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Sony Connect Online Music Download Store Launches 373

securitas writes "USA Today's Jefferson Graham reports that today Sony launched its online music download store, Sony Connect, to compete with Apple's leading iTunes service. The tracks use the MagicGate DRM copy-protection scheme and will work only with Sony Memory Stick-compatible devices including VAIO computers, CLIE PDAs, MiniDisc, CD and Walkman products. Sony will also launch a new line of 1-gigabyte Hi-MD disc players that support the service. Sony Connect's catalog sports 500,000 tracks from independent and major labels and songs sell for 99 cents each or $10 per album. The service uses Sony's SonicStage software and works with Windows 98SE-XP PCs only. It is only available in the USA until the planned European launch in June. That's a whole lot of restrictions in an already-fragmented market. More at The Register and The Age."
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Sony Connect Online Music Download Store Launches

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  • Loss leader? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bcmm ( 768152 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @01:44PM (#9053627)
    Is this just a way to sell the devices?
    • Re:Loss leader? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TyrranzzX ( 617713 )
      Nah. Notice how the RIAA is indirectly selling their music via these services? They're engauging in price fixing on the web as well; notice how all the services have the same exact or more expensive price than $.99 a song? The idea is to break the market up into mostly loyal sections through the use of proprietary DRM'd devices or get everyone on a single, protected platform so they can't go for a compeditor. They might also try something particularily evil; getting people to sign non-compete agreements
  • by base3 ( 539820 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @01:44PM (#9053634)
    . . . even right down to the vendor lock-in part. Wonderful. Wake me when I can buy, rather than rent, music.
    • by Glonoinha ( 587375 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @01:52PM (#9053758) Journal
      DRM'ed out the ass, doesn't work on anything besides Sony players, doesn't work on any of the players people already own.

      Yet another wonderful idea from the Sales Prevention Team at Sony!
      • I would have bought a Net MD if it would allow you to burn MP3s directly to it. (Even if you couldn't do digital transfers back the other way) I was about to buy one before I read that it requires you to convert it to their proprietary format, and that it can take about a minute per song. I had a MDLP recorder (it got stolen), and it was awesome, NetMD sounded better.

        I had to read this information on the web, because nowhere in the little Sony store display, or on the package of one such recorder, did I see any mention of their proprietary format, or the time it would take to record.


        DRM, especially DRM that the company selling it is trying to control, seems to always becoming at the expense of convenience for the user.
    • by acomj ( 20611 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @02:06PM (#9053977) Homepage
      I use the itunes store. Burn Cds which seem to work anywhere I have access to a cd player (ie on my work computer).
    • by jdreed1024 ( 443938 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @02:57PM (#9054660)
      even right down to the vendor lock-in part

      Yeah, that's my biggest gripe with Apple and iTMS. I mean, iTMS only works on Windows and Mac. Yeesh. Talk about vendor lock in - what about non-Apple machines?

      *whispering off camera*

      Huh? Apple doesn't make i386 machines? And they don't make Windows? Oh, uh ok. Well, still, it sucks that you can only burn CDs on Apple computers.

      *more whispering*

      Wait, you can burn CDs on any machine with iTunes and a CD burner? Oh, well, OK, it still sucks that you can only burn them on Apple media and then only play them back on Apple CD players.

      *whispering, louder this time*

      Wait, they're regular audio CDs that you can play back in your car or home stereo? Red-Book compliant? No Apple computer required? And you can burn them to any CD-R media? Hrm. Well, there's still vendor lock-in because of the, uh, hrm, let me get back to you on this one...

  • Uuh... (Score:5, Funny)

    by PatrickThomson ( 712694 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @01:45PM (#9053635)
    Sony Connect Online? What an unfortunate acronym. What are they going to do, sue iTMS for selling music, the concept which they apparently own?
  • Kiss Apple Goodbye! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by callipygian-showsyst ( 631222 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @01:45PM (#9053640) Homepage
    Much as I like iTunes, Sony has several advantages:

    1. They're a major record label AND a major PC vendor

    2. They can get into the Japanese market easier

    I think they'll be able to clobber Apple.

    • by Txiasaeia ( 581598 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @01:48PM (#9053704)
      Sorry, but are you kidding? Time has proven over and over again that market penetration > brand recognition. Apple has a year's head start on Sony -- what makes you think Sony can catch up now?
      • Sony had 0% of the game console market back in.. er, 1995? Nintendo and Sega held almost 100% (I believe there was one other system, but I don't recall which one it was). Prior to the microsoft's XBOX launch, I'm fairly certain that Sony clobbered the living bejesus out of existing marketshare holders with a single console product.

        Ask Nintendo or Sega how many years of head start they had over Sony, see what their answer is.

        Note: this is not to say that Sony will conquer, but that the above reason is no

        • Sony was first to market over the N64 and Saturn (technically, the Saturn was first, but it was priced well out of reach and not available in most stores) and it won handily. So basically, you proved the guy's point.
          • I disagree. Not about being first to market, you're right about that, but about marketshare of a brand. You're speaking (rightly) about the marketshare of devices, but I'm speaking of the value in so-called "brand loyalty" which I think most of us had (in sega or nintendo) prior to that playstation release.
        • Sony did their part is taking the lead in the console market, but it's not like Sega or Nintendo gave them much of a fight. The only company that had a chance was Sega. Nintendo didn't release their N64 until 2-3 years after Playstation launched (far to late to play catchup). And Sega, who ruled the 16-bit consoles with Genesis, somehow managed to release the Sega CD and 32X systems before Saturn's launch in their attempt to milk the Genesis market and in retrospect alienated a lot of their customers.

