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The Sony X Series Walkman: An iPod it isn't

A tour of Sony's latest Walkman, with an eye toward understanding the aesthetics and trade-offs of the product's industrial design.

Click a picture to enter the Design Review slideshow.

It's not easy for Sony. For decades, Sony's Walkman devices dominated the personal audio market with great and popular products. Then along came the iPod. Sony has been playing catch-up since.

Sony's latest attempt to regain traction is the X Series Walkman (NWZ-X1051). It's a touch-screen music player with 16GB of storage, a 3-inch OLED display, digital noise canceling, integrated Wi-Fi, and a built-in Web browser. The NWZ-X1051 is an impressive media player, but does it have what it takes to unseat the Apple iPod--a modern triumph of technology, marketing, and design?

Design Review dissects the Sony Walkman. Moto Development Group

In this, the first edition of Design Review, I'll look at the X Series from my perspective. I'm a product developer at Moto Development Group. For 18 years I've tried to help companies combine the dreams of their designers with the potential of engineering, the realities and limitations of manufacturing, and the requirements of sales and marketing teams. In this column I'm going to do that after the fact, examining products that are on the market and interpreting their designs. I find it fascinating to "read" a product this way.

To me, it's the little things that make even a flat-front product like this Sony interesting. These details are all evidence of priorities and choices along the development path. For example, the X Series is physically solid and visually clean, which shows the hand of the designer at work (photo 1). But the physical reset button on the side (photo 3) shows a lack of confidence in the product's engineering.

For my review of the design and engineering choices Sony made while developing this product, click on the slideshow at the top of this post.