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Sony Admits MP3 Error 587

inflex writes "In a rare show admission of taking a wrong turn, Sony's officials have admitted that their stance on MP3 players was wrong." While this was pretty obvious to anyone who has ever shopped for a portable MP3 player, it is nice to see Sony admit their shortcoming. Ken Kutaragi puts it best when he says, "We're growing up," and with any luck future devices won't be crippled with silly formats no one uses.
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Sony Admits MP3 Error

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  • Good (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mirko ( 198274 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:04AM (#11430588) Journal
    It's nice that they finally admitted it but, in another context, they still have to get rid of DVD Region encoding otherwise it's only rethoric.
    • Better (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Ok, Bill Gates, your turn to admit how your products suck.
    • Re:Good (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SilentChris ( 452960 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:49AM (#11430943) Homepage
      "It's nice that they finally admitted it but, in another context, they still have to get rid of DVD Region encoding otherwise it's only rethoric."

      Huh? One is an incompatible format that made using Sony players an incredible chore. The other is a universally-accepted format that, while frowned upon, doesn't encrypt content (and it can very easily be avoided by using a multi-region DVD player). The two are apples and oranges.
      • Re:Good (Score:5, Informative)

        by k98sven ( 324383 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @10:57AM (#11431671) Journal
        Huh? One is an incompatible format that made using Sony players an incredible chore. The other is a universally-accepted format that, while frowned upon, doesn't encrypt content (and it can very easily be avoided by using a multi-region DVD player).

        I think the GP was referring to that Sony does not make any multi-region DVD players, and is just about the only manufacturer who doesn't. And for the very same reason Sony had for not making MP3 players: the interests of Sony's music and film products were allowed to take precedence over the interests of electronics consumers.
      • Re:Good (Score:4, Funny)

        by ectoraige ( 123390 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @11:24AM (#11431955) Homepage
        The two are apples and oranges.

        Apples and Oranges - A Comparison [].
    • Re:Good (Score:4, Informative)

      by EpsCylonB ( 307640 ) <eps@epscylo n b . c om> on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:59AM (#11431065) Homepage
      Its not surpising that sony took an anti mp3 stance, there are two obvious reasons.

      They had been pushing mini disc since the mid 90's as the replacement for the walkman, a few years before the mp3 format surfaced.

      They also own a lot of music labels as well as being a publisher themselves. The implied link with piracy that mp3 has always had (and still does) meant it would be very difficult for sony to get behind it. Imagine a sony owned label suing a pirate for having an illegal mp3 on their sony mp3 player, not that there is anything technically wrong with that scenario, it just looks like sony are sending out mixed messages.

      Sony is whats known as a vertically integrated company, they make music and films, they also make the hifi's and televisions that you listen and watch with.

      Considering how wide sony's product line is I am surprised the company doesn't run into more of these problems. It reminds me of fox news suing the fox channel for alledgedly slandering them in an episode of the simpsons. It was eventually stopped by rupert murdock himself, he quite sensibly decided it was silly for two companies he owns to sue each other. I am surprised this doesn't happen more often in the world of multi national conglomerates.
    • Re:Good (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LWATCDR ( 28044 )
      MP3 has become the standard for music to ignore it was dumb. Will Sony support Ogg and FLAC in the next device as well?
      If they must ignore a format please let it be WMA.
  • by cipher uk ( 783998 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:04AM (#11430592)
    "We're growing up," and with any luck future devices won't be crippled with silly formats no one uses.

    why did the end quotes have to be there :(
  • Article. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:05AM (#11430600)
    Sony admits MP3 error
    Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo
    January 21, 2005

    SONY missed out on potential sales from MP3 players and other gadgets because it was overly proprietary about music and entertainment content, the head of the company's video-game unit said.

    Ken Kutaragi, president of Sony Computer Entertainment, said he and other Sony employees had been frustrated for years with management's reluctance to introduce products like Apple's iPod, mainly because the Sony had music and movie units that were worried about content rights.

    But Sony's divisions were finally beginning to work together and share a common agenda, Mr Kutaragi said at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Tokyo.

    "It's just starting," he said. "We are growing up."

    Sony officials have rarely publicly said the company's proprietary stance was mistaken.


    Mr Kutaragi, who has long been viewed as a candidate to lead Sony, was unusually direct in acknowledging Sony had made an error.

