Sony faces the music

Following on from my comment (in the Microsoft’s Doing an Xbox post) about Apple’s competitors’ inability to get their shit together, it seems that Sony’s coming to similar conclusions:

Sony President Ryoji Chubachi, who heads the electronics business, believes that TVs and portable music players are two products in which Sony must show it’s a winner.

“If we lose in either category, it’s inevitable that people are going to have doubts about Sony,” he said.

Sony has fallen behind Apple Computer Inc.’s iPod in portable digital music players: Sony has sold one-fifth as many players as the 58 million iPods that consumers have snapped up.

A book on Sony by Japan’s top business daily, Nihon Keizai Shimbun, said the success of the iPod and the iTunes download service made Sony’s brand power “a thing of the past.”

“As an outsider to the music industry, Apple acted extremely quickly,” according to the book “Sony Versus Sony.””Sony, which had its own music division, worried about possible damage to CD sales and could not act as quickly.”

One error Sony made was sticking to a format for music files called ATRAC3, which protected against illicit copying. Sony only belatedly adapted to the more widely used MP3 file format. The iPod played MP3s from its inception.

Although Sony won’t say much more about its plans for future music players, Stringer is giving more say to software designers and requiring greater interaction among the various teams developing products.

Late last year, Sony brought Tim Schaaff from Apple and appointed him senior vice president of Sony’s software development. Schaaff oversaw interactive media at Apple and the development of Apple’s QuickTime media player for computers.

I reviewed the first generation of Sony Network Walkmans and the first generation iPod, and in almost every respect – battery life, sound quality, sheer grooviness – the Sonys were the better products. But Sony blew it in two key areas: its bone-headed refusal to support MP3, and the equally bone-headed insistence on making punters use horrible, horrible, horrible software to transfer tunes to their player. Taken together, those moves effectively said “Hey, Steve Jobs! We don’t want to sell any players! The market’s all yours!” It’s one of the dumbest business decisions of all time, and I hope Sony hasn’t left it too late to undo the damage.





0 responses to “Sony faces the music”

  1. tm

    I have a walkman mobile phone (apparently). The main thing that puts me off trying the music features is the pathological fear I have of ever installing sony software of any description on my PC again, after my experiecnes with my music stick player all those years ago.

    The software that came with it was the very worst peice of consumer software I have ever used. Ever.

  2. Maybe you can just drag ‘n drop the files across using Bluetooth? Or is that too obvious and easy for Sony to support?

  3. Gary

    Funny you should mention walkman phones: I fancy one of the ones with the camera, but again the thought of scary software and/or mac incompatibility puts me off. I should really ask David about it, ’cause he’s got one.

  4. david

    I’ve got the W810i phone which does have software but I’ve never actually used it. (Or at least I did and it sucked so I don’t). Also it is only a USB1.1 cable so it sucks too. I just put the card into a USB2 card reader and drag and drop music files. I’m not sure if bluetooth works as I don’t have it at home. It doesn’t play itunes drm though.

  5. tm

    Yeah, I might be able to drag and drop the files, but of course I’d forgotten that they now usually do support MP3 and not force ATRAC3 on you.

    Still I have a completely irrational fear that if I plug my phone into the PC sony software will somehow migrate across and ‘infect’ my PC. Irrational I know, but that’s how bad openjukebox really was, it scarred me that badly…

  6. tm

    eeek, mid air collision.

    Yeah, I have that phone too. I need to get my photographs off it (my total lack of interest in cameras of any description meaning that this phone represents the best one I’ve ever owned) so I might try messing with the music while I’m doing that.

    I do have bluetooth, but it’s on the mac…

  7. There’s something squiffy with just dragging music files over to the W800i. for some insane reason the Os on the phone doesn’t use the ID3 tags to identify the tracks. So, drag n’ dropping means you have to work with the file names.

    The PC software that came with it is not the worst I’ve ever come across, but so far from the best. I think the total usability of the software (and device) are one of the main reasons that Apple has such a huge swathe of the market.

    It works fine with iPhoto.

  8. tm

    Hmm, hopefully they’ve fixed that in the w810 then – though I won’t be holding my breath. Still I have to say that compared to the last time I had a sony phone, the phone OS itself is cracking.

    I’ll give it a bash tonight (if I’m awake) and report my findings her (if I can be bothered).

    Yeah – itunes does have that kind of instant plug it in and it works feel that you really need for a consumer electronic device. I always get the impression that the other devices are too ‘pcish’ – they kind of expect their users to know what they’re doing just a little too much.

  9. david

    I’ve had issues with ID3 tags on the 810 but I’ve found that this only occurs when you pull the card out. A reboot sorts it.

    When you plug the phone into the PC you have two options – either phone mode which uses the software or file transfer mode which installs itself as a mass storage device.

    I bought a 2Gb card which came with a USB pendrive adapter which is fast as feck. £60 the pair. (Sony or Sandisk)

  10. Are you saying that when it doesn’t recognise the tags, restarting the phone sorts it?

  11. david

    On mine, yes. When I fire up the walkman app I sometimes get only 2 available artists – SonyEricsson and Unknown. In the unknown is all the tracks listed by filename. When I reboot they are ordered normally. Not a clue why though.