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Does Sony Still Matter?

Posted on 31st May 2009 at 12:33 by Alex Watson with 48 comments

Alex Watson
The first time I went to Japan, in Spring 2002, the Sony Building was high up on my list of places to visit. Six floors of space set in a classic 1960s skyscraper in Tokyo’s wealthy Ginza district, the Sony Centre is a showcase for the company’s brand, image and values, as well as its new technologies and products.

When I visited, dark, moodily lit corridors swept me to an audio playback lounge with towering speakers, rooms full of astoundingly slim laptops, and of course, saving the best till last, there was a pen full of yapping AIBOs to watch.

Despite the fact I’ve been back to Japan several times since then, I’ve never returned to the Sony Building. I enjoyed my visit a lot, but each time I’ve been in Tokyo, a visit there has seemed less relevant, less necessary, less worthwhile. It struck me that perhaps this says something about Sony itself, and makes me wonder whether it’s true to say that Sony doesn’t matter anymore.

By ‘doesn’t matter’, what I mean is not that I’m expecting Sony to diminish greatly in size. You’ll still see the Sony logo prominently whenever shopping for electronics; it will still spend big money on advertising. What I mean is that I’m increasingly doubting whether Sony is still capable of producing landmark products like the original Walkman and the PlayStation and PlayStation 2.

Does Sony Still Matter?
The Sony building in Ginza, Tokyo

I’m like most technology journalists, I suspect, in having something of a soft spot for Sony. In part this comes from a general fondness for Japanese engineering, and knowledge of the company’s tremendous history, and also its tendency to throw massive launch parties in ridiculously trendy venues that I’d normally never stand a chance of getting in to. The goodwill also comes from the fact that when you spend your days reviewing tech, you often come across products which are cheap, nasty and slapdash, and Sony kit tends to be made to a higher standard – it isn’t a company that’s afraid of luxury.

However, I’ve felt for a while that although its products have never stopped being nicely designed and packaged, they’re not innovative any more. If you think of the key technology products of the last few years that were invented, how many came from Sony first? (Incidentally, this isn’t a rhetorical question – suggestions welcome, and no Blu-Ray doesn’t count. The key word is ‘key’).

Netbooks are a good example of the company’s problems: Sony could easily have built the first netbook, but didn't because it was afraid of cannibalizing the profits it made on its pricy but gorgeous ultra-portable laptops. It left a big gap in the market for cheap laptops primarily used for browsing the web. Taiwanese firms spotted the gap, and when Sony did try and make a netbook, it couldn’t swallow its pride and turned out the terribly compromised P-series. I don’t think I need to go over its failure to make a competitive MP3 Walkman and how the iPod came to dominate the market, but given the lead Sony had over Apple in mobile phones (i.e. Sony actually made them before 2007), how did Sony let Apple repeat the success of the iPod with the iPhone? There's no sign of a real iPhone rival from Sony either - it's the Palm Pre and Nokia's music phones which are shaping up to be Apple's true competitors.

I think you can trace a lot of the rot back to the PSP, and I’m not just saying this because I paid to import a Japanese PSP on launch date. Well, alright, I am in part. But my point stands. Lauded by the company as the walkman of the 21st century, it was actually walkman for the future designed with a 1980s mindset. Lumbered with UMD, games that cost as much as PS2 titles, a sub-standard interface that made it terrible for playing music, a form-factor that was too big for the pocket and too small for decent control buttons and absolutely no useful software to allow you to get movies and music on to it, the PSP is one of the worst tech products I’ve ever bought.

Over the nearly five years I’ve had it, I’ve probably played only three or four interesting games on it. The games catalogue attempted to reproduce PS2-style titles, which proved a complete anathema to what you want from a portable system. The iPhone nailed it: games are cheap, they load quickly, you can play them in little bites. The system is small and portable and everything works wirelessly – no disks, no fussing.

Essentially, the problem with the PSP is that while its outward, physical design was appealing, what we could perhaps call its inner design – the thoughts, aims and guiding philosophy that lead to its creation – were hopelessly outmoded. This is arguably true of the PlayStation 3 and the P-series, and it’s what lead me to the title of this post.

In one of my previous blog entries, we looked at tech CEOs who deserved to be fired, and I wrote that the jury was out on Sony’s head, Sir Howard Stringer. He is however, perhaps the CEO with the biggest problem to address.

I have no doubt Sony will continue to produce great looking LCD TVs, slender laptops and a whole range of other attractive tech products. I do however, have serious doubts that any of these will be as special as the company’s designs of the 70s, 80s and 90s.

48 Comments

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Bindibadgi 31st May 2009, 13:56 Quote
Quote:
I’m like most technology journalists, I suspect, in having something of a soft spot for Sony.

Actually, you're on your own there. I've never, ever seen the relevance of the Sony brand - there is always, always a quality alternative that's cheaper to buy: Samsung, Toshiba, LG, Asus, Apple, Philips, Panasonic.. the list goes on. All you have to do is search. Sony has tried on many-an-occasion to create the integrated lifestyle ecosphere that Apple *has* created, yet, it's more or less utterly failed:

Betamax flopped
The Walkman was a hit, but eventually fell into irrelevance apart from the name - the later MP3 "walkman" flopped
Mini-Disk failed
Blu-Ray is a half success at best, but only after Sony and others bought out the studios at considerable cost.
PS3 isn't that successful - especially not since the PSX/PS2, and hasn't be integrated with the PSP like they said it would
UMD movies?
OLED TVs? Very late, very over budget.

