Sony looks for musical magic from Walkman Beans

Is it musical fruit? New flash-based players are actually a colorful, curvaceous crop. Photos: Sony cooks up some Beans

Sony is getting curvy and colorful with its latest digital Walkman offering.

The new NW-E300 series of kidney-shaped, flash-based devices--also known by the catchier name of Walkman Beans--is the latest in a string of music players from the company once synonymous with portable tunes. In recent years, like many other companies, Sony has been playing catch-up with the iPod from market maestro Apple Computer.

The Beans play both MP3 and Atrac music files, and also support the WMA and WAV formats. They're compatible with Sony's Connect online music service. An FM tuner is built in.

In addition, the devices feature an organic electroluminescent three-line display and a pop-up USB jack that allows connection to a PC for battery charging and music transfers. Sony puts the continuous playback time at 50 hours, and a quick-charge function allows three hours of playback on a three-minute charge.

Pricing is set at about $130 for the NW-E305, which has 512MB of storage, and about $180 for the NW-E307, with 1GB of storage. Four colors are available: white or blue for the 512MB model, and black or pink for the 1GB version.

The new Walkman players are due in October, but Sony began taking preorders Thursday.

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