TOKYO (AP) -- Sony Corp. said Monday it will start selling a
Walkman that fits into the palm of a hand and downloads music from
the Internet while protecting copyrights.
The "Memory Stick Walkman" is designed to fight the
proliferation of illegal music exchanges on the Internet and to
create a new standard for portable audio players, a Sony spokesman
said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Walkman will cost $430 and requires a computer with
Microsoft Windows 98 to transfer music.
The Walkman uses technology to protect the record industry from
the illegal copying and distribution of music over the Internet.
Currently, music can be downloaded from the Internet for free.
Memory Stick users would pay for Internet music made compatible
with Sony's encryption system, but would not be able to download
songs from free Web sites, the spokesman said. He did not explain
what form the payments would take.
Companies like IBM, Sony, Microsoft and scores of record
companies have been banding together to develop ways to protect the
music industry from the growing popularity of MP3, a technology
that gives near-CD quality to music downloaded from the Internet.
Users of Sony's new Walkman would move music onto something
called a "Magic Gate Memory Stick" -- a thumb-sized rectangular
card that is inserted into the player.
It also will be possible to move music from a CD or a mini-disc
into a personal computer and then into the MS Walkman.
Sony says another advantage of its new player is its size: It is
just slightly larger than a credit card and weighs only 2.4 ounces.
The Japanese launch of the new Walkman is set for Dec. 21,
though the music available for download will be limited at first.
Even affiliate Sony Music Entertainment said it may not have
Internet music titles ready for the launch.
It is unclear if record companies will sign up for Sony's
copyright protection system, Sony said, but the company hopes that
the fear of losing royalties will push record companies to make
their titles compatible with the Memory Stick.
"In any case, we are not developing digital music technology
specifically for the Memory Stick," said spokesman Akira Takayasu.
No date has been set for its overseas launch.