Sony’s share of the Japanese market for portable music players stood at 43% in the week to August 30, ahead of Apple which had 42.1%, according to the Tokyo-based marketing research company BCN Inc.
Sony has had a tough time in recent years in the face of the huge popularity of the iPod and other rival products such as Nintendo’s Wii.
BCN said Walkman sales were benefiting from an expanded product lineup and more affordable prices.
The iPod has also been a victim of Apple’s own success because some people are buying the iPhone – which doubles as a portable music player – instead. Sales of the iPhone are not included in the survey.
But Sony’s victory was bittersweet because overall sales of portable music players are on the decline in Japan, BCN said.
The launch of the Walkman three decades ago revolutionised the way people around the world listened to music and helped transform Sony into a global electronics powerhouse.
But in recent years it has failed to match the success of Apple, which sold 100 million iPods in less than six years after its 2001 launch, making it the fastest selling music player in history. Sales have since topped 200 million.
Sony, the maker of Bravia televisions and PlayStation game consoles, announced in May its first annual loss in 14 years and is on course to stay in the red for a second year for the first time in half a century.
Chief executive Howard Stringer is slashing 16 000 jobs and axing about 10% of the manufacturing plants in a bid to return to profit.