By the end of the 1980’s, audio cassettes were being pushed hard by CDs. Sony began developing the Minidisc in 1986 as a next-generation portable audio device.
When Sony introduced the Betamax video format in the 1970s, they maintained a closed standard. This led to the market failing against the open VHS standard, as many more companies produced VHS materials. Sony learned from this with Minidisc and licensed the technology to other manufacturers such as JVC, Sharp and Panasonic.
Minidisc was launched in 1992. It met with great success in Japan but had a poor reception in the United States, where less than 50,000 units were sold during its first year. In an effort to overcome this, Sony lowered prices and launched several major but unsuccessful marketing campaigns.
Minidisc came on the market at a time when several competing formats were introduced, such as digitally compact cassettes. Later in the 1990s, CDs and recorders came on the market, which reduced Minidisc’s market share.
The first commercial MP3 player, the Diamond Rio PMP300, was released in 1999. While Rio itself was not extremely impressive, subsequent MP3 players – such as the iPod, released in October 2001 – were faster and better. Digital audio players have come to fill the next generation of portable music players that Sony intended Minidisc for. Sony’s Minidisc system was intended as a digital replacement capacity with higher capacity for portable cassette recorders and players, including Sony’s own Walkman. Although well received by audio specialists, Minidisc never achieved the mass market popularity that Sony had hoped for.