      • by prockcore ( 543967 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @02:12PM (#9054066)
        Apple has a year's head start on Sony -- what makes you think Sony can catch up now?

        Years and years of past experiences.
    • You seem to forget one very important thing. Apple iTunes has 70% of the market share. Source [] Without pouring tons of money in to this, they will never be able to make up that defecit.
      • I agree with you .. but in 1981 people were saying the same thing ... the Apple ][ has 70% of the market share, there is no way that IBM with its 'PC' will be able to make up that deficit.
        • by danielsfca2 ( 696792 ) * on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @02:07PM (#9053988) Journal
          But IBM did, just because they succeeded in selling their existing business customers on the concept of IBM being the "Standard For Business" in the PC market too. Once a few businesses signed on, it was all over for Apple in the business sector because you wanted to go with the standard. And that was the end of the PC wars.

          So where's Sony's parallel advantage here? I think that analogy is a good thing to keep in mind in general, but very fallacious because Sony doesn't have a big captive audience that they can convince on a new standard.

          For the record, MP3 is the Standard For Music, with all its faults (poor quality and no DRM from the label's POV) is the standard and will remain so for a while because of its ubiquity and freedom of use. The iPod has become the de-facto "Standard For MP3-Players" and it's not a personal thing--I'm just going by marketshare here.
    • by The I Shing ( 700142 ) * on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @01:52PM (#9053755) Journal
      I believe that Sony might be able to clobber Apple, but that Apple's cachet and hipness might well carry the day for them.

      Sony is a good, solid brand. I own and love a Sony digital camera and have had treasured Walkman units throughout the years, but Sony is not quite as hip of a brand as Apple.

      But I might end up surprised. With enough artist support and advertising, Sony might do economically better with their store.
    • Apple has an enormous chunk of the MP3 player market, and the iPod isn't compatible with Sony's store.
      • by AstroDrabb ( 534369 ) * on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @02:55PM (#9054634)
        Actually, Apple has the number one postion based on sales because their iPod/iPodMini are priced more on average then the copetitiors. As far as number of units sold, they do not have the #1 postion. However, 3 million units is a pretty good number of players to have out their and those players are pretty much locked into iTMS.

        Where I see Sony having an advantage is their size and market force that Apple cannot touch. Sony doesn't have to pay the same royalties that Apple does to labels sine Sony is a major label. Sony can also pull strings to get a bunch of thier "cool" "artists" to do some commercials and you now have millions of screaming teens crying to their parents to get them a device from Sony. Next, Sony can do deals with MS that Apple just cannot do. With MS and Sony, they can own the Media market by locking consumers into their technology. Give it about two years and Apple will dwindle, not because iTMS is bad, but becuase it is just too hard to fight "the system".

        Think about all the things Sony can do to stop Apple. They can do back room deals with other labels to release new content to only thier format or MS's format. That right there would slowly kill Apple. Either Apple dies or changes iTMS to work with the new formats. If Apple works with the new formats, then Apple loses the lock-in to their iPod.

    • That's funny! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by danielsfca2 ( 696792 ) * on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @01:54PM (#9053800) Journal
      1. Sony's being one major label only gives other labels a disincentive to cooperate...and most artists fall into the "not on Sony" category. Sony has no majority of artists on its labels.

      2. Yeah. Apple has no following in Japan at all. Give me a break! The Japanese can't keep their hands off sexy, stylish, hip little things. I predict it'll be even harder to get your hands on the iPod mini in Japan (upon its release there) as it has been in the US. Name a Sony product that's come out in the last three years that's got anywhere near the amount of buzz as the 3rd-gen. iPod and iPod mini.

      I think the words [] of Seinfeld's Jackie Chiles will soon apply for Sony here: "This is the most public yet of my many humiliations."
    • Much as I like iTunes, Sony has several advantages

      That was only 2.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      I'm laughing at your last statement about clobbering Apple. Apparently you've never owned, or used a Sony digital music player? I guess if you don't mind Sony playing big brother with all of your music, forcing you to use their format, having to check in and out your music and absolutely no HD digital music player, only their over priced tiny MS Pro then you'll be happy.

      But for me, I found their music B.S. rather insulting and very limiting. Overall it just plain sucks. I know this from experience afte
  • by mpost4 ( 115369 ) * on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @01:45PM (#9053642) Homepage Journal
    it such a small share, I only know of one company that uses it (correct me if I am wrong)

    when I look for a divice that uses a flash card, I do not buy sony because I will not be able to use it on any other device I already own, right now I am looking at digital camras, and I sony is not even an option for me because I can not use it with any other device I use, I want one with an sd card because all my other devices accept an SD card.

    I think it is not a good idea to only suppord devices that only use a memory stick for it, since, that limites your market right there.
    • by MoonBuggy ( 611105 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @01:53PM (#9053775) Journal
      Unfortunately there are a few markets where Sony make the best products meaning that you have to be tied into their overpriced memory format or settle for a device with standard memory but fewer features. For the sake of a premium on the memory I'll go with the best device - however much it pains me to support proprietary formats like Memory Stick Duo it's not a big enough problem for me to compromise on my 450+ PDA. This is what Sony count on - I buy their PDA because it's better, I'm tied into giving them 20 extra for every memory stick I buy for said PDA.
    • Ditto.

      My father visited me in France, and brought his Cannon digital camera, which uses CF cards. I took one, popped it in my Sharp Zaurus, and viewed/copied/emailed the pics. I have an SMC CF WiFi that works on my IBM X20 as well. Two friends of mine have HP cameras, and they use SD cards. My Zaurus also has an SD slot, so I can see/exchange pics with them.

