October 26th, 2010
06:14 AM GMT
(CNN) - When I woke up to the news that Sony was discontinuing its storied Walkman cassette line in Japan, my first thought was: Sony still makes cassette Walkmans?
At age 19 I formed a close bond with my cassette Walkman, which kept me awake and sane working a midnight shift at an Indiana factory. I got the Discman when it came out, but used it less frequently as the player hopped and skipped with my stride, and put away portable music for a decade until I purchased my first iPod.
My evolution mirrors the arc of the Walkman line – its popularity ebbed with compact discs and waned with digital downloads. The cassette Walkman changed the way the world listened to music, and now an icon bites the dust.
Or does it?
Interesting in Sony’s plans to stop Japanese production of Walkman cassette is the caveat that limited production will still continue out of China to serve cassette fans in some markets, primarily in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
“In terms of popularity, the Mp3 and Mp4 is the most popular around the world, including Asia and developing countries,” Sony spokesperson Yuki Kobayashi told me. “Although the demand is minor (for the cassette player), the demand is still there.
Kobayashi is quick to point out that the Walkman brand isn’t going anywhere (a misimpression that concerns the company in the current crush of press – the Walkman line, primarily digital players, is expected to sell 7.3 million units this year).
“I would guess that people who still have cassette media would like to use the players, and those are the people who want to buy (the cassette Walkman),” she said.
Sometimes old brands get new life in developing markets. Volkswagen’s Beetle slid into novelty status in the 1980s, yet remained popular and in production in Mexico The company relaunched the line with the “New Beetle” in 1998. The Ford “Falcon” only flew a decade out of Detroit, but is celebrating its 50th year of production in Australia.
“Friendster,” that pioneer of social networking, faded in the wake of MySpace, then Facebook, but still remained popular in Southeast Asia; Malaysia’s MOL Global purchased the site last year.
Perhaps the cassette Walkman will find a second life yet.
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