    Sony's music players did not initially support MP3 files and only played Sony's own Atrac format.

    Sony's technology innovation had been "diluted", Mr Kutaragi said

    "We have to concentrate on our original nature - challenging and creating," he said.

    Once the powerhouse of global electronics, with success exemplified by its Walkman, Sony has lost some of its glamour lately, losing out in profitability and market share to cheaper Asian rivals.

    Mr Kutaragi - known as the "Father of the PlayStation" for making the game machine a pillar of Sony's business - said the new PSP, or PlayStation Portable, handheld will grow into a global platform for enjoying music and movies as well as games.

    The Associated Press
    • Re:Article. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Rigor Morty ( 149783 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:19AM (#11430711) Journal
      Out of all of the parent article, the most significant part of the posted article for me was this one unintentionally-included word...


      Because the post is about a large company realizing the market isn't swayed by it's actions, this single word is profound, in a poetic justice sort of way. It says that the consumer, not the producer, has final say in what they are exposed to.

      It's almost an ironic recursion. It's hard evidence of the future direction of market interests.
  • by jxyama ( 821091 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:06AM (#11430605)
    give consumers what consumers want, not what you want consumers to want (to make the most money)
    • Well in the article it says that "Sony's music players did not initially support MP3 files and only played Sony's own Atrac format.".

      I think that's not correct. I've got a Sony MP3-CD player that plays mp3s (not sure about ATRAC) and I bought it couple of months after Apple introduced the first iPod (so well over two years ago). Only the next generation of Sony players started being Atrac only (stupid move of course).
      • by pqdave ( 470411 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @10:59AM (#11431697)
        I think primarily the minidisk players. I bought a NetMD player for my wife last year, and once music was on the thing, it was fantastic--Good price for the unit, unbeatable price for disks compared to equal capacity flash, the player was rugged and a good form factor. With native MP3 support and decent software for transferring files, it's only real rival would have been the iPod.

        Unfortunatly the software made it nearly impossible to put music from MP3's on the player, even though there was a big MP3 label on the box. Both buggy and with a horrible user interface. Putting a batch of MP3's on is a two-stage process with lots of individual steps requiring user interaction, lots of time and a good chance it would crash before you were done. If that part was easier, I'd have bought several more players, but as is nobody wants to use the one we have.
    • Maybe they will add OGG-support now, just to be sure they don't make the same mistake twice and miss the boat again.

      Well, it probably won't happen.

      But I DO think that if there ever wasa time for users to let Sony know they want OGG support, it is NOW!
    • by djupedal ( 584558 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @10:00AM (#11431084)
      > give consumers what consumers want, not what you want consumers to want

      I was living/working in Japan in the early '90s, and it was common to hear how Sony took great pains to listen to students, artists, housewives, etc. as to what they wanted - in time, of course, that approach changed when Sony got into the entertainment industry. The believed the phrase 'content is king' and jumped in with both feet.

      This marriage resulted in the kind of mindset within Sony that we all know and loath in the US...that of the music industry wanting to keep the 'album' as a metric - bleeding the customer again and again and again. CD's will mean lower cost...right...

      Sony can try to go back, but other companies have the lead. I admired Sony until I got to Japan and found out the locals don't think much of the company, actually....too western thinking for the average Japanese consumer.

      Today, the record/entertainment industry is the one bleeding, and Sony only has itself to blame for being in the same boat. Sony execs may cut those ties, but they can never wash the blood off of their hands.
    • by Hangtime ( 19526 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @10:02AM (#11431102) Homepage
      Actually this is a pretty interesting comment because the first portion of the comment is kinda of the antithesis of Sony. There is some fascinating literature about how Sony went about creating the Walkman never listening to what really consumers said they wanted. The key thought being that consumers never know what they want. This kinda of flag is great to have when you busting through into a new market, witness the Walkman itself, but suicide when your going into a very mature market. This is where Sony stumbled. If this were 1998 again and Sony was facing off against the first solid-state MP3 player (the Rio from Diamond Multimedia for you history buffs) then it may well of had an excellent chance of succeeding. However, since this MP3 player came out six years after the fact it was DOA. Policy and thought must be flexible, if it is not then you risk something far worse then Sony faced, obsolences and bankruptcy.