It has the occasional fantastic product: PS2 Slim, some Bravia TVs, and.. uhh.. the odd Vaio laptop, but it's hardly an endless list of world changing devices.

To me, Sony is a cluster **** compared to the consistent and measured success of the likes of Apple, or, dare I say it, Microsoft (this year is the only year their profits have dipped) for just two examples - I'd never invest.
CardJoe 31st May 2009, 15:33 Quote
Speaking personally I certainly don't have a soft spot for Sony in the same way that I do for, say Lucasarts. I don't favour any of the three console manufacturers in fact.

I do however, take issue with Sony in two other ways - as a professional and as a consumer. From a consumer point of view, I find their products often at odds with the market - poorly designed controllers that the company doesn't deviate from, a reliance on exclusive games and a brand name that really doesn't amount to much. Sony products have certainly for the last few years rarely shown me the extra quality that I as a consumer would look for in order to accept an inflated price. Instead, prices are inflated because it's Sony.

As a professional, I also take issue with Sony in that they pretty much just will not deal with us and have actually been quite rude about that. It's not professional for me to go into detail about it, so I won't, but I've certainly never had a positive experience when dealing with Sony as either a gamer, consumer or journalist - yet still I see the company talking themselves up, demanding outrageous prices and (in journalist circles) acting like lord of the manor. Sony does have some amazing products every now and then, but they mostly rely on brand these days and I see them mainly as a company built on ego and arrogance, tbh.
ch424 31st May 2009, 15:38 Quote
I can't think of any consumer sony products that I'd like. However, their pro/semi-pro video cameras are immense.
azrael- 31st May 2009, 15:40 Quote
I believe Sony really started to slip when they dropped their Trinitron CRTs, be it in the form of tvs or computer monitors. Before that, Trinitron, and by extension Sony, was synonymous with the absolute best image quality in tvs and computer monitors, bar none.

Of course they needed to shift their attention away from Trinitron CRTs and the CRT technology (sadly) was on its way out, but they had apparently gotten too lazy or too set in their ways to have anything to follow that feat. They even pulled out of producing computer monitors altogether and needed Samsung to help get them back into the tv business.

But yes, Sony seems to (slowly) lose its relevance...
Elton 31st May 2009, 16:10 Quote
+1 to azrael, I remember seeing EVERYONE, and I mean EVERYONE raving about the Trintron CRTs, and it's true, Sony's been so set in it's ways that it's gotten lazy.

Although they're still kind enough to provide parts for their CRTs, XBR or not.
remixme 31st May 2009, 18:25 Quote
At some point or another every mammoth company seems to lose the way. It happened to IBM, Apple, Microsoft (in perception, not sales) and now Sony.

It's tough at the top afterall....

The ability to bounce back is contingent on another killer product IMO, not just good TV's
D-Cyph3r 31st May 2009, 19:00 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by remixme
At some point or another every mammoth company seems to lose the way. It happened to IBM


It did?



AFAIK IBM is still the most successful and profitable semiconductor company in the world.
cyrilthefish 31st May 2009, 21:21 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by CardJoe
and I see them mainly as a company built on ego and arrogance, tbh.
THIS

and that also happens to be two personality traits i despise more than almost everything else.

They made even Microsoft look like the good guys in comparison in my eyes
hodgy100 31st May 2009, 21:52 Quote
But...but... I like my PStriple :(

Seriously though I don't have any preference, but the PS3 is a good product. It just costs too much :(
Red 5 31st May 2009, 22:36 Quote
I've never had any love for Sony, but no objection either, until recently. Their behaviour in recent years has been ridiculous and I would heartily laugh if they went down the pan.

Now for what I really wanted to post:
2fIIqFpZdy0
docodine 1st June 2009, 00:41 Quote
I like Sony TVs, they're worth the price premium.. The interface on the new Bravias is the XMB, which is excellent.

My first PC was a Sony Vaio, my first TV was a Sony Trinitron, my first game console was a Sony Playstation, and so on. I just wish Minidisk didn't fail, it was such a promising format for music.. I still want to buy a player, some stores still sell blanks, 1GB each.

I think their Mylo was the biggest failure, who has EVER seen one outside of a store?
boiled_elephant 1st June 2009, 01:23 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bindibadgi
Actually, you're on your own there. I've never, ever seen the relevance of the Sony brand - there is always, always a quality alternative that's cheaper to buy: Samsung, Toshiba, LG, Asus, Apple, Philips, Panasonic.. the list goes on. All you have to do is search. Sony has tried on many-an-occasion to create the integrated lifestyle ecosphere that Apple *has* created, yet, it's more or less utterly failed:

Betamax flopped
The Walkman was a hit, but eventually fell into irrelevance apart from the name - the later MP3 "walkman" flopped
Mini-Disk failed
Blu-Ray is a half success at best, but only after Sony and others bought out the studios at considerable cost.
PS3 isn't that successful - especially not since the PSX/PS2, and hasn't be integrated with the PSP like they said it would
UMD movies?
OLED TVs? Very late, very over budget.

