Sony Corporation of Japan, spectacularly wrongfooted over the last two years by Apple Computer's agile iPod and iTunes brands, is poised to launch a global counter-attack. Mission: to regain its former dominance of the planet's digital audio player and online music download markets.

The first step has already been taken with the creation of a new division, Connect Company. Its sole remit is the development of products and services to core Apple's hugely popular iPod players and iTunes Music Store service.

So far as is known there has been no falling on the corporate sword as a result of the Japanese titan's humiliation in a market it created and ruled for many years. Admits a Sony executive: "It's a business that we should have carved out ahead of our rivals."

Sony released the first cassette-driven Walkman in 1979, and twenty years later recognized and exploited the potential for online music downloads with the launch of the Bitmusic service, run via its Sony Music Entertainment subsidiary.

Apple, by comparison a newcomer to the music market, introduced its all-conquering brands as recently as 2001. And more mortifying yet for Sony, the US company is now shogun of the Japanese market with 35% share. Sony languishes in fourth position with just 9.5%.

Data sourced from Asahi Shimbun Online; additional content by WARC staff