazing success because of crazy mad features. The iPod is a success because it does what it was designed to do very, very well--better than the players that boast eternal battery life, radio tuners, wireless, video playback, more storage, more audio formats, lower prices, and smaller packages.

    It's about finding the right balance--and based on what I'm seeing, I don't think that Sony's upcoming offering will succeed at striking that balance.

  • More importantly. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FreeLinux (555387) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @12:11PM (#11878377)
    Sony now has a new CEO. [] The new CEO is a media and content proponent rather than a hardware man like his predecessor of ten years.

    This will most likely mean a shift for Sony from being a hardware company to a content company. It will also mean hightend interest in DRM and copy protection on Sony's part.

    Personally, I think it's a big mistake for Sony to forget "their old slogan".

    Sony -- Because caucasians are too damn big!

  • The price point (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MetaPhyzx (212830)
    ...across the board still seems higher than what Apple sells the iPod Shuffle at.

    Ironic though that after all these years of complaining about the high cost of Apple computers, all of a sudden it hard for others to beat the quality, user experience, AND price point Apple does? *shrug*
  • by WombatControl (74685) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @12:15PM (#11878418)

    I'm convinced that every time some product is touted as the "iPod Killer" it's destined to be a flop. This Sony design won't be any different.

    Why do people buy a flash music player like the Shuffle? To listen to music. The problem with competing with the Shuffle is that it serves one purpose and does it well. Trying to compete with it on features can easily raise the price so that it's no longer price competitive.

    The other big reason is that the Shuffle is being driven by the success of the iTunes Music Store. Any other player doesn't work with the most popular online music store. Any player that wants to compete with the iPod has to either play iTMS songs (which Apple won't do for obvious reasons) or have a music store that's better than the iTMS. So far none of the competition even comes close. They either have horrible interfaces, bloated prices, or draconian DRM -- and most of the time they have all three.

    Unless Sony can not only create a flash player that's cheaper, but a music store that's better, they're not going to put much of a dent in the iPod's sales figures. Personally, I don't see Sony doing either of these things.

    The iPod Shuffle works because it's small, cheap, stylish, has the benefit of iTunes' excellent UI, and works with the iTunes Music Store. The Sony player is Yet Another Flash Player, and it won't sell necessarily better than an iRiver, Rio, etc. would.

    • I'm convinced that every time some product is touted as the "iPod Killer" it's destined to be a flop.

      In fact, whenever things are touted as an "[anything]-killer", it's probably going to fail. When people use the language of "[whatever]-killer", they're aready operating in a situation where:

      A) They're stipulating that [whatever] is "king of the mountain"
      B) [whatever] is somehow bad, and therefore needs "killing".

      Now, very often, if [whatever] is, in fact, king of the mountain, it's because people l

  • Period.

    It will have a screen in the future and it will eventually have a FM tuner (it is built into the chip).

    Apple scaled out the features with the first iPod (touch wheel, screens, ect) and they will with the shuffle as well. You will get the people that bought the first gen to dump out money for the better ones as they come out as well.
    • by tabkey12 (851759) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @12:25PM (#11878526) Homepage

      Apple has always shied away from features it doesn't want enabled in their product but which are supported by the hardware. For example, all iPods since 3rd gen have been able to play WMA! But Apple never enabled it. The original iPod OS can control FireWire CD Burners - Apple never enabled that feature. It would be trivial (and cost nearly nothing) to add an FM Tuner to the entire iPod range, but Apple thinks (right IMO) that people buy Music players, not radios, and complicating a product with extra unused features is not a good thing.

      In fact, looking at the original iPod to the Click Wheel iPod, apart from the Click Wheel itself, what has changed about the way you interact and use the player? Actually very little, when you think about it.

      • On the subject of FM radios and such, here's my two cents.

        Think about mobile phones. Practically every mobile phone today has a camera in it. If you want a decent mobile phone, you have to buy one with a camera.

        I don't want a camera. So when I buy a $120 phone with a camera, I feel ripped off. How much less could they have sold the phone for if they didn't put the stupid camera in it?

        Apple knows that most people don't want a portable radio. They know that for two reasons. First, they know that historical
  • by mblase (200735) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @12:16PM (#11878436)
    ...The iPod, in any incarnation, has three advantages going for it: style, ease of use, and iTunes integration. The iPod Shuffle is no exception. 256MB MP3 players are plenty common these days; Sony's competing with them, not with the iPod Shuffle. The only real similarity it has to the iPod is the form factor.

    I know that iTunes integration is something only Apple can do, but if you can get the ease-of-use going, then you can at least sport Microsoft integration. And somehow, nobody gets the ease-of-use thing working. They keep thinking that they can beat Apple on price, which isn't really relevant now that Apple has a $100 iPod. Sure, you can make another MP3 player for $50 or $75, but it doesn't take long to compare features and decide the extra $25 or $50 is worth it.

    Get it right, manufacturers -- your target is ease-of-use, not price or size. The iPod has proved that there are enough people who will pay for quality (and fashion, I'll admit it) to make it worth catering to them.
  • Nothing exists until Apple makes it. Obviously the small, cheap flash based player market didn't exist until the Apple Shuffle. Since the Shuffle didn't have it, any kind of display is a "new" feature. Same goes for an FM tuner.

    With the iPod it's almost understandable how the Mac faithful believe all harddrive based players revolve around the iPod (while being years late, it did introduce harddrive players to a more friendly form factor).