It has the occasional fantastic product: PS2 Slim, some Bravia TVs, and.. uhh.. the odd Vaio laptop, but it's hardly an endless list of world changing devices.

To me, Sony is a cluster **** compared to the consistent and measured success of the likes of Apple, or, dare I say it, Microsoft (this year is the only year their profits have dipped) for just two examples - I'd never invest.

This post and the featured article are my two favourite things so far this week. Lots of truth kicking around :)

I wish the PS3 had been viable, but they just misunderstood the market. People, by and large, are not rich. And with the PS3 slowly rolling towards total market flop like the Dreamcast's long-lost heir, I don't think Sony will be in gaming at all in the future.
themax 1st June 2009, 02:18 Quote
I seriously doubt Sony is going anywhere. One gaming flop doesn't destroy the whole company. Sega suffered NUMEROUS flops before bowing out. Nintendo had a bad run in with the Gamecube and bounced back. Microsoft stumbled out of the gate and bounced back. I think it's comical that some of you expect them to withdraw or honestly think their built on exclusives (and I guess Microsoft isn't, or Nintendo, or Sega was at the time), and arrogance (who isn't? Microsoft has been arrogant since Windows became the market leader, Nintendo was arrogant about the CR-Rom vs their cartrige). And I believe it was reported that this year (or was it last year) was the first in 14 years that Sony suffered a loss. That's pretty good run up for a company that's a cluster****. Some of these posts just seem more like a vent your personal grievance with Sony than honest to goodness views on the state of the company.

I'de say that Sony still matters. Being innovative doesn't always help a company. That's why Sega, after their early attempts at disc based gaming, suffered. As a result Nintendo backed out of their work with Sony which led to the Playstation in the first placed. They even jump started digital distribution on consoles (Sega Channel). Sega innovated the industry alot, and look where it got them.
Gordy 1st June 2009, 09:05 Quote
Great article. I a fair few sony products, they are usually good quality and well designed. However sony have long since stopped being innovative. They are a company that seems to say me too and at twice the price.

They seem to have no idea what customers want, and don't seem willing to try to learn from mistakes.
CardJoe 1st June 2009, 09:43 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Red 5
I've never had any love for Sony, but no objection either, until recently. Their behaviour in recent years has been ridiculous and I would heartily laugh if they went down the pan.

Now for what I really wanted to post:
2fIIqFpZdy0

That's an awesome film. :)
Da_Rude_Baboon 1st June 2009, 10:29 Quote
Sony are an odd bunch and have a weird mentality to their products. Take the PS3 (which i own) for example. It's an over engineered and arguably to high quality a product for its market. I also now believe that Sony largely saw the PS3 as a way to get blu-ray into a dominant position over HD-DVD which it has succeeded in. Look at the marketing for the PS3, its practically non-existent in the UK where the 360 is heavily advertised on TV.
NethLyn 1st June 2009, 10:43 Quote
Sony's problem is its ADHD when it comes to formats, I might love MD personally but I know it's a flop - that's all down to Sony's failure to push it properly as a portable format and tape killer when music CD-Rs were dominating in the hi-fi space. It was also too busy trying to pimp double-density CD-R/W when DVD Burners took over, Super Audio CD which it had to dual-bond with ordinary CD to make it shift, various dead camcorder formats, but it didn't get over Betamax and kept pimping it until it ruled the broadcast recording space instead as Betacam.

Which brings us neatly to Blu-Ray. Congrats to them for winning that war, the problem is they won't just relax and count the royalties like JVC did with VHS - they'll want to rush something else out that's brand new, not just a computer-based extension to BR. Looking at TVs at the moment, I am not buying a flatscreen until the digital switchoff so I would have to see which technology at the time was the winner.

Build quality wise that still holds true, depending on the item, lots of Sony equipment is more like furniture, hard-wearing and just working, if not necessarily the best picture quality and the sound from its audio equipment can be neutral and controlled and need a decent amplifier to make it come alive.

So the company has every chance of bouncing back if it changes its ways, but my loyalty's gone for good if they just keep chopping and changing formats.
phuzz 1st June 2009, 10:48 Quote
But Oh! Sony TVs! Even my mum, who has no interest in gadgets will always look first at Sony TVs, they've had about 4 Trinitrons over the last 20 something years, and all of them have had a fantastic picture quality.
If I was going to point the finger at where Sony has gone wrong it would be their size, they always seem to screw themselves up, eg, selling minidisk recorders so you can copy CDs, whilst also being in the business of trying to sell music on CDs, doh!
Trefarm 1st June 2009, 11:42 Quote
Sorry net wobbled on me... PTO
Trefarm 1st June 2009, 11:43 Quote
Sony are still relevant (maybe not to those who are 'into' tech.) But for the mainstream and the uninterested SONY is a brand name they can rely upon, they don't want to compare reviews or features, there's too much choice and advice out there for them. Not all customers are seeking cutting edge tech, prehaps a majority simply want a good all rounder. To me that's what Sony does well. I think many of the issues with Sony are instigated by the conflict between maintaining this comfortable middle of the road marketing and introducing new technolodgy which it has to... Look at it like this the PS3 has alot of 'issues' but Sony are still shifting PS2's arn't they?
Paradigm Shifter 1st June 2009, 13:13 Quote
My only real problem with Sony is that, aside from a friends experience with them when his PS3 broke down, every time I've needed to contact them for help with one of their devices, their general attitude has smacked of, "You bought it, it must be your fault, go away and stop annoying us."