      Second, there is a reason the number of conglomerates is very small (when I say conglomerates I mean companies that have business that vary widely from each other) for instance Sony who makes tape drives but also produces feature films. Too many hands in the cookie jar and too much politics across the business units. If Sony Electronics was its own seperate entity then I would wager there would be no such thing as an iPod because Sony would have cornered the market and we would all have Sony MP3 players.
  • by CoMmEnT23 ( 675063 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:07AM (#11430612)
    If I had to do it all over again, I would never have bought that MiniDisc player.
    • by theblueprint ( 749157 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:18AM (#11430700)
      Agreed. I bought an iPod this December and tried to give my 2 yr. old Sony MiniDisc player to about five people, and no one would take it.
    • by jxyama ( 821091 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:50AM (#11430962)
      i assume you are not in japan...

      sony really did miss a very narry window of opportunity in the mid-90's before the CD burners took off for the mini disc to succeed outside of japan. when mp3s became popular in late 90's, that sealed its fate.

      in japan, mini disc succeeded for two reasons - rental CD shops are common and small profile/protected discs/recording capability were all favored by a country full of people commuting by train.

      sony misread the american market, which generally do not favor new formats, don't care much about small profile or the protected discs. only musicians took up the recording capabilities. what sony should have done in america was to promote albums in mini disc format, and perhaps price it a tad below CDs. never happened...

      i liked my mini disc player. i used it extensively for about 3 yeras from 1999 when i converted all of my CDs into MDs. but as soon as i switched to an iPod, my collection of about 200 MDs pretty much died instantly. ever since then, i only pull out MDs to check to see if there are any songs I'm still "missing" in my mp3 collection.

      • by thisissilly ( 676875 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:33PM (#11432772)
        in japan...rental CD shops are common

        Ever wonder why they aren't here in the US? Ever wonder why you can rent movies, console video games, heck even music videos, but not music?

        Because the industry got it coded into law [], forbidding "rental, lease or lending". Japan has no such law, which is why CD rental stores are common there. Note the same law is also why you can rent console video games, but not PC video games.

        Libraries were fortunate enough to have been given and excemption, which is why you can borrow music CDs from your local public library.

    • by lidocaineus ( 661282 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @10:30AM (#11431364)
      Really? Well, um, maybe you should've done some research before buying into the format. Because I know that when I was transferring music digitally on and off the discs, the iPod was still five years down the line, and nothing was comparable. I won't even get into how different the two beasts are, but suffice to say, caveat emptor.

      Now I love my iPod and I no longer have a reason to buy MD devices (I don't do nearly as much recording anymore), but anyone doing even CURSORY comparisons of the two types of devices should be able to pull apart which one they should purchase.
  • sure... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by myom ( 642275 )
    This sounds nice and all, but it is a move Sony only would have taken if they make more money out of it.

    DVD region encoding, the Blueray/HD DVD wars (as they did with Betamax/VHS) and other issues where they are more bull headed will go on... until they jump the train where they will once again make more money.

    It is all part of normal business, but do not for a moment think Sony has changed.
  • by Brento ( 26177 ) * <brento@[ ] ['bre' in gap]> on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:08AM (#11430621) Homepage
    Alright, Sony, now let's talk about this Memory Stick...
    • by Psykechan ( 255694 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:45AM (#11430904)
      There's a reason why Sony put Memory Sticks in their devices. It's so that they can *gasp* sell more memory sticks.

      Proprietary formats are the way of big business. "You've bought our system, now let us sell you accessories." Anyone who owns a console game system should be well familiar with this. Why can't I use the same memory card on my Gamecube and my PS2? Because they don't want you too. Why are all of the controller ports different and not just simple USB? This is especially glaring as the Xbox is standard USB with a funky plug. Manufactures make the big money selling add-ons or licensing fees from third partys who make add-ons.

      Proprietary formats are there to create another license revenue stream for the manufacturer. It's not that OGG isn't popular, it's just that they don't control it. Sony has demonstrated that they would dump MP3 if they could. DRM is there not so that you don't pirate the media contents, but so that the format licensor can legally force it's usage and force payment for said usage.
  • by Pan T. Hose ( 707794 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:08AM (#11430625) Homepage Journal
    I hope it was choosing MP3 instead of the superior Xiphophorus Helleri Ogg Vorbis sound format. I am really sick of that unpronounceable "MP3"--seriously, what were they thinking?
  • The boneheaded move of 2004?
  • Obvious (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:09AM (#11430633)
    "...and with any luck future devices won't be crippled with silly formats no one uses."

