New Sony walkman to target Net music

The next generation walkman from Sony shall be tiny shadow of its cassette tape-based predecessors, utilising memory that could be mistaken for purple stick of chewing gum, and providing users with a device for storing and playing back music downloaded from the Internet.

Sony has revealed it is working on the Memory Stick Walkman, a device that shall utilise Sony's Memory Stick -- a miniature flash memory card that is already sold in Japan for use in digital cameras.

Designed to fit into devices that are about the same length as an AA-sized battery, the Memory Stick is currently available in up to 16MB capacities, with 32MB and 64MB versions in the pipelines. According to Sony, a 64MB Memory Stick could hold about two hours of stereo music in "long play" mode.

Consumers will be able to build a library of music files on their PCs and transfer antipiracy-protected music onto a Memory Stick, said company officials. The stick, like cassette tapes today, could then be used in any compatible device such as a Walkman-like portable player or a car audio system.

To be released within the year, Sony will first complete a copy protection system aiming to preserve the copyright of music delivered via the Internet.

In February, Sony announced a family of security technologies that officials say can encrypt music so it can be transmitted over networks and between devices without being illegally copied. Those technologies, called MagicGate, will be integrated into the Memory Stick.

One of the strengths of the stick is that it houses standard flash memory, allowing hardware makers to incorporate a range of compression or security technologies into Memory Stick-related products, according to David Kellar, vice president of Access Media International, a Tokyo-based consultancy. In particular, Kellar pointed to an MP3-like audio compression technology expected next week from Microsoft as a potential candidate for the Memory Stick.

Sony's Memory Stick Web site is at http://www.world.sony.com/Electronics/MS/

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