Had that happen with a Walkman and two Discmans.

But then, customer support for pretty much every company seems to suck now, so I'm not surprised.
Skiddywinks 1st June 2009, 17:26 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bindibadgi
I've never, ever seen the relevance of the Sony brand - there is always, always a quality alternative that's cheaper to buy: Samsung, Toshiba, LG, Asus, Apple, Philips, Panasonic.. the list goes on. All you have to do is search.

Never have truer words been spoken.
Quote:
Originally Posted by CardJoe
Sony does have some amazing products every now and then, but they mostly rely on brand these days and I see them mainly as a company built on ego and arrogance, tbh.

Except maybe these :P

The "ego and arrogance" is an especially important factor here, and is also a large part of Bindibadgi said. The problem is that they create (usually) great products, but they don't seem to have the correct attitude towards it. They assume that people are more than happy to fork out more, usually much more, for the Sony name and the occasional extra quality.

Take the console wars; the PS3 and 360 are both more than capable machines, and you could argue the PS3 is a better buy for the Blu Ray. But how many people in the mainstream care about Blu Ray? I don't, neither does my family or any of my friends. It's a nice extra feature, but other than that, the choice between consoles come down to preference.

For someone who has no real experience with either console, and has had a quick browse across some screenshots and game lists, the choice is simple; the 360 is just much better value, and targeted far more at gaming. Each console has it's fair share of exclusives etc, but at the end of the day you can get an equivilent 360 game for anything that is on the PS3 (and, of course, vice versa). Is it really worth the extra for the Sony name and Blu Ray? It's not a small difference in price either.

This is a great example of what is wrong with Sony. Throw in everything you can, charge as much as you can get away with, and expect people to be happy to pay for the badge and the extras. They don't seem to realise that most people are not rich, and don't want half the extra features. Instead, they just want something that does what they want, and is great value. When you apply this thinking to other ranges of Sony products, you will always find a similarly performing product for usually much cheaper.

Arguably, the same can be said of Apple. The original iPods were really nothing more than a bog standard MP3 player with a click wheel and only one choice how to put music on it. For the extra that they costed, I can't believe that Apple got away with it. It seems that Sony is in the same mindset, and it has finally started to catch up with them. Maybe Apple should be worried about the same thing?
Adnoctum 2nd June 2009, 02:49 Quote
I think that the key word here is "relevant", which doesn't reflect on success or survival.

Sony is no longer "relevant" because they don't innovate, which is the argument Alex is making.

When was the last time Sony came out with a device that just captured what the consumer is looking for? They thought it would be BR and the PS3, but they miscalculated.

Sony is now just a "me too" company, bringing products to market long after their equally "quality" competitors, but with no extra features and a higher price point.

In a comment on the CEO blog, I stated how crappy Sony products are now compared to their standards when they were at their best.

The greatest comment on the state of Sony should be the fall from grace the brand has taken in Japan.
Elton 2nd June 2009, 05:17 Quote
The only problem with Sony is the lack of any truly compelling and good quality products, if they had those in stacks, sign me up.

The VIAO PC's are overpriced, the PS3 COULD have suceeded, if it wasn't so expensive(didn't they learn from the DC and original XBOX?), Their TV's are now Samsung boards, and they don't really have anymore audio products.

I remember the days of the ES Disk players(damned awesome they were), the XBR Trinitrons and their legendary lifespan(had a 32" for 12 years and even then only needed cleaning and one IC replaced), and the days of their bloody awesome VCRs.

Of course this is the past, but I guess they've just gotten lazy after all these years, I mean they deserve a break, 20 years of a good(if not better) track record deserves some mention.
tron 2nd June 2009, 13:54 Quote
SONY means as much to me as SECUROM

Sony, to me, means a company that is failing to adapt to the future of online media distribution and personal media freedom between multiple devices within the home.

BLUERAY goes in the complete opposite direction to what customers want now and will want in the future. Blueray is about DRM attachment of movies to a physical disk. The movie cannot be moved to another device unless you move the disk. You cannot back up your own legal copy to hard drive. Blu ray as a movie media is a long term 'fail' unless it can adapt to the future.

Don't get me started on Sony Securom. It's another example of Sonys arrogance and refusal to get the balance right in terms of protecting developers and also customers rights and convenience etc.

This also reminds me of the infamous Sony ROOTKIT and their arrogance about the way they felt they had the right to install absolutely anything they want (spyware) onto peoples PCs without telling them. Even after lawsuits and being questioned about it, their spokespersons would reply that they could see nothing wrong with it.
remixme 2nd June 2009, 18:22 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by D-Cyph3r
Quote:
Originally Posted by remixme
At some point or another every mammoth company seems to lose the way. It happened to IBM


It did?



AFAIK IBM is still the most successful and profitable semiconductor company in the world.

It most certainly is.

It is kind of a bad example as I was thinking more of the lines of losing relevance/perception/PR. I mean nobody call a computer the IBM Compatible PC any more do they?

