Product Fun Facts - Sony Walkman

Product Profile

Name: Walkman

Manufacturer: Sony

Category: Portable Music Cassette Player

Launched: 1 July 1979

Lifespan: ~31 years (25 October 2010)

Units Sold: > 385 million

Fun Facts

The Innovation that Defined a Whole New Product Category

Sony defined an entire new product category with the Walkman. For the first time ever, people could listen to personalised playlists of stereo music using a portable device while there walking around town going about their daily life. It ran on AA batteries, allowing it to travel far from power outlets.


A Product So Successful it Paved the Way for Todays Devices

During the 1980's, the Walkman was one of the most in-demand portable electronic device. Sony has sold more than 385 million units under the Walkman label. The Walkman paved the way for portable CD players, mp3 players like the iPod and, ultimately, smartphones like today's iPhone and Android.

The Creators Defied Innovation Stereotypes

At the time of release in 1979, the folks credited with turning the Sony Walkman from concept to reality, Masaru Ibuka, Akio Morita and Kozo Ohsone were aged 71, 58 and 46 respectively.


Minimal Viable Product Had a Special Meaning at Sony

For the Walkman, Sony's main criteria for minimal-viable-product (MVP) was to ensure the initial version was rugged and didn't break. They felt that if the first model received a reputation for breaking down easily, then it would put an end to the entire project.

Sony Tried Out Several Product Names Until One Took Off

Some of the names Sony considered for the product included Soundabout, Stowaway, Freestyle. They eventually settled on a name after it started being referred to as Walkman around the world in the early 1980s.

The Phenomenon That Updated Global Dictionaries

The product became so impactful that by the mid-80s, the name Walkman jumped from being a product brand name to an officially recognised dictionary term that referred to any portable stereo music cassette player.


The Product Had Its Sceptics, Until People Tried It

The initial production run of 30,000 units was considered highly ambitious. In its first month of sale, July 1979, after only selling 3,000 units, the concerns began to materialize. Sony executives reacted fast and adopted unconventional sales techniques by heading out onto the streets of Tokyo and offering people the chance to try it out in person. By the end of August the product took off, selling out of all available stock.

Culturally Influential

The Sony Walkman is listed at position number 4 in Time Magazine's top 50 most influential gadgets of all time.