      I was wondering why Sony continues to fight this battle as well, but don't forget who was behind beta video cassettes. (Yes, I know the story, and I h
    • I agree, except the use of DRM already limits the music to Sony players anyways, so how does the memory stick make things any worse?

      AFAIK, there isn't any compatible DRM for music. Maybe CSS (the now-broken DVD restriction scheme) convinced the industry that if you let enough parties implement the technology somebody will mess up and let the cat out of the bag?

    • Sony seems to have realized that this is a problem... the Sony DSC-F828 digital camera includes both a Memory Stick slot and a Compact Flash/MicroDrive slot.

      There's more info at [].

      This gives you two things: (1) you can now consider the Sony if you already have CompactFlash and (2) if you don't own CompactFlash, you can buy this camera without worrying about locking yourself into Memory Stick technology.

      One problem, though--I believe writing to the memory stick
  • Retarded (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sseagle ( 715847 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @01:46PM (#9053656)
    Who really cares about sony's mp3 store solution, especially with the files being crippled. And it only works on the actual system it was compiled on apparently...
  • heh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by no-arg constructor ( 775215 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @01:47PM (#9053667)
    i don't think steve jobs has anything to fear from sony considering you have an old, aging minidisc format, working on only win98-xp pcs, and really not offering up that much initial space, 1 gig? i'm not even an mp3 whore and i have more music than that.
    • Re:heh (Score:3, Informative)

      by dead sun ( 104217 )
      I wouldn't exactly say Apple should start fearing, but you're a little too dismissive of MD as a format I think. Despite not having a huge US following it is still popular in many circles, including (around here at least) a lot of the tech people, myself included.

      So where to start, old and aging is semi-true in the light of the older players. They store a CD's worth of music at a decent compression, 2-3 at a reasonable compression, which I'd say rivals most reasonable MP3 bitrates, and the 4x mode isn't rea

  • by danielsfca2 ( 696792 ) * on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @01:47PM (#9053668) Journal
    ...will work only with Sony Memory Stick-compatible devices... ...1-gigabyte Hi-MD disc players...
    From the sonyconnect site []: "What devices are compatible with Connect?
    Any ATRAC-compatible device from Sony works with Connect."

    Great! This will be a huge hit with the people who thought Apple's music store doesn't support enough players.

    I wonder how many iPods there are out there in the public's hands for every Sony Memory-Stick and "Hi-MD" device. I'm guessing at least 4, and that's being generous to Sony.

    And 1GB. Wow. That's sooo much music. Has anyone at Sony ever even heard of hard drives? C'mon, I was expecting some sort of competition here, but this is more like a joke.

    Anyone know what restrictions the DRM imposes? They conveniently make no mention of it on their 5-page website (overview, features, download, customer support, independent label signup). I'd say that's pretty relevant information to put out front if you want to convince people to download your software.

    -Daniel Pritchard []
    • Sony's DRM is fucking ridiculous. Their own software imposes crazy restrictions even for your own MP3s! Mind you RealPlayer fixes this problem by circumventing the DRM altogether.

      I guess there go my hopes of having a NetMD plugin for iTunes! I love the NetMD player... it's small and it runs for 50 hours on a single AA battery. That and it's cheap -- I can drop it and not worry!
    • Some of us are avoiding an iPod like the plague because of its restrictions. I want to be able to play all kinds of music: Apple's protected AAC, MP3, Ogg, WM. But I can only do the first 2, and the third is probably only available through a hack.

      The first thing I do when I purchase something from iTunes music store is burn it to CD and recode it in 256 mbps MP3s.

      I'd mod the above as Flamebait. *Any* time competition enters the market it's good for the industry. I don't want Apple, or any other compan
      • by danielsfca2 ( 696792 ) * on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @02:01PM (#9053895) Journal
        I'd mod the above as Flamebait. *Any* time competition enters the market it's good for the industry.

        And you disagree with me here why? I didn't say it was bad for the industry!!
        I'm criticizing SonyConnect because the Sony store and players are more restrictive than Apple. If you hate Apple, then fine. Don't buy an iPod or don't use iTMS. But do you think Sony is going to support OGG? Do you think they'll support AAC (DRM or no)? If you do you're dreaming. And if you hate Apple because of their "restrictions" you are going to hate Sony even more.

        Sony makes Apple look like a bastion of free choice by comparison.
        • First off, I don't think Sony's DRM has been made entirely clear yet.

          Second, I know Sony isn't going to support AAC (although someone may figure out an iPod-like hack for Ogg). The point is that the more large competitors you get into the mix, the better the devices have to get. Your original post sounded like you were condemning Sony to failure because Apple's solution is so much better. It isn't.
      • I'm avoiding iPods because they're bloody expensive. $249 (mini) or $299 (regular) for a souped-up walkman? Ridiculous.

        Small flash-memory USB-stick mp3 players are priced around the $80-$90 mark, which is a much saner figure for personal music.

    • I don't know. ATRAC support is in a lot of products - most notably sony minidisc players. I'm not sure how high the adoption rate for minidisc is as opposed to iPods, but they've been around for a lot longer than ipods have.

      I'm curious about what kind of DRM is there as well. I know SonicStage is supposed to interact with windows DRM in some capacity, not sure why.

