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Walkman beats iPod in Japan, if only for a moment

Sony's music gadget surpasses Apple's iPod in sales in Japan for the full month of August, coincidentally just ahead of Apple's annual refresh of its music player line.

Sony has eked out a small victory against Apple in the market for portable music players.

Sony's S-Series Walkman Josh Miller/CNET

Sales of Sony's Walkman line beat those of Apple's iPod line in Japan for the month of August, according to survey results released Thursday by BCN, a Tokyo-based research firm. During August, Sony took a 47.8 percent share of the portable music player market, while Apple captured 44 percent.

This marks the first time that Sony has inched ahead of Apple in a monthly tally since BCN began its surveys in 2001.

If it sounds like you've heard this news before, well, that's because you have. Sort of. It was a year ago almost to the day that BCN reported higher sales for Sony's player in late August--but that victory was just for a single week.

Of course, timing is everything. In both cases, the Walkman outsold the iPod just ahead of Apple's annual refresh of its iPod lineup. So Sony likely received a temporary boost from customers who held off buying iPods until the new models hit the market in September, according to BCN. The survey results also include only dedicated music players, leaving out Apple's iPhone.

But also, BCN said, the Japanese electronics giant has been trying to push more affordable products, a strategy that may have helped Walkman sales last month as well.

Collectively, Apple and Sony own 90 percent of the portable audio player market in Japan, with about a dozen other vendors duking it out for the remaining 10 percent, according to BCN (Google Translate version).

On Wednesday, meanwhile, Sony used the IFA show in Berlin to unveil its new, cloud-based Music Unlimited service, venturing once again into waters dominated by Apple's iTunes service.