    Sooo, no Ogg Vorbis players from Sony.

  • by Viceice ( 462967 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:09AM (#11430634)
    Sony is about one of those companies seriously capable of making a real iPod killer.

    iPods are by no means a superior product. it uses dated technology and lose out in terms of features and price to other players. What makes it sell is that it has the Apple brandname behind it.

    I think Sony is about one of few competitors with the sort of brand that can compete if they get their act togather.

    • I disagree, again. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Before iPod Apple had about 3% of the U.S. personal computer market share. After iPod, Apple has about a 3% market share. iPod however has about 70% of the mobile digital audio market. iPod is just a good product. It's fashionable, it's crash proof and if people read the instruction manual with it, it's battery will last quite a long time. Also most iPod users use the Microsoft Windows platform. I doubt you'll see any iPod Killer from Sony. If you watched the MacWorld expo and have read any of the rumors on
    • Easy to tell you've never actually used an iPod.
    • by GreatDrok ( 684119 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:53AM (#11431006) Journal
      Sony is about one of those companies seriously capable of making a real iPod killer.

      How many times must this be said......?

      The iPod is not the killer product, iTunes is. All these people hoping for an iPod killer to come along need to remember that the software you use to interface to the thing is far more important than any other factor. Previously I had a NetMD and quite apart from the fact that it didn't play MP3, the software was ghastly. Sure I could import stuff from other formats and the likes but it was so clumsy compared with iTunes. When I got my Mac I tried to use my NetMD with it but of course Sony didn't provide any software support. What little open source software existed for it was restricted to seeing the tracks and starting and stopping it. You couldn't actually record onto the thing with it. Typical Sony. So I sold it on Ebay and put the money towards an iPod. End result, much happier but also I realised just how great iTunes is, it completes the iPod.

      I think for a true iPod competitor to come along it is either going to have to have some seriously nice software backed up by a great music store, or it should just work with iTunes.

    • The iPod is so popular because it is the easiest player to use. Apple's moderate (being generous here) share in every other market it's in--markets that it has in for decades--should be proof that the Apple name itself is worth nothing except to the single-digit percentage of True Believers. They're growing, sure, but the iPod was a smash despite being an Apple product. If it's popular now in part because of the name, it's because that name earned the reputation of being the best. Basically, you're putting
    • Half true. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by abb3w ( 696381 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @10:45AM (#11431550) Journal
      iPods are by no means a superior product.


      it uses dated technology and lose out in terms of features and price to other players.

      Correct; by any and perhaps all of these means, there are a number of products definitely superior to the iPod.

      However, if your means of comparison is file space per gram or per cc, it has few competitors; and if your means of comparison is based on quality of interface, the iPod is definitely superior to the competition. One need not use bleeding edge tech to create a superior product, you can simply put existing stuff together better than anyone else.

      Apple does human-use engineering better than almost anyone else. I didn't find the cost worth the improved usability, and went with an Archos product. I also prefer a command line to a window; this may mark me as an uber-geek, but far more certainly marks me as a weirdo. (Of course, the fact that I refer to iPod users as "pod people" is more obvious evidence....) Most humans place a higher value over improved usability than on improvements to other features.

      I think Sony is about one of few competitors with the sort of brand that can compete if they get their act togather.

      With this, I agree completely.

    • Too Late (Score:3, Insightful)

      by af_robot ( 553885 )
      Sony could make iPod killer a looong time ago! Even before first flash-based mp3 players like Rio.
      They just needed to add mp3 decoder to MD and make MD as a USB/FireWire mass storage device. Sony liked FireWire aka iLink and they created PERFECT MD players - small, sexy and power-efficient.
  • But... (Score:2, Insightful)

    will they play .ogg files??? :)
  • by vudufixit ( 581911 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:11AM (#11430642)
    I never understood why they do this.
    I was livid when they created "memory sticks" and didn't offer anything that made them more compelling than SmartMedia or CompactFlash in terms of price, capacity or both.
    • I never understood why they do this.