      My main problem with this is SonicStage. Can't get it working under wine (because of aforementioned windows DRM integration). And even in
    • MD is quite good in my opinion. I own one of the normal MD and I find it quite good. I think it has several advantages:
      - Cheap. Some asshole already stole my first one. I bought another one, that set me back like $130, but much less than an iPod, but for gym sessions, bike rides, plane trips, more than enough.
      - Cheap media. Sure they don't hold much, but at $2 per 170MB disk, I can carry arround good amount of music. Not as much as an iPod
      - Recordable. Optical and analog line-in. Live shows anyone? Many peo
      • oops, portable MD records don't have digital inputs!
      • by danielsfca2 ( 696792 ) * on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @04:04PM (#9055521) Journal
        > Cheap media. Sure they don't hold much, but at $2 per 170MB disk, I can carry arround good amount of music. Not as much as an iPod

        When I wrote this reply, I interpreted your comment differently. I thought you were saying the media is "not as much [cost] as an iPod" when you apparently meant "not as much music as an iPod." But this is still something to consider.

        $2 per 170MB disk
        First, observe how ridiculous Sony's pricing here is in itself, when a 700MB standards-based disk called CD-ROM is $0.10.

        Second, consider how many of these it would take to carry a substantial portion of music on you:

        Let's take my 15GB iPod to compare. That's 88.2 MiniDiscs. Aren't they encased in little sleeves like floppy disks? So that would only take up your entire backpack. And the cost...
        89 * $2.00 = $178.
        So add $166 to the cost of the player (which you quoted as $130). So at least $308. So for $9 less you could have all your music on the player at the same time, and you wouldn't need a backpack-load of discs to carry it. And it would take about 20 minutes to transfer it the first time instead of having to record 89 MiniDiscs which I'm pretty sure would require a few days and a LOT of patience.

        MiniDisc players are good for recording high quality audio, if you ever do that. And if you find the CD player a convenient way of listening to your music collection, but want something smaller, you probably wouldn't be disappointed by MD. But the whole point of good MP3 players (at least for me) is that you can put ALL of your music (or at least all the music that's important to you) on this player and never have to sit down for twenty minutes and think about "which 1% of my music should I take with me today?" With hard-drive based players, you can decide what you want to hear whenever you want, and have it playing five seconds later. Sony can't offer that with Memory Stick or with MD. They need to discover the hard drive. i don't see a real disadvantage to it.

        I mean, what's the big incentive to switch from CD to MD? "Well, it's a little smaller. And you can use our proprietary software to restrict your rights to listen to your own music!"

        Whereas the incentive to switch from CD to hard-drive players is much more tangible--carry all your music in a package much smaller than your CD [or MD] player, and it also doubles as an external hard drive. To update your collection, you plug it in and it downloads any new songs. This is much more compelling, and it's why Sony will lose this battle by a wide margin.
    • Has anyone at Sony ever even heard of hard drives?

      Yes. They're behind (as with the music store itself), but you only have to wait until this fall.

    • I wonder how many iPods there are out there in the public's hands for every Sony Memory-Stick and "Hi-MD" device. I'm guessing at least 4, and that's being generous to Sony.

      And 1GB. Wow. That's sooo much music. Has anyone at Sony ever even heard of hard drives? C'mon, I was expecting some sort of competition here, but this is more like a joke.

      It depends on whether the ordinary MD players will be compatible (they all use ATRAC). According to this link [] 56 million MD players had shipped worldwide at the

  • by conner_bw ( 120497 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @01:47PM (#9053677) Journal
    Sony is a plague that never ends. I bought a minidisc from them specifically to be able to digitally record my own music performances. I was falsely led to believe (by the sales person and the box) that this was possible. It has a USB cable after all.

    Turns out this was utter bullshit. The only thing i could digitally import into the mini disc was encrypted data from a crappy windows program named NetMD made by Sony that i could work around [] archaically with Nero. I couldn't output digitally either. I would have had better results using a cassette walkman.

    I was stuck with this piece of shit for a new year's set that has double generation loss via input and output. I used it with regrets and then sold it on ebay.

    Yeah, people don't care. Sony has brand recognition, blah blah blah, go back to sleep. But Sony makes products that are very locked down and cost much more than their competition. Why people like them is beyond me.

    Lesson learned: never buy Sony again.
    • Too bad you sold it. I got a package deal brand new for $70 at the local electronics store.

      I didn't install Sony's software (just the drivers and the OpenMG encoder) -- I use RealPlayer 10 which is surprisingly a decent product... Real cleaned up their act. The RealPlayer plugin for NetMD doesn't have DRM... although it takes a bit of work to get my iTMS purchased files onto my NetMD.

      Also if you purchased a more expensive model it would have had a SPDIF input.
    • Sony does make Good TV's and DVD players, however, that's the extent to which I like there products. Anything that is just proprietary BS, I just leave alone - hopefully this won't creep into the TV DVD market, though I hear they are making TV's that use memory sticks.
    • by Beautyon ( 214567 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @02:14PM (#9054090) Homepage
      Sony is a plague that never ends.

      It cannot be denied that SONY was once one of the greatest companies on earth. Take a look [] if you have not already seen this gallery of Walkmen. They got it right lots of times, in many areas.

      In this one area, digital music, they have got it completely wrong. This is unusual for SONY. Their portable digital music players have completely flopped, their proprietary encoder is a failure, and they are being left out in the cold in an area where they should be numnber one.

      They were in a position to set the rules. They own Columbia and its huge back catalogue. They have the technical expertise to build the most seductive portables. They have software developers. What they were/are missing is the foresight.

      They should have:

      Released open players instead of crappy crippled portable DRM factorys

      Released the entire Columbia music catalogue for free via a web site.

      Watched tens of millions buy their shiny players and split the money with their Columbia artists.

      Watch their CD sales increase.

