Some of us remember another portable music craze that predated Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPod phenomenon by a good 20 years -- the Sony (NASDAQ:SNE) Walkman. It hasn't been lost on many of us that Sony hasn't done such a great job in using the Walkman to revitalize its historical rep as a leader in music on the go, while Apple has steamrolled over the competition. Can the Walkman make a coveted comeback?

Today, Sony's joint venture with phone giant Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERICY) announced a few newfangled phones, two of which include autofocus cameras and one that sports a Walkman-branded music player.

Digital cameras may be a bit passe at the moment, considering the fact that that's been an ongoing cell phone favorite, but the integrating of music players into cell phones is altogether a different matter, given the current collective love affair with music.

The Sony/Ericsson version will include features that are common to music players from Apple and others, and it will have 500 MB of memory (about 150 songs, a few more than the basic iPod Shuffle). The phone will support the MP3 and AAC standards (and Sony continues to work on updating its Connect service with those popular standards.) The phone will be on sale in the second half of this year.

It's in good company, of course. Last summer, we learned that Apple had a deal going with Motorola (NYSE:MOT), through which iTunes will be available through select Motorola phones. Last I heard, the product was planned for the first half of this year.

What does this new phone-linked Walkman mean for Apple? At this point, I don't think it means too terribly much. Sony has let the Walkman brand languish, so that name doesn't hold the same kind of musical clout that the iPod does.

With a mere 500 MB of memory, Sony and Ericsson's musical fringe benefit is just that. Just like cell phones' digital camera features don't exactly threaten full-blown digital cameras, a hundred or so songs on a phone are a nice feature but no match for the draws of the full-grown iPods. (Of course, nobody's saying the companies won't boost the capacity at some point.)

Maybe the most interesting aspect of this is the realization that phones continue to become smarter and smarter -- for example, take a look at the varied and sundry features that are available through palmOne's (NASDAQ:PLMO) Treo 650, for example, and Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry.

At any rate, the once-mighty Walkman lost its street cred many moons ago. Although this sounds like a perfectly nice feature, whether it will utilize -- or resuscitate -- any of that old Walkman street cred in portable music seems doubtful. The Walkman may ring twice, but will anybody answer?

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.