I also looked up the history of IBM looking for 'wobbles' and saw something I hadn't heard before; alledged collusion with the Nazi regime. Which (if true of course) makes things like the Sony root kit fiasco seem trivial.
boiled_elephant 2nd June 2009, 22:10 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by tron
Sony, to me, means a company that is failing to adapt to the future of online media distribution and personal media freedom between multiple devices within the home.

BLUERAY goes in the complete opposite direction to what customers want now and will want in the future. Blueray is about DRM attachment of movies to a physical disk. The movie cannot be moved to another device unless you move the disk. You cannot back up your own legal copy to hard drive. Blu ray as a movie media is a long term 'fail' unless it can adapt to the future.

+1. I wish the film industry would go to digital distribution, so badly. It would suit my methods perfectly; at the moment I only pirate films because there's no legal method to do it and I can't keep physical copies in boxes everywhere. I just don't have room.

With Sony holding the film industry's leash now, I don't see it happening for a long time. For that alone, I'm rather bitter to them.

Then, of course, as mentioned several times above, there's their terrible attitude. They're the industry equivalent of a spoilt bully, for reasons I can't quite get to grips with. They use every PR announcement to essentially ridicule and provoke their 'rivalling' companies (who, by contrast, couldn't care less about rivalry).
Quote:
Sony literally hired men in dark sunglasses to deliver the papers to the defendant, because Sony is insecure about the size of its penis.
smc8788 2nd June 2009, 22:33 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by boiled_elephant
They're the industry equivalent of a spoilt bully, for reasons I can't quite get to grips with.

It's quite simple, really. They're just there to make money. Like pretty much any other multinational company out there they don't really care about their customers beyond seeing them as a source of income. At the end of the day it always comes down to profits, it doesn't matter who you are. Some companies just go about it in different ways.

To say that other companies don't care about their rivals is a bit naïve really. Every company has to take an interest in what their rivals do; it would be foolish not to. Without rivalry between companies we would have no innovation whatsoever, and pricing based on whatever they feel like charging us.

Playing devil's advocate for a moment, I hardly think Sony could be accused of being alone in their refusal to move to a more digital distribution orientated business model, nor are they the worst. There are a few out there that set examples for how things should be done, but these are the exception rather than the norm.

Sony isn't solely responsible for Blu-Ray (the BDA is made up of several of the largest electronics manufacturers in the world), so it's a little bit of a stretch to say they alone have control over the entire film industry and how they distribute their products. What they have done is help to establish Blu-Ray as the primary physical high definition format; if the film companies really wanted to make the move to online distribution services then they would have done so already.
boggsi 3rd June 2009, 19:19 Quote
Excellent article. I remember growing up and seeing Sony as the binnacle of technology.. Now I can't think of a single key product that has truly fitted the market of recent times.
kenco_uk 3rd June 2009, 21:26 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by ch424
I can't think of any consumer sony products that I'd like. However, their pro/semi-pro video cameras are immense.

I'd say certainly the most innovative thing Sony have produced (but, still, was eventually a flop and cost way too much) was the Aibo. It's a shame nothing else has even come close. Even the ERS-210 I had was amazing.. the last model, the ERS-7mk3 with the latest Mind software was like nothing else. And it's unlikely there'll be anything else like it for many years.
ashchap 4th June 2009, 13:19 Quote
I wish they hadn't stopped making computer monitors. I bought my 17" HS75P about 5 years ago and have never seen another monitor come close. With everyone else upgrading to 22" now I really want a bigger one but from what I've seen pretty much any current LCD monitor will be a step down in image quality. How come there are almost no glossy PC monitors available, when the majority of laptops seem to have them at the moment?

The minidisc was awesome - they were just starting to take off with the net-md range. Being able to transfer multiple albums onto a tiny disc from your pc and listen them on a player barely larger than the disc, with massive battery life was incredible. Portable CD players didn't come close. The only problem was that they were just too late - nothing could beat miniature hard drives and cheap flash memory.
Skiddywinks 4th June 2009, 14:55 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by ashchap
The minidisc was awesome - they were just starting to take off with the net-md range. Being able to transfer multiple albums onto a tiny disc from your pc and listen them on a player barely larger than the disc, with massive battery life was incredible. Portable CD players didn't come close. The only problem was that they were just too late - nothing could beat miniature hard drives and cheap flash memory.

I never had a minidisk myself, but my friend did. They were awesome, I must admit. But at the end of the day, even then, Sony were trying to hang on to a physical format when the real progress was moving to, like you mentioned, miniature harddrives and flash. Seems ironic that now that everyone is moving the way of digital, they are still pushing Blu Ray so much. I mean, you can't blame them, since they have such a stake in it, but you would think they would have learnt. I would have just left HD-DVD to win, and focused on making the best digital service available. The marketplace on Xbox Live is nothing short of incredible, especially with some of the deals MS is coming out wiht.
Paradigm Shifter 4th June 2009, 15:44 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skiddywinks
...everyone is moving the way of digital, they are still pushing Blu Ray so much.
Blu-ray will have a purpose as long as high-speed unlimited internet connections remain non-standard. :)

By 'non-standard' I mean that everywhere that DVDs or Blu-rays are sold - not just one or two countries or areas in countries - need internet of the scale of Sweden's high-speed connection (as a friend recently moved to Sweden and now has 100Mb internet...) or the Gigabit internet available in areas in Japan.