      They would have owned the portable music player space, created the number one destination for music online, demonstrated that MP3s are the new radio, short circuted all the RIAA lawsuits, and....acted more like SONY.
      • by JonTurner ( 178845 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @03:04PM (#9054740) Journal
        >>They were in a position to set the rules. They own Columbia and its huge back catalogue. They have the technical expertise to build the most seductive portables. They have software developers. What they were/are missing is the foresight.

        Correct, but what Sony also has is accountants, and they exert undue influence in Sony's strategic decisions. Allow me to digress for a moment, and I'll explain why this matters.
        Sony is a two-pronged company -- they sell 1)content (music, movies, etc) and 2) components (televisions, vcrs, robots, etc.)
        These two divisions are opposed to one another. The component side wants to make the open, flexible "killer" hardware we want, but the content side of the company wants those devices locked down (to the point that they're not useful) so as to prevent "theft" of intellectual property, copying movies/music, etc. So these two halves are continuously fighting against one another and the CEO must decide what the right balance is.

        In step the Accountants. They're there to help the CEO make this decision, but Sony's beanmen only understand a static balance sheet -- as if Sony must choose between sales of Hardware or Content. They conclude that if a sony device can be used to copy music, they will lose sales from the content side of Sony, therefore the device must 1) be locked down, 2) be expensive enough to offset potential losses from the content side, 3)contain DRM to protect Sony's IP.
        Fortunately, Sony's not the only player in the market, so their sales remain poor and they end up squandering an opportunity to compete.

        This scenario is good!; the way I see it every company that fails at marketing a DRM device is a win for the consumer. Perhaps after years of disappointing sales, the boardroom will tire of seeing their money wasted and demand a decision, one way or the other (content vs. component) be made. Thus, the stalemate is broken and the company can move forward.

        In short, Sony's current "have it all" strategy is doomed in a free market*: Given the choice, people don't want DRM. Let's just hope Sony's (or any other company following this model) spectacular economic flame-out doesn't encourage them to pressure government officials to mandate DRM in order to prop up their failing business model.
  • by Doesn't_Comment_Code ( 692510 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @01:47PM (#9053680)
    That's a whole lot of restrictions in an already-fragmented market.

    The trendy people and the first-out-of-the-gate people have already gone to Apple. And people interested in their own personaly freedom and fair use will be using one of the services that doesn't include all this hand-tying. So I think Sony might get 10 or 20 people to use this.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @01:48PM (#9053695)
    The owners of copyrighted material often say they suffer "harm" and "economic loss" resulting from illegal copying. Like most arguments put forth by copyright enthusiasts, it holds little water - for several reasons:

    The claim is mostly inaccurate because it presupposes that the friend would otherwise have bought a copy from the publisher. That is occasionally true, but more often false; and when it is false, the claimed loss does not occur.

    The claim is partly misleading because the word "loss" suggests events of a very different nature--events in which something they have is taken away from them. For example, if the bookstore's stock of books were burned, or if the money in the register got torn up, that would really be a "loss." We generally agree it is wrong to do these things to other people. But when your friend avoids the need to buy a copy of a book, the bookstore and the publisher do not lose anything they had. A more fitting description would be that the bookstore and publisher get less income than they might have got. The same consequence can result if your friend decides to play bridge instead of reading a book. In a free market system, no business is entitled to cry "foul" just because a potential customer chooses not to deal with them.

    The claim is begging the question because the idea of "loss" is based on the assumption that the publisher "should have" got paid. That is based on the assumption that copyright exists and prohibits individual copying. But that is just the issue at hand: what should copyright cover? If the public decides it can share copies, then the publisher is not entitled to expect to be paid for each copy, and so cannot claim there is a "loss" when it is not. In other words, the "loss" comes from the copyright system; it is not an inherent part of copying. Copying in itself hurts no one.

    • Let us assume there is at some point in time unrestricted redistribution. Anyone can copy and redistribute (share) anything they want. Let's assume this "sharing" takes place on the Internet.

      I claim that this sets up a situation whereby there are two classes of people: those that have fast Internet connections with the knowledge to use them, and those that do not. The "Internet savvy" folks get everything they want for free, the others have to pay.

      Is this a tax on ignorance? On lack of tech skills? I
  • So Then (Score:2, Interesting)

    DRM copy-protection scheme and will work only with Sony Memory Stick-compatible devices including VAIO computers

    DRM and proprietary memory stick, that just doubles my reasons not to subscribe to it.

  • S.C.O (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @01:49PM (#9053718)
    Yeah, Sony Connect Online. Only 699 US dollars per song.
  • by paulproteus ( 112149 ) <> on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @01:51PM (#9053738) Homepage
    I've been buying music lately from, covered lately in Slashdot. A review of it can be found here [].

    It's cheap (1 cent per megabyte), great quality (offers me lossless FLAC files), and legal (royalties paid to ROMS, the relevant group in Russia). And the files are unencumbered

    All the problems of iTunes (summarized excellently at Downhill Battle []) still apply. Why go for something restricted, too expensive, and too controlled by the media monopoly, when you can get cheap legal music from Allofmp3 or similar services?
  • by jkabbe ( 631234 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @01:53PM (#9053773)
    Can blonde people use it or only brunettes?
  • Deja Vu (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shr1n1 ( 263515 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @01:53PM (#9053785) Journal
    Sony still doesn't get it.

    Betamax : Tried to push its own standard. Failed even though it was superior.

    Minidisc : See above

    Memory Stick : Again persists on going it alone even though other standards are more popular and widespread (CF and SD)

    Sony connect : Lauches its own spin when other established players are already in the market.

    Interoperability means nothing to these guys.
    • I completely agree.

