Sony Corp. has announced that it is to discontinue the domestic distribution of Walkman players for the MiniDisc in September and the Hi-MD disc the following year, the format becoming the latest to succumb to advances in flash memory storage.
MD Walkmans were first released in 1992 and were considered the natural successor to earlier devices designed to play music stored on a cassette tape. The limitations of tape had long been apparent, although the MiniDisc lost out in the race to be the key media to the compact disc and never caught on as thoroughly as its creators had hoped.
And while Sony will continue to produce stereo systems with integral MD players as well as standard MD discs, the format has clearly passed its sell-by date.
In a statement on its Japanese-language website announcing the decision, Sony said, "We have had a lot of customers since the launch of the MD Walkman. Thank you very much."
Deliveries of MiniDisc Walkman units to the United States and Canada were halted in January and the company is planning to discontinue sales in Japan in August an across the rest of Asia before the end of the year.
The announcement of the passing of MiniDisc Walkmans comes just nine months after Sony produced the final cassette tape version of the portable device for the domestic market.
Sales had been declining for several years, significantly since the launch of the iPod, but technology finally caught up with the format after the sale of 220 million cassette tape Walkmans around the world in the three decades after it was released in 1979.
The cassette Walkman - and the MiniDisc and CD Discman players that it later spawned - were dreamed up by Nobutoshi Kihara, an engineer in Sony's audio division, in response to a request from Akio Morita, the company's joint chairman, who wanted to be able to listen to operas during his frequent long-haul business flights.
Arguably Sony's most iconic product, the Walkman was not an instant success but it took off when the marketers targeted younger consumers.
The advent of downloadable music with devices that are able to store thousands of songs has signaled the end of the Walkman in tech-savvy Japan and other markets.