The greater the quality of audio/video, the more bandwidth it's gonna chew up... and I, for one, wouldn't want to spend 24 hours downloading 25GB to watch a single film. I wouldn't want to have it take 6 hours. If the film takes longer to download than it does to watch, then the connection isn't fast enough. ;)

So, really, while 'digital is the future'... until Governments actually get their acts together and provide decent incentives for phone or fibre companies to provide services broadly... it's too far in the future.

The UK Govt. wants the whole of the UK on minimum 2Mb by... what was it, 2012? That's great and wonderful, but isn't fast enough to allow HD content to flow properly.

And that doesn't even touch the issue of bandwidth caps or throttling. Which is another painful topic entirely. :(

...

And Minidisc was great. I remember being able to have a disc way smaller and more durable than a CD, in a tiny player... and fit 6 CDs of music on it. More, if a CD was short. :D
Skiddywinks 4th June 2009, 17:28 Quote
Very good point, but I never said it was here or that it would be soon, just that digital is the way it is going, and Sony don't want to be left in the dark when it finally becomes big business.

It would be unfair to assume they are doing nothing about preparing for the true digital age, since they do have PSN going and what not, but they are still definitly not making the progress they should be. I just fear that the arrogance that has, especially recently, stopped them from reaching the levels of succes they used to achieve will cause them to be way behind when digital really takes off.

I had a 10Mbps connection at uni, and while it was a bit of a ballache waiting for a 24GB file to download at 1.1MBps, you don't have to sit and watch it downloading. Go to work. Go out with friends. Sure, it takes longer to download than it takes to watch, but you have to be there to watch it, you don't have to be there to download it :P
Paradigm Shifter 4th June 2009, 18:04 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skiddywinks
I had a 10Mbps connection at uni, and while it was a bit of a ballache waiting for a 24GB file to download at 1.1MBps, you don't have to sit and watch it downloading. Go to work. Go out with friends. Sure, it takes longer to download than it takes to watch, but you have to be there to watch it, you don't have to be there to download it :P

Totally, I got a bit spoiled with having a net connection in the lab I studied in that could download distro ISOs at 12MB/s. :D My other problem is that when it comes to films, I'm fairly short on focus - if I want to watch something right now I will. If I can't, I won't bother at all. ;)
Skiddywinks 4th June 2009, 18:09 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paradigm Shifter
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skiddywinks
I had a 10Mbps connection at uni, and while it was a bit of a ballache waiting for a 24GB file to download at 1.1MBps, you don't have to sit and watch it downloading. Go to work. Go out with friends. Sure, it takes longer to download than it takes to watch, but you have to be there to watch it, you don't have to be there to download it :P

Totally, I got a bit spoiled with having a net connection in the lab I studied in that could download distro ISOs at 12MB/s. :D My other problem is that when it comes to films, I'm fairly short on focus - if I want to watch something right now I will. If I can't, I won't bother at all. ;)

12MBps is ridiculous. Mega jealous :P

Anyway, your short focus is a personal problem, not a problem with going digital. Most people are willing to wait more than 5 minutes to download a film they want to watch :P
azrael- 4th June 2009, 18:21 Quote
Have to admit, I would never want a purely downloadable/streamable format in stead of a media-based format.

What happens when your connection is down? Or what if the provider goes under? And the DRM authentication servers (because you can be sure your precious premium content is DRM-"protected") are unreachable or even taken down? It's not as if this hasn't happened already. Multiple times.

Even STEAM is an example of this. Without access to the STEAM authentication servers (for whatever reason) you're usually SOL if you want to play a game.

A downloadable/streamable format in addition to a media-based format would be fine with me, though.
Paradigm Shifter 4th June 2009, 18:38 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skiddywinks
12MBps is ridiculous. Mega jealous :P
I don't have it any more, as I've left that lab. :(
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skiddywinks
Anyway, your short focus is a personal problem, not a problem with going digital. Most people are willing to wait more than 5 minutes to download a film they want to watch :P
I'm aware that my inability to concentrate on watching films is a personal issue. :P Honestly, I find films usually fairly boring, which is why I can't be bothered if I have to wait too long.
Quote:
Originally Posted by azrael-
Have to admit, I would never want a purely downloadable/streamable format in stead of a media-based format.

What happens when your connection is down? Or what if the provider goes under? And the DRM authentication servers (because you can be sure your precious premium content is DRM-"protected") are unreachable or even taken down? It's not as if this hasn't happened already. Multiple times.

Even STEAM is an example of this. Without access to the STEAM authentication servers (for whatever reason) you're usually SOL if you want to play a game.

A downloadable/streamable format in addition to a media-based format would be fine with me, though.

This too. I was ignoring the likelihood of DRM or connection death.
gavomatic57 5th June 2009, 09:06 Quote
The PS3 hasn't sold that badly worldwide compared to the 360 - 22 million compared to 30 million. Lets not forget though that the PS2 is still alive and well and has sold 136 million units. PSP is still alive and kicking too. Calling the PS3 a failure is a bit much and whilst it is expensive, it is far better made than the 360. I'm still on my 1st one since the month it was released, but I was on my 2nd 360 after a year.
tron 5th June 2009, 10:16 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by azrael-
Have to admit, I would never want a purely downloadable/streamable format in stead of a media-based format.