      Some companies (Sony et al) get so wrapped up in themselves that they can't understand why anyone would want to do anything their own way, or without purchasing something. It all comes down to the mindset of the company. On one hand you have people who think

      "What do my customers want? How can I make them happy and make them want to do business with me?"

      Hooray for them! But they are a dying breed. Now you are more likely to find companies that think

      "This is what you want t
    • I hate to tell you, but the minidisc format is very popular outside of the US, especially in Europe. You can get albums on MD like you can on CD and everything.

      It just never really caught on here in the states.
    • Playstation: Tried to push its own standard and, er, made billions of dollars!

      Furthermore, I don't think the minidisc is a failure. Nor the memory stick. They might not have dominated the market, but that doesn't mean they are failures.
    • Re:Deja Vu (Score:3, Interesting)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 )
      Interoperability means something to these guys, it is the enemy. They want to bring about complete end to end vendor lock-in, and they want to be the only vendor. some other companies can make some compatible devices, but they pay royalties to Sony, so doing so is really fucking stupid and it amounts to shooting themselves in the foot. Backing closed standards just motivates other companies to produce more of them.

      Anyway "Betamaxing" is a more or less well-accepted term for licensing something into oblivi

    • Re:Deja Vu (Score:5, Informative)

      by badasscat ( 563442 ) <basscadet75@yah o o .com> on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @02:40PM (#9054451)
      Betamax : Tried to push its own standard. Failed even though it was superior.

      OT, but to correct this little urban legend... "superior" is in some ways relative, and in Beta's case applies to only one measure: resolution. Even there the difference was small and was more than offset by the tiny capacity of Beta tapes - you could fit far more on a VHS tape, so I'm not sure this is an overall technical win for Beta. Regardless, SuperVHS was on the market at the same time as consumer Beta and those wanting a sharper picture could simply opt for an SVHS machine (as I did) to get the best of all possible worlds. Obviously, VHS also offered the most choice in hardware and software, so I've always thought it questionable when I see Beta listed as "superior" to VHS. Beta was just poorly designed and implemented all around.

      The Beta format is still used in news and other professional industries, though vastly upgraded over the consumer version (and with the obvious added expense). It's still not a "standard" though, as other tape formats are common as well.

      Minidisc : See above

      Minidisc was never superior to anything. ATRAC initially compressed music pretty badly, to the point where it was initially not much better than analog cassette tapes, let alone CD's or even MP3's. Capacity was always an issue with MD as well, as it was with beta. MD was (and to an extent still is) useful for certain things like recording live shows or DJ sets, where you could plug a portable player in and basically have a poor-man's DAT. Sound quality was not equal to DAT, but the discs were/are more durable and user-friendly.

      MD did fairly well in Japan but it was despite its technical limitations, not because of any superiority. It really succeeded there because the discs and players were small, not for any other reason.

      I guess my point is this music store is just another in a series of Sony blunders. They've had plenty of success stories as well, but they're no stranger to failure and this seems like another doomed venture to me. How many crippled music file sites can the market support, anyway? If iTunes cannot even meet its own expectations (despite Jobs' proclamation that it has "exceeded all expectations", 70 million is still a lot less than 100 million), then I don't see what vast untapped market Sony is expecting to materialize. They're going after the same tiny market of overpaying, choice-hating DRM-lovers that Apple is, and not very well, I might add.
  • Playstation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by athakur999 ( 44340 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @01:54PM (#9053798) Journal
    It'd be interesting if Sony added some features to the upcoming PS3 to included support for their music store. With game consoles gradually veering towards becoming "home media centers" (or whatever the buzz word is today), this seems like a possible move.

  • by imidazole2 ( 776413 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @01:56PM (#9053821) Homepage Journal
    Sony's stuff is restricted to Sony's patforms. At least Apple's iTunes software is multiplatform, openly usable (there are cgi scripts that will query the database and get songs for you) - I dont think Sony will get very far with their online music store.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    "Walk into a store," he says. "You don't see MiniDisc players promoted or people talking about them. Its time was three years ago, and it didn't make it."

    Since everything he says is wrong, can we assume that Sony actually has a chance?
  • DOA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ars-Fartsica ( 166957 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @01:59PM (#9053870)
    The tracks use the MagicGate DRM copy-protection scheme and will work only with Sony Memory Stick-compatible devices

    You would think the Betamaxalicious success of MiniDisc (yeah yeah, its big in Japan, whatever) would have taught Sony a lesson here. Its amazing, Sony has gone from being one of the smartest companies in consumer electronics to one of the dumbest in a very short period of time.

    Their financials are in the crapper and they can't seem to bring anything to market to dissaude iPod buyers.

  • by telstar ( 236404 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @01:59PM (#9053876)
    So they've got their featured artist featured on the right side of the homepage. You'd think maybe you could click on the graphic and access those tracks? Nah! That'd be too logical. Usability. Start there, then add the fluffy stuff later.
  • No Mac Client (Score:2, Insightful)

    by larry2k ( 592744 )
    We're sorry.
    We know you are interested in using the Connect music store. Unfortunately SonicStage only works on Windows 98SE and above.
    We have no immediate plans to support other operating systems at this time. However, we believe this is an important user base and we hope to support it in the future.

    This is so sad... i'll stick with iTunes

  • ' The tracks use the MagicGate DRM copy-protection scheme and will work only with Sony Memory Stick-compatible devices including VAIO computers, CLIE PDAs, MiniDisc, CD and Walkman products."