    With shuffle there is no excuse other then pure cult thinking. Thumb
  • by NYTrojan (682560) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @12:18PM (#11878455)
    Obviously sony isn't about to challenge the shuffle with a unit running 200 pounds+. Their real shuffle competition is $150 US, has a gig of space, and a display. It needs a AAA battery to run but does NOT have FM radio.

    clicky []
  • I didn't see anything about FM from the sonystyle page for the product, but this seemed novel (usefull or annoying, I don't know):
    Easy Toggle Navigation: Navigate through tracks, albums and settings by using the large face of the product and "rock" it back and forth to make a selection.
  • Just my opinion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jessecurry (820286) <> on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @12:19PM (#11878464) Homepage Journal
    The major improvement in my eyes is that some models have an FM tuner.

    I don't see this as an improvement, if radio had any quality programming we wouldn't need iPods.

  • From Pocket Lint:

    The 1Gb model will still cost &pound;200 compared to Apple's iPod Shuffle at &pound;99. The new models will feature a OLED display though.

    From BBC:

    The new players have up to one gigabyte of storage and depending on which version, cost between $150 and $180.

    So what's the price? The first quote makes it sound like it's about twice the cost of the Shuffle's $150, then about $300. The sceonds says that it should be around $150.
    What's the price??

    This comes from a proud own

  • I don't know about most people, but the whole reason I have an iPod, and take my music with me, is because I'm sick of the garbage that is played on the radio, and the endless stream of commercials that I'm forced to listen to. Why do you now want to add that back into the unit?
  • Sony has a record label. Apple doesn't.

    Apple may have to buy or build a record label to compete.

    And, realistically, portable music players better than the iPod will be in blister packs in WalMart for $49 within two years. It's going to be like HP and their great high-end calculators.

  • by dracvl (541254) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @12:47PM (#11878779) Homepage

    It all looks pretty reasonable, sexy OLED display *on* the actual device, and then you get to this part:

    While it connects via USB, the player appears to have a non-standard connector, so it won't connect directly to a PC's USB port, just the bundled cable. (From The Register [])

    Just like the iPod photo, which needed a special cable to connect to TVs to show photos, it will fail (iPod photo is Apple's slowest seller) - nobody wants to carry around a cable for basic functionality.

    Imagine the scenario, you're at a client site, or at a friend's house, and need to move a file from one computer to another - and because the network is down, you have to use your USB stick. But no, you forgot to bring the cable. Brilliant.

  • iPod Shuffle 512M -- $99
    NW-E405 512M -- $130
    NW-E505 512M+FM -- $150

    iPod Shuffle 1G -- $150
    NW-E407 1G -- $180
    NW-E507 1G+FM - $200

    iPod Mini 4G -- $200
  • by LordBodak (561365) * <msmoulton&iname,com> on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @01:10PM (#11879110) Homepage Journal
    I think most of the competition is underestimating the value of iTunes. Since iTunes is free on Windows, standard on Mac, and generally considered to be a decent piece of software, lots of people use it-- whether they have MP3 players or not.

    If someone spends a lot of time living with a certain piece of music management software, when the time comes to choose a player, they're going to lean towards the one that integrates best with what they have. If they can't see or use the software without buying the player, that will impact the decision in a negative way.

  • by zpok (604055) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @01:39PM (#11879469) Homepage
    Seriously, I know it's not cool to comment on look and feel on /. but that's where you inevitably go with consumer products.

    And these things look goooood. If they're as good as iPods in sound and ease of use (conveniently NOT thinking about iTMS and iTunes) they should sell quite well. And battery life of 50 hours with thingies you can buy in just about every store won't hurt either.

    Of course, as a mac user, I think I'll have to pass, I don't see them make it mac compatible, the bastards :-)

    imo the first real competition. Strange, how the consumer space works, no?
  • by rkischuk (463111) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @03:28PM (#11880777)
    I still don't understand why anyone with sense would purchase a flash-based MP3 player that doesn't allow you to upgrade the memory. For $64, I can get a flash-based player with an SD slot that is small and runs on a single AAA battery. [] For $37, I can add a 512 MB SD card. [] $78 for 1 GB. [] Both price out at cheaper than the Shuffle and this thing. And get this - if I want more space, I don't have to buy a new device, and when I upgrade, I can use that same flash memory card in my digital camera or anything else. And I get an LCD screen. It's insane that Apple has somehow convinced people that the lack of an LCD is BETTER than even a poorly implemented LCD. I'd rather have the option to see the title of the song, or hunt for the one I want to hear than just hit the "next song" button and think about how happy I am that I don't have a screen to look at.

    I'm well aware that some consumers are obsessed with the iPod "cool factor", but I expect more out of the clear thinkers among us. Why buy a flash-based player that won't let you upgrade the flash memory when a HUGE component of the price is the memory itself, and when you'll be able to upgrade the capacity to iPod Mini size within 2 years for less than $100? It's a vehicle to deliver music, not an expression of who you are.

  • by doctor_no (214917) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @05:56PM (#11882464)
    There seems to be a general misconception regarding price. The players mentioned in this article are competively priced.

    The EW-104(512MB) is $99 and EW-105(1GB) is $150. Atop that, these players offer a display and can use interchangable batteries (AAA).

    The 512MB EW-405($130) and 1GB EW-505 ($180), cost $30 more than a comparative iPod Shuffle but offers OLED and better battery life (the FM cost $20 extra on each version).

    Slashdot's Apple-bias approaches the illogical, these new players offer more key features for a comparable price. Imagine if Sony made the iPod Shuffle, people would be bashing them for not being able to know what song you're playing, and locking them into a single DRM-ridden service. People can show their product devotion without bashing other products (be it Sony, iRiver, or any other flash player); especially if the product offers healthy competition to the market segment.

"It says he made us all to be just like him. So if we're dumb, then god is dumb, and maybe even a little ugly on the side." -- Frank Zappa