The day is here when consumers on the go can pick up an MP3 player or digital camera the same way they get a soda--from a vending machine.
Vending machines, or kiosks, from Sony Electronics, made their debut in three shopping malls this week, including one in Santa Rosa Mall in Santa Rosa, Calif., according to The New York Times. (Last year, Apple rolled out iPod vending machines in some locales.)
The 4- to 8-foot-wide Sony kiosks are part of a trial program called "Sony Access," according to online consumer electronics resource Twice. The machines will carry about 50 different Sony products, ranging from batteries to digital cameras, PlayStation Portables and PlayStation games.
The Flatirons Mall in Boulder, Colo., and Atlanta's Mall of Georgia, each have a kiosk, as well. Beginning next month, the machines will show up in some airports, as well.
Each unit is operated with a 15-touch LCD screen that allows consumers to make selections that can be purchased with a credit or debit card.
Pricing for products in the kiosks will be comparable to those in Sony Style stores, said Joe Stinziano, Sony's media and applications solutions division senior vice president, according to Twice.
The kiosks seem to cater to those consumers who prefer to avoid the sometimes unenlightening pre-purchase debriefing by the Sony sales "teen" of the month.
Of course, consumers had better not mind some potential hassles with returns, as those will be handled via snail mail to Zoom Systems, the San Francisco-based automated retail company supplying the technology and maintaining the machines, according to the NYT.
Stinziano said he expects the kiosks to branch out to upscale grocery stores and other nontraditional high-traffic areas in the future, reported Twice.
Speaking of the future, Twice also mentioned that Stinziano even envisions supplying customers with music downloads via USB ports on the kiosks.
But for now--at least for most of us--vending machines will still produce only Coke or Sprite. Sigh.