      Because Sony are the Microsoft of the hardware world. They adopted NIH syndrome as a policy and it has served them well. They will always make their first try with a bizzarely idiosyncratic design in the hope that they can trade on their name to get initial sales and lock potential competitors out. Stage two is `embrace and extend'. Watch out for MP3 players from Sony with an enhanced `MP3+' format.

      BTW, The Economist this week has an interesting article about Samsung'

  • I hope they do make a move to more compatable hardware and I hope they realine their pricing too.

    Sony have been trading on their brand for too long and the higher prices are hardly every justified.

    I simply avoid Sony because I know it work very well with other manufacturers products and I'll be paying a higher price for the same product.
  • by DrWho520 ( 655973 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:15AM (#11430674) Journal
    Ken Kutaragi puts it best when he says, "We're growing up," and with any luck future devices won't be crippled with silly formats no one uses.

    Growing up implies some sort of learning from ones experiences. Is this not the exact same situation as the Sony Betamax debacle? How about my Minidisc NT that broke trying to load my MP3s onto it. When are they going to grow up?

    For that matter, Sony is doing it again with the PSP. Please, buy all the products you have bought in the past on our new media format. The irony of Universal Media Disk should not escape anyone. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me; fool me three times, realize me for a massive, faceless electronics and media company who has had a drop in overall product quality and customer care.

    Yes, I know the main goal in business is to make money and grow, but to do that, you must serve the customer as well. At least, that used to be true.
    • Must be awful having no personal choice. Does Sony bill you automatically every time they release a new product or do they use a mind control device.

      I'm not sure what this has to do with Betamax. Minidisc may certainly have been disadvantaged by failing to support MP3, but it isn't clear that is the only thing that Kutaragi is talking about. Equally, Minidisc is VERY popular in Europe and Asia, just much less so in the US.

      And the PSP ? Well, it seems inevitable to me that you'll need smaller disks if they
    • I don't know much about the UMD format, but one thing I was wondering was if the UMD discs are actually small blu-ray discs. That would have been really smart on Sony's part, to let people then burn mini-bluRay discs in the future and play them on the PSP.

      However cool that would be though, I am very doubtful it is the case. I thought I'd just throw a scenario out there that could explain some rational reason to go with UMD...
  • Ogg (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Rekkr ( 771729 )
    I don't see why people haven't adopted the OGG format yet: it has better compression and it's open source. Or maybe it's open sourceness is the problem...
    • Re:Ogg (Score:2, Informative)

      by fodZ ( 645669 )
      I don't see why people haven't adopted the OGG format yet: it has better compression and it's open source

      Mainly lack of support in players and software - also the increase in compression is good but not so huge as to be compelling. I know that you can find both players and software that handle it very easily if you know what you are doing - but that lets most people out.

      I only heard of it/began using it myself when I got an iRiver player. Pretty impressed with it so far - great sound and somewhat smaller

    • Re:Ogg (Score:3, Informative)

      by malkavian ( 9512 )
      Actually, many people have.. Usually Game developers, who want to play sound streams, and not have to pay a license fee for the MP3 decoder.
    • Re:Ogg (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:38AM (#11430859) Homepage Journal
      As storage becomes more plentiful and cheaper, the improved compression matters less and less, a 10% space savings on a 5 megabyte file doesn't seem worthwhile anymore. Even when scaled up to 50 Gigabyte collection 5 gigs doesn't matter so much if storage costs $0.50 / Gig. Meanwhile there is a standard which everyone accepted that works "well enough" for 97% of consumers, and supported by nearly every audio program and device - MP3. That last point is a sticking point, I'm not going to narrow down my available choices by 95% for one obscure codec, that's like voters that vote on a single issue and that issue only.

      Now, I wish people would drop RAR. ZIP works fine and I hate having to dig up an unRAR program for the occasional oddity I might download.
      • RAR Files (Score:3, Informative)

        by spleck ( 312109 )
        Does ZIP have a recovery record option yet?

        I've been using RAR because it usually nets me a few extra % reduction, which I can reallocate to placing a recovery record.

        I started doing this when I pulled some old CDs out that I had trouble reading. Typically, if a ZIP had an error, I was screwed. RAR has allowed me to repair files, etc.

