Sony Unveils New MP3 Hard Disk Walkman

Sony Corp. announced Tuesday a new 20 gigabyte digital music player with MP3 support that will be available in Great Britain and Japan before Christmas and elsewhere in Europe in early 2005.

The NW-HD3 (see photo below) will go on sale Dec. 10 in Japan in black, blue, silver and grey colors. It will retail for approximately US$463. An exact availability date for Britain was not announced.

The new hard disk player is the successor of Sonyis first hard disk Walkman, which it introduced this summer, but which can play back only music compressed with Sonyis proprietary ATRAC3plus software. Atrac3plus is the format Sony uses on its Internet music shop Connect.

The decision to add MP3 support shows consumers were not fully embracing Sonyis proprietary standard and wanted access to other online services that offer MP3 files. "Many users have lots of MP3 files and want to be able to play them, and we believe adding that feature will benefit consumers," said Sony Japanese spokesman Shinji Obana told The Wall Street Journal.

Sony said it will produce software upgrades for earlier players with hard disk storage so they can play MP3s too. The company did acknowledge it will bring the NW-HD3 to the U.S. market, but would not say when.

The device is not compatible with Appleis iTunes Music Store and does not support the Macintosh platform.