MMW-115 -- Japan's New Rolling Robot Music

J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
Commentary on Japan's music technology news

Issue No. 115
Tuesday, September 11, 2007



++ FEATURE: Miuro and Rolly:
** iRiver Japan releases new flash memory player
** XING announces new prize campaign for Pokemelo Joysound
** Sony releases new Walkman players
** Digital content in Japan expected to hit $3 billion in 2007
** USEN to offer Universal catalog on its online music store

++ FEATURE: Miuro and Rolly: Japan's New Rolling Robot Music

Sony has been in the news a lot lately, announcing the shutdown
of its Connect music service, replacing its much maligned Sonic
Stage software with Windows Media Player, and finally throwing in
the towel with its ill-fated ATRAC format. Several articles
appeared in the Japanese media this week commenting on Sony's
decline, and basically lamenting the fact that Sony and other
Japanese companies who dominated the CD era have fallen so far
behind in the age of networks and hard disks.

Amid all the negative press, though, it appears Sony has also
been quite busy over the past month readying a 'stealth'
marketing campaign for the upcoming release of a new robot music
player. Rumors began circulating a few weeks ago about the new
player - called 'Rolly' - and reached a peak last week when video
of the device appeared on YouTube. A teaser site for the product
(which contains almost nothing in the way of relevant info or
content) was also launched on August 20 and a 'Rolly Party' was
scheduled for September 10.

So what exactly is Rolly? From the photos, the video and the
descriptive keywords that scroll across the bottom of the teaser
site (small, shuffle, music, motion...), it appears to be a robot
music player shaped like a small American football that rolls on
its own and moves along with the music. The device has built in
speakers on each side, no visible display, and looks to have very
few visible buttons for controlling audio. The video also shows
the robot player performing several different dance moves with
various spinning, rocking and flapping movements.

Some readers may remember a news item we covered back in March on
a similar dancing music player robot device from Tokyo-based ZMP
called 'Miuro'. In fact, several Japanese bloggers have been
commenting this week that Rolly and Miuro look very similar
indeed. While Rolly is (or at least looks) smaller than Miuro,
the basic movement of the two robots appears to be nearly
identical. Miuro is actually an iPod docking station rather than
a standalone player, but it is quite possible that Sony has
licensed the company's robotics technology in the development of

So assuming that this is all for real and Rolly really rocks and
rolls as advertised, you have to wonder how this type of audio
player will fare against the likes of the iPod. I had the
opportunity back in March to spend some time playing with a
Miuro, and could easily see a place for it in the very high end
of the DAP market, at least in Japan. Sony, however, is likely
going after a much larger market segment, and a lot will hinge on
the price. The Miuro carries a hefty JPY110,000 (US$950) price
tag, which is a bit out of reach for most teenagers. Still, this
is a country that truly loves its robots, and If Sony can come
out with something similar that is small, stylish and affordable,
it may just have a shot.


** iRiver Japan releases new flash memory player
In brief: Source: iRiver Japan announced last week that on
September 7 it will begin selling a new flash memory music player
called the Siren DP250. The new player comes in two models - a
1GB model that sells for JPY9,980 (US$87) and a 2GB player that
sells for JPY13,800 (US$120). The player supports MP3, WAV and
WMA formats, and uses Windows Media DRM 10. It is not compatible
with the Napster-To-Go service for mobile devices.


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** XING announces new prize campaign for Pokemelo Joysound
In brief: XING, which operates Pokemelo Joysound - Japan's
highest-selling ringtone/realtone site - announced the start of
a prize giveaway campaign on Sept. 1. XING says it will give
away a total of JPY 10 million (US$87,000) worth of prizes
including iPod Shuffles, Nintendo DS devices and music gift
coupons. The campaign is open to all current Pokemelo Joysound
subscribers as well as anyone who subscribers from Sept. 1 to
Jan. 31.

** Sony releases new Walkman players
In brief: On August 30, Sony announced the release of its new
NW-B100 series of Walkman players. Coinciding with the closing
of Sony's Connect online music store, the new players will be the
first Walkman products released since the company allied itself
with Microsoft. The results of this partnership are quickly
apparent: the first player released in the series (NW-B103F)
does not come with Sony's SonicStage software nor support for
the abandoned ATRAC format. The player supports Windows Media
DRM, and plays MP3, AAC and WMA formats. The 1GB player sells
for JPY9,240 (US$80) in Japan.

** Digital content in Japan expected to hit $3 billion in 2007
In brief: According to a report released in August by the
Digital Content Association of Japan (DCAJ), the market for
digital content in Japan is expected to top JPY 366 billion
(US$3.2 billion) by the end of 2007. Driven by demand for video,
music and games, this year the digital content market has already
topped JPY 300 billion for the first time ever, according to the
DCAJ report.

** USEN to offer Universal catalog on its online music store
In brief: On August 15, USEN announced that it reached agreement
with Universal Japan to offer music videos from the Universal
catalog on its OnGen USEN MUSIC SERVER online music store.
Pricing varies, but is generally JPY 400 (US$3.50) for a video
from a Japanese artist, while videos from western artists are
priced at around JPY 300 (US$2.60). The video files use Windows
Media DRM 10, and can be forwarded to a mobile device up to 25

Written by: Steve Myers (
Steve Myers is president and chief enthusiast of Theta Music
Technologies, which specializes in the development of
music-related software applications.

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