What happens when your connection is down? Or what if the provider goes under? And the DRM authentication servers (because you can be sure your precious premium content is DRM-"protected") are unreachable or even taken down? It's not as if this hasn't happened already. Multiple times.

Even STEAM is an example of this. Without access to the STEAM authentication servers (for whatever reason) you're usually SOL if you want to play a game.

A downloadable/streamable format in addition to a media-based format would be fine with me, though.

Totally agree with you about the unreachable server scenario etc.

The perfect thing for me would be to have choice. So if I want to buy a game, for example, on physical disk, I can move the install file onto any other storage medium that suits me.

The problem with Blu ray is that it wasn't designed to have any flexibility. The movie etc. stays on the disk, violating your fair usage rights and preventing you from protecting your purchase by allowing a back up onto hard drive.

Sony's attitude is that if your blu ray becomes damaged or "worn out" you can just buy another copy. Yes, they have said this.

I am the most careful person in the world when it comes to handling of dvds, yet I have had a few bad experiences. In one case, the supplied dvd case damaged the inside circle of the brand new dvd movie and left a crack in the centre when I carefully placed the dvd back in the case. The crack became larger, the more the dvd was used. This was not my fault. If I pay for a movie or game, I shouldn't have to buy it again.

I also prefer the convenience of having my movies stored and viewed via my PC hard drive.
Skiddywinks 5th June 2009, 13:17 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by azrael-
Have to admit, I would never want a purely downloadable/streamable format in stead of a media-based format.

What happens when your connection is down? Or what if the provider goes under? And the DRM authentication servers (because you can be sure your precious premium content is DRM-"protected") are unreachable or even taken down? It's not as if this hasn't happened already. Multiple times.

Even STEAM is an example of this. Without access to the STEAM authentication servers (for whatever reason) you're usually SOL if you want to play a game.

A downloadable/streamable format in addition to a media-based format would be fine with me, though.

Good point, I had forgotten to factor in DRM.

It seems to me that the future solution for entertainment media is a long way off. There are such problems with each that I really have no idea how they could be solved with everyone happy.
azrael- 5th June 2009, 15:14 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by tron
<SNIP>
Sony's attitude is that if your blu ray becomes damaged or "worn out" you can just buy another copy. Yes, they have said this.
<SNIP>
That's not only Sony's point of view, but pretty much that of the "content mafia" (INQ coins some of the best terms :)) as a whole. If it were for them every piece of music you listen to or every snippet of video you watch would be on a pay-per-use basis.

As a side note, I recently got pretty malcontent (to use a polite word) when I noticed that many of my expensively bought CDs (as they're not mainstream, but not indie either) have gotten lots of small holes in them. The CDs from Polydor are the worst, but sadly not the only ones. But hey, I can just buy new copies... That was sarcasm, by the way. :(
tron 6th June 2009, 09:24 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by azrael-
Quote:
Originally Posted by tron
<SNIP>
Sony's attitude is that if your blu ray becomes damaged or "worn out" you can just buy another copy. Yes, they have said this.
<SNIP>
That's not only Sony's point of view, but pretty much that of the "content mafia" (INQ coins some of the best terms :)) as a whole. If it were for them every piece of music you listen to or every snippet of video you watch would be on a pay-per-use basis.

As a side note, I recently got pretty malcontent (to use a polite word) when I noticed that many of my expensively bought CDs (as they're not mainstream, but not indie either) have gotten lots of small holes in them. The CDs from Polydor are the worst, but sadly not the only ones. But hey, I can just buy new copies... That was sarcasm, by the way. :(

I hear the sarcasm :)

One point about being expected to 'repurchase' your media, is that, especially in the case of music albums and singles, there usually comes a time when the product is no longer published and becomes very difficult to find. This is an example of one of the benefits of being allowed to make a back-up copy of your purchased media.
gavomatic57 6th June 2009, 09:51 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by tron
I hear the sarcasm :)

One point about being expected to 'repurchase' your media, is that, especially in the case of music albums and singles, there usually comes a time when the product is no longer published and becomes very difficult to find. This is an example of one of the benefits of being allowed to make a back-up copy of your purchased media.

The thing is, the coating on a blu-ray is pretty tough - moreso than DVD's and CD's, so it you manage to break a blu-ray disc, you only have yourself to blame. It's a bit like deliberately driving your car into a wall and complaining that you have to buy another car! (or lose your no claims discount)

You are not really supposed to backup your DVD's either, but there are decrypters out there to do it - there are decrypters for blu-ray too, they are just few and far between, but it is a relatively new format.
azrael- 6th June 2009, 11:22 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by gavomatic57
The thing is, the coating on a blu-ray is pretty tough - moreso than DVD's and CD's, so it you manage to break a blu-ray disc, you only have yourself to blame. It's a bit like deliberately driving your car into a wall and complaining that you have to buy another car! (or lose your no claims discount)
<SNIP>
That's not entirely true. The reason for the tough coating on BD media isn't a feature, it's a pure necessity. The only thing that protects the data layer is exactly that coating, whereas the data layer on DVD and HD-DVD media is much farther from the surface and protected by another layer (sandwich structure).

