It may have been around for a long time - and recently losing market share to Apple Inc.'s iPod - but the venerable Sony Walkman is not ready to hang up its earphones just yet.

The Japanese electronics giant announced a new range of cutting-edge Walkman systems earlier this month, with enhanced features that Sony believes will enable it to sieze back the initiative in the personal music system battle.

And the Walkman's ability to show the lyrics to a song and let a user sing along karaoke-style might just be the secret weapon that wins that conflict.

"Singing can be a source of power and it's fun to sing along and listen to music with the lyrics," Hisatsugu Nakamuta, head of overseas marketing for Sony, told reporters at the launch of the new Walkman range.

Sony has high hopes of taking half of Japan's domestic sales of 6.5 million units of portable audio-players after an internal study revealed that more than 32 percent of Japanese say they want a Walkman because it displays lyrics as a song is played - in exactly the same way as a karaoke machine works.

The karaoke function may only be available on domestic versions at present, but Sony has improved the digital noise-canceling technology on units on sale overseas, a bonus for purist music-lovers, Nakamuta said.

In August, Sony overtook Apple to be the most popular music player, with 47.8 percent of the market - although the industry was quick to point out that figure was likely to have been influenced by music fans waiting for the release of updated Apple players.

But the Japanese electronics giant has high hopes that it will be able to give its US rival a run for its money.

Sony has announced the release of a number of updated Walkman ranges, with the "S" models going on sale from early October.

The newest addition to the Walkman series measures just 7.2 mm in thickness and comes in a range of metallic styles. The EX vertical in-ear headphones provide optimum sound, enhanced by the Digital Noise Cancelling system, which eliminates around 98 percent of ambient sound.

The 5.1 cm screen offers a superb view of videos, photos and cover art, while the use of TruBlack technology reduces screen reflections. In addition, the extra-long battery life lets users enjoy up to 50 hours of music playback time from a single charge.

JR

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