iPod beaten in Japan by 30-year-old line of music players

The iPod may be the reigning king of media players, but in Japan, the old king has managed to take back the throne.

Japanese market research company BCN Inc. reports that Sony's Walkman digital music player has outsold Apple's iPod in Japan, according to a Bloomberg report today.

Japan is different from the United States, where the iPod has held more than a 60% market share since 2003, and at times has garnered over 90%. But not too different. The iPod has led the Japanese market for the last four years with roughly a 50% share.

For the week ending on August 30, however, Apple had a 42.1% share of the Japanese market and Sony had 43%. Sony, which 30 years ago championed the personal media player concept with its Walkman portable cassette player, has made it back to the top.

But this isn't a sudden change, Walkman has been in a gradually improving second place place position since Apple took the lead in January 2005. By 2006, Sony had about 20% of the personal media player market. At the same time in 2007, the Walkman had grown to just above 30% while Apple still had around 50%.

What's helping the cause? Experts are saying it's cost, of course...but that may not be exactly why.

In Apple's Japanese Web store, the 4GB iPod Shuffle goes for ¥8,800, the Nano starts at ¥17,800, iPod Classic starts at ¥29,800, and the iPod Touch starts at ¥27,800.

Sony's Walkmen actually stretch into higher prices than Apple's iPods. While the Shuffle-esque E Series cost between ¥7,980-¥12,800, and the S series cost between ¥14,800- ¥19,800, the new X series ranges from ¥39,800-¥52,800.

The Walkman line, however, does offer more options to consumers. with three storage capacities for most of its designs, lots of color choices, and the addition of different form factors, like the W series, which incorporates the walkman into a set of headphones.

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