This extra layer works pretty good for DVDs but not so good for HD-DVD, which is also why rewritable HD-DVD media had such lousy quality. The laser just couldn't focus properly on the data layer. With BD they moved the data layer to the surface and applied an extra hard coating in the hope that it would adequately protect the data layer.
tron 6th June 2009, 20:57 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by gavomatic57
Quote:
Originally Posted by tron
I hear the sarcasm :)

One point about being expected to 'repurchase' your media, is that, especially in the case of music albums and singles, there usually comes a time when the product is no longer published and becomes very difficult to find. This is an example of one of the benefits of being allowed to make a back-up copy of your purchased media.

The thing is, the coating on a blu-ray is pretty tough - moreso than DVD's and CD's, so it you manage to break a blu-ray disc, you only have yourself to blame. It's a bit like deliberately driving your car into a wall and complaining that you have to buy another car! (or lose your no claims discount)

You are not really supposed to backup your DVD's either, but there are decrypters out there to do it - there are decrypters for blu-ray too, they are just few and far between, but it is a relatively new format.

Certain drm circumvention is not 'allowed'. However, Copyright laws, at least in the uk and us, allow a back up of music onto pc hard drive. For as long as you are BACKING UP your movies for PERSONAL USE and not planning multiple copies to friends etc.

Yes there are software available to backup 'some' bluray movies, but the solutions are not supported properly via hd media playback software.

Also don't be fooled by that coating on bluray. Blueray data is more 'volatile' than regular dvds. This is because the data layer is so close to the surface of the disk. You are more likely to have data loss on bluray than dvd if the surface is scratched.
ZERO <ibis> 11th June 2009, 08:13 Quote
The last thing I got from sony as a Trintron CRT 10 years ago. I have had 4 of them and 3 are of the same model and all burned out. The only one left running is a high end 21" that cost more than the other 3 put together. I wish they still made them as I am not sure wtf I will do when this thing dies....

Other than displays such as the tv my roommate got I really do not see a reason to ever buy a sony device.
evanbraakensiek 12th June 2009, 04:37 Quote
Sony is one of the largest and most innovative conglomerates in the world, and to question their relevance is highly arrogant and disrespectful.

Tell me, Alex, why Blu-Ray is not a key technology? Is it because storage is not considered a glamorous subject by technology journalists? The benefits of increased storage on a more durable format (I speak about both Blu-Ray and HD DVD) are obvious to any user, but the technology is not innovative for some reason. But when AMD or Intel reduce the process size on their processors the technology is suddenly amazing. Custom PC said Intel's Core i7 was “a radical new design and much faster than anythign [genuine error too] Intel has done to date”. Really? Did it change the way processors function? No. It did nothing innovative at all, but you said it was “great for everything” and you “have no hesitation in recommending that you visit your favourite etailer and buy one right now”.

Criticism of physical media itself (i.e. that it is outdated) is stupid [commenting about other users comments rather than the article itself] since Blu-Ray standardises more than just the capacity (audio, encoding, video and digital rights management to name a few), and the specification actually “creates a platform for broadband content service functions that will expand the viewer's way of enjoying content”.

Regardless, did Apple, Microsoft or Nintendo create a new high-density optical format? No. Apple are on the Blu-ray Disc Association's board (now). Microsoft picked the wrong side. And the 'Wii's optical storage is a “DVD based technology”. Those companies are so irrelevant, right? Or I am not allowed to criticise those companies because they do not compete in the market? Would that not be fair?

Your overall criticism is intellectually flawed. Your netbook example is bad (ignoring the fact the netbook itself is not innovative technology at all), and it is not a “good example of the company's problems”. Apple does not produce netbooks for exactly the same reason as Sony, but they receive no criticism at all. Sony's P-Series was only a terrible compromise if you wanted it to be a netbook. Regardless, does Apple, Microsoft or Nintendo produce a netbook? No.

I do not see why you think it is okay to attack Sony, a company who have a lot of fingers in a lot of pies, but refuse to criticise their competitors for the same thing. Microsoft have made a lot of mistakes. And Nintendo, well, they just decided not to compete any more. If you were being fair your criticism of the PSP should have mentioned Nokia's N-Gage too. They bought a branch of Sega, which helped developed the platform, and they too made exactly the same mistakes. So, perhaps, Sony's mistakes are not as bad as you think.

Apple have become less innovative by using Intel technology in their computers. And I find it ironic that you consider Nokia (and Palm) as “Apple's true competitors” in the mobile phone market. Surely it should be the other way around? Nokia have a global market share of just under 40%. If you just want to compare smart phones then Apple has 10.8%.... compared to Nokia's 41.2% market share. Your criticism of Sony's mobile phones strategy is not very good either since they were always marginal until they merged with Ericsson, and they have a much larger market share than Apple.

About the only thing I agree with is your criticism of their music players, though, and I say that as a MP3 Walkman owner! It would have been interesting if you had commented on their move to integrate brands across companies. They have mobile phones which use the Cybershot and Walkman technology, and this move has improved sales.
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