    So this thing will ONLY work with those devices? They qualified the statement with the term 'including' so that makes me wonder if other computers could use it besides VAIO's. If it is indeed limited to VAIOs for computers, well....Sony just shot itself in the foot with a BFG. Not only are they entering an already s

  • by pubjames ( 468013 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @02:02PM (#9053911)

    When will the music companies realise that $1 per track is far too expensive, and their profits would probably increase if they acutally decreased the prices. And they'd have much happier customers as a result.

    If tracks were 10c each, I would quite happily buy whole albums without worrying if I might not like them after a couple of plays. I buy up whole genres of music - if it cost me $50 to buy up all the best punk tracks of the 70's (or whatever), I would do that, despite it being a genre I never normally listen to.

    However, I spend very little on music. I just don't like to get ripped off and I don't think $1 a track is justifiable when they have virtually zero distribution costs. And don't give me all that crap about how expensive it is to promote a record, or how the cost has to be high to pay for the flops. That's just all bullshit, especially with the near zero distribution and manufacture costs that the internet allows.
    • Occam's Razor would indicate that with many people's livelihoods at stake, the online music retailers have done a substantial amount of research into the pricing of music -- at least, more than the average Slashdotter. Anecdotal stories aside, it appears that $0.99 is the current point on the supply/demand curve that generates satisfactory volume and profitability. Pricing theory is an incredibly detailed art and science, and you can be sure that companies of this size are spending the bucks to do the mat

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @02:07PM (#9053986)
    I'm amazed at the tone of comments here. Everybody's saying since Apple's done it already then forget it. Aren't you folks for choice? Do you really want a monopoly by Apple, no matter how good it is? It's not "fragmentation" it's "more choice is good for the consumer."

    OK, this one has DRM and vendor lock-in etc. But it's still a competition for Apple. And unless Sony and Apple get into a cartel, that's a good thing. Because at the very least, Sony can generate an environment where prices may even drop. Remember, you wouldn't see any sale prices on your favorite food if there was only one supermarket chain in existence.

    Are you people really such sad, ignorant elitists?
  • Fragmented market (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AndyChrist ( 161262 ) <andy_christ@ya[ ].com ['hoo' in gap]> on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @02:07PM (#9053990) Homepage
    All these services requiring their own software, or even their own devices...or at least strongly discouraging using anything else...

    I'm sorry, but I can't help but say anything but "fuck you!" to all that.

    If they can make their DRM work just fine with winamp, and not require me to have any special software to use their site, I might be able to deal with it.

    You might try and compare it to online games, but most of those, you get the game and the rest is pretty much automatic. It's more like if Amazon and Barnes and Noble required you to use their own proprietary browsers to shop their web sites.

    It might be MEANT to be a pain in the ass to make it harder to switch to a competitor...but the first site that can keep out of court and turn a profit while using nothing more than a web browser, will be the one who can REALLY take on Apple.

  • by ambienceman ( 721763 ) <> on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @02:10PM (#9054037) Homepage
    If customers buy responsibly and if NetMD/OpenMG was any indication of how tight sony's DRM is, they shouldn't do so well against Apple. Apple has the advantage of the iPod and the fact that its players hold loads more music than an MD (which you have to burn) or a Memory Stick (which you burn your money buying). sony is just too restrictive when it comes to things. I couldn't even upload a recording I made via NetMD. I had to use a freaking optical out cable and manually record it. Who wants restrictions like that?
  • I'm imagining the review meeting held one or two years from now where all the Sony execs sit down and try to figure out why their music store was such a dismal failure...

    They'll probably talk for hours and never really figure out what happened. They probably don't even realize how badly they suck.
  • by sulli ( 195030 ) * on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @02:13PM (#9054068) Journal
    1998 called, they want their technology back. Do they really think the iPod generation will go back to Memory Stick for their tunes?

    This service is dead dead dead dead DEAD . Toast. Kaputt. Stick a fork in it.

  • Betamax and VHS... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pluvia ( 774424 )
    ...are what first sprung to mind. Perhaps the analogy isn't quite right, but I think Sony's making a somewhat similar mistake here. But then I realized that maybe Sony considered Betamax to be a success? ... and at the time, they didn't even control any content, like they do now.

    It's interesting how Sony [] portrays their own history.
  • Official Policy (Score:4, Informative)

    by Alex711 ( 585263 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @02:35PM (#9054382)

    Sony Connect hereby grants you a non-exclusive, non-transferable, revocable license to use the Connect Downloads in accordance with the following limitations (the "Limitations on Use"):

    Permitted Uses: You may play the Connect Downloads an unlimited number of times on up to three (3) personal computers that are registered with the Connect service, including the personal computer on which the Connect Downloads are originally downloaded. Once downloaded to that personal computer, you may transfer the licensed Connect Downloads an unlimited number of times (except for WMG's Content, which may be transferred up to three (3) times) to portable music devices and media that read the OpenMG DRM such as the HiMD, the Net MD, and the Memory Stick media. You may not thereafter transfer, copy or export (or the like) such Connect Download from one such device to another, or to any media of any kind without maintaining the OpenMGDRM. In addition, you may also "burn" up to a total of ten (10) (up to five (5) permanent copies of the Connect Downloads in compressed form in the Atrac3 codec encrypted and protected by the OpenMG DRM and up to five (5) Redbook CD's) to either blank recordable CD-R compact discs or blank recordable CD-RW compact disc (i.e., a physical, non-interactive record configuration that conforms to either (i) in the case of CD-Rs, the so-called "Orange Book Part II" technical specification for "write once" compact discs or (ii) in the case of CD-RWs, the so-called "Orange Book Part III" technical specification for "re-writable" compact discs). Any burning or transferring capabilities of the Connect Downloads are solely an accommodation to you and shall not constitute a grant or waiver (or other limitation or implication) of any rights of the copyright owners of the sound recording and underlying musical composition embodied in the Connect Download.

