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Sony Ericsson launches 'Walkman'

It's ... a phone

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Sony Ericsson unveiled a music phone in London today which revives the 'Walkman' brand first introduced by parent company Sony 25 years ago. But it's much more of a phone that does music than a great leap forward in portable audio.

The Sony Ericsson W800 is a 100g phone that plays MP3 and AAC files, features a Memory Stick Duo slot, a 2 megapixel camera, an FM radio and Bluetooth. So spec-wise, it's a K700 with a better camera and removable storage. However, there's a new button for controlling music playback, and the manufacturer claims up to 15 hours of battery life with the phone functionality enabled, or 30 hours if it's disabled. Sony Ericsson will provide sync software and a cable that allows music to be piped to a hi-fi. It has also added a dedicated wireless TV/hifi connector box to its range, the Bluetooth Media Center MMV-200.

Despite rumors, the company didn't add to its 3G or high-end smartphone portfolio today, but did flesh out its mid and low-range phones. The K750 joins last year's S700 and K700 models, again with a 2 megapixel camera a removable Memory Stick Duo slot supporting up to 2GB, and an FM radio. The new K300 bring's last year's VGA cameras to the low-end, and Sony Ericsson also rounded out the low-end with the camera-less J300.

Will executives at Apple, Creative or parent Sony be losing sleep?

If Sony Ericsson's claims can be believed, the W800 has issued a challenge to rivals to improve battery life. 15 hours playback is twice the battery life of some solid state MP3 jukeboxes, including, until last week, Apple's iPod mini. With removable memory card prices falling - 1GB can be snapped up for less than $150 - phones must be a concern. However, superb synchronization remains Apple's forte, and parent Sony's willingness to subsidize its incredible PSP console [review] leave plenty of room between dedicated devices, and phones with music playback. And the issue of DRM-crippled devices weighs heavily around phone operators and manufacturers. If you're wise enough to avoid the locked-music download stores, as most people are, you can be fairly confident your music will play on an iPod or a Rio. With the W800, we'll have to see what the carriers permit us to do.

So all in all, it could be some time before Sony Ericsson's 'Walkman' loses its inverted commas. ®

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