Sony showed off a Walkman Mobile Entertainment Player on its stand at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin.
It was quickly pointed out to us that this was a prototype, but we can see where Sony are headed with this one, and that’s straight up against the iPod touch.
The dedicated Walkman device offers a 4.3-inch display and runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread. As such, it is essentially a phone without the telephone part, but it does at least look to offer you all the goodness of Google, so you’ll be able to access Android Market to download apps to your heart’s content.
Sony’s software reflects what we’ve seen previously on its new tablets - the S and the P - with some of the same features evident in the video player, letting us skip through scenes of a movie and the option to share it with the TV via DLNA.
On the music front, a dedicated Walkman-logoed button on the side launches you straight into the music player, with the option for gesture controls, also seen on Sony's Tablet S, which offers gesture remote control functions.
One interesting feature was the ability to swipe from the album art over into the lyrics, although Sony was coy about where you’d source the lyrics. A Sony agent loitering nearby told us that there wasn’t currently an official delivery method for lyrics, so it appears to be something of a feature in development.
The build was pretty solid and the design was good, but we can’t help feeling that the lack of a camera might raise a few eyebrows, especially given how capable Android is when it comes to sharing images.
A Walkman PMP does muddy the water a little however. We’ve already got a run of Android smartphones from Sony Ericsson - which offer all the same features and more - as well as a line of Walkman devices.
While a dedicated PMP might make sense for Apple with the iPod touch, we’re not as convinced that Android has the same appeal in the most general sense. The iPhone is expensive to own, giving the iPod touch an essential hook in offering iOS, and Apple’s services, in a more affordable package. Android, by contrast, is easier to access at a huge range of price points.
Howard Stringer, Sony president and CEO, made a point of emphasising how Sony was contributing to both entertainment creation and consumption in his opening keynote saying "Sony, we like to think, is where art meets technology… one company makes entertainment and what you need to experience it". Perhaps Sony sees its own Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited services as being strong enough to hook people in.
Of course, you could just get yourself a Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S, which is slimmer, lighter and offers you a phone too…