    Non-Permitted Uses: Any use of the sound recordings as embodied in the Connect Download other than as permitted above is a violation of the copyright in such sound recording under applicable laws, and is prohibited. Except as expressly permitted in the "Permitted Uses" section above, you may not reproduce, distribute or transfer the Connect Downloads, in any format. For example, you may not: (i) transfer the Connect Downloads to anyone else; (ii) register more than 3 computers with the Connect store at any one time; (iii) copy or transfer the Connect Downloads to more than the number of portable music devices expressly permitted in the "Permitted Uses" section above; (iv) "burn" more than ten (10) copies of any particular Connect Download to blank recordable compact disc; or (v) copy or transfer the Connect Downloads to any storage device or blank media not specifically authorized in the "Permitted Uses" section above. In addition, you may not reverse engineer, transcode, decompile, translate, adapt, modify, disassemble or otherwise tamper with the Content, or the software, or circumvent any technology designed to enforce these Limitations on Use. You further agree that you will not attempt to modify the software or the Usage Rules for any reason whatsoever, including for the purpose of disguising or changing ownership of the Content.
  • by CerebusUS ( 21051 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @02:36PM (#9054396)
    Do not use SonicStage while logged on to a domain user account under Windows 2000 Professional, Windows XP Professional or Windows XP Home Edition.

    SonicStage should be installed while logged on to an account with administrator privileges.

    So I can't be logged into a domain while using the software? so much for the "at-work" crowd.
  • by doctor_no ( 214917 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @02:38PM (#9054416)

    This is actually much bigger than you think. . . in fact it's much
    bigger than Sony or portables

    This Sony Connect actually fits into a larger distro called AnyMusic available in Japan that was
    created by a cooperation of Japanese consumer electronic firms including Sony. AnyMusic []

    Sony, Kenwood, Pioneer, Sharp, Onkyo, Marantz, Denon, JVC, and Yamaha
    plan on creating consumer electronic devices beyond portables that will
    be comptable with the online distro (using Atrac3 and OpenMG X/Label
    Gate); also likely the Sony PSP/PS3 will also be compatible as well as
    other non-sony devices.

    Here are some devices that support the format:

    Pioneer []

    Kenwood []

    Sony []
    NetJuke (40GB HDD)


    Corporate []

    CE []

  • by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @02:44PM (#9054510)
    I find it interesting that the RIAA spent some time trying to badger Apple into increasing the price-per-song [] on iTMS, but now Sony (an RIAA member) comes out with their own service selling songs for the same price.

    • You can typically take what Andrew Orlowski writes with a grain of salt, or at least apply an appropriate filter. He is not an unbiased journalist.

      I don't know if he used the word "badger" or you, but that's hugely overstating it. Some record companies were discussing changing the pricing, but discussing pricing strategy is a major part of what all companies do -- even "good" companies like Apple and Red Hat.

  • by SamBaughman ( 74713 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @03:44PM (#9055255) Journal
    Here's what I dug up from their horrible site. It's buried in the Terms & Conditions, With my observed differences to iTMS added for flavor.

    Three PC's running Connect which may play your purchased files. Which is only available on PCs, no Mac version. iTMS just increased this to 5 PC's.

    Each track may be "burned" 10 times: 5 times as a compressed, DRM protected file, and 5 times as an unprotected CD audio track. iTMS makes no claims on limiting the number of times you may copy the protected file. Each track can be burned from a single playlist 7 times (two more than Connect), and from different playlists over and over (no total burn limit).

    Unlimited copies to devices which support OpenMG copy protection. Unless you have a file from "WMG", which can only be placed on 3 portable devices. All of the compatible devices are made by Sony. iTMS lets you make unlimited copies to iPods, made by Apple. Depends on the device you like.

    Sounds likes iTMS has them blown away. I'm not sure how (or if) these are enforced by Connect. How you do keep people from backing up their purchased files to CDs?
  • by OgGreeb ( 35588 ) <> on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @05:31PM (#9056781) Homepage

    I could understand Sony Connect if it existed in a music vacuum, but since it has competition, they would have to answer the single question: What is the compelling advantage to the consumer to buy their product?.

    • It isn't cheaper than the competition.
    • It isn't more widely accessible; it's limited to Windows and a proprietary application.
    • It doesn't enable more freedoms to use the product then the competition. It's has much more restrictive DRM and a lesser-used codec.
    • It's not usuable on a wider variety of player hardware.
    • It doesn't have the support of anyone outside Sony.
    • It doesn't provide more, or more useful extras, like printable album covers.

    While I have a number of Sony devices which include memory sticks, I haven't considered tasking any of them to be music players because of other limitations inherent to the devices. For example. minimal available memory in a Clie, or the availability of more convenient modes of usage (CDs) in a VAIO notebook.

    To repeat, I can't find a single compelling reason to consider purchasing from their online store over its competition. Can you?

  • by poofmeisterp ( 650750 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @08:12PM (#9058549) Journal
    ...that by purchasing these DRMed products and music that you're just encouraging and supporting these large corporations and the **AA's business models?

    Even if fair use it taken into consideration through the use of proprietary hardware, the big companies will take those rights away as soon as they have M$-sized market share (proportionally-speaking) and people can't afford to switch to a platform that takes their interests into consideration.

    I guess if you're gullible enough to chase after the pretty bells and whistles without considering the consequences, you deserve whatever happens. I guess that really means I don't have a point.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982