        I also like PAR files! Call me names now please.
    • Re:Ogg (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Asprin ( 545477 ) <gsarnold@ya[ ].com ['hoo' in gap]> on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:41AM (#11430883) Homepage Journal

      Chicken and egg? It looks like everyone's pretty much agreed on MP3 as the standard universal compressed audio format. Like VHS, It's good *enough*, and even if it has IP and quality issues, they clearly aren't compelling enough to force seek alternatives because it works *everywhere*, which is what the digital music revolution is really about. (It used to be that app development stopped when the program could do email, now hardware development stops when you can play MP3s and take pictures - go figure!)

      If MP3 were the only audio format out there, OGG might have more widespread acceptance as the 'free alternative', but with WMA, AAC, RM ATRAC (whatever) and the other formats that are available, **my** eyes start to glaze over, and I work with computers for a living!

      I think OGG needs a sugardaddy -- a sponsor like Linux has with IBM -- someone with bucks that can really take ownership of pushing it into the marketplace by demonstrating its power and versatility. Sony has the position and clout to do that, but there's no way their music division would go for it.
    • > I don't see why people haven't adopted the OGG format yet...

      for me, because iTunes + iTMS + (AAC or Apple Lossless) + iPod is far too great a combination.

      Ogg doesn't actually offer anything, except maybe a bit more HD space (who cares?) in exchange for compatibility headaches.
    • Re:Ogg (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Ubi_NL ( 313657 ) <joris.ideeel@nl> on Friday January 21, 2005 @10:03AM (#11431111) Journal
      Because Ogg decompression is much more relient on CPU power which embedded devices tend not to have.

  • by PeeAitchPee ( 712652 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:18AM (#11430704)

    . . . and it was to be expected they'd behave as such (you know, "protecting their intellectual property"). What you're seeing is neat in that a company that owns gazillions in copyrighted material is finally acknowledging that mp3 is OK by building and shipping mp3-playing devices.

    Will Sony start selling mp3s of their content over the web? Hell no . . . you will never see the content owners sell soft copies of their stuff without DRM . . . but this is at least a step in the right direction for those that want better portability of the content across devices and platforms.

  • by grahamm ( 8844 ) <> on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:18AM (#11430705) Homepage
    And even when they did bring out players (Net Walkman NW-E95/99) which supposedly play MP3 natively (rather than the download software converting to Atrac), they require Windows(tm) software to download the MP3s to the player. None of the adverts, neither the online retailers nor the product description on the Sony site, mention the need for Windows. Linux can mount the flash as a USB storage device and can download files, but no way will the player play them.
  • Good thing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by invisik ( 227250 ) * on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:20AM (#11430723) Homepage
    I think that's great they can admit a an error like that, especially in this corporate day and age. I'm a huge fan of Sony products and was realy undecided about going with Sony for a portable music player on this fact alone and hadn't purchased anything yet as a result. I think I'll hold off some more as they should have something coming out fairly soon (??) that will fit the bill...

    Thanks again, Sony!

  • by TeknoHog ( 164938 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:21AM (#11430726) Homepage Journal
    Does this make Sony products ATRACtive again?


  • by DWIM ( 547700 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:22AM (#11430735)
    ...with any luck future devices won't be crippled with silly formats no one uses.

    Devices are only crippled when they don't include formats that everybody wants. They can include all the formats in the world as long as they include the ubiquitous ones too. If they don't, then they are indeed crippled.

  • First step (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MemoryDragon ( 544441 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:22AM (#11430736)
    But there still is a long way... Ditch proprietary formats also on the hardware side. Bring back the good support you once had (European support is awful) Dont build machines which break down 2 days after the warranty expires and then charge huge sums for repair. And stop being assholes generally...
  • Great! Now maybe they'll change their mind on DRM in general, and be the first company with a practical technology for ebooks that isn't a) a piece of shit, b) locked in with DRM, and c) proprietary formats.

    So, how about it, Sony? Will you release a new version of the Libre, sans DRM?
  • Sony, Philips, Samsung, Matsushita/Panasonic and Intertrust are pushing for DRM [] , perhaps if they listen to Sony they will realise that people will not buy their crippled products.
  • by Deep Fried Geekboy ( 807607 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:30AM (#11430807)
    Here's the honest truth. The music industry deserves to die, so that it can be reborn. The fight over DRM is simply the spasms of an organisation committing darwinistic suicide. Eventually they will have all their music fully DRM'd, and nobody will buy any of it. And on that day we should all crack open a bottle of champagne. Here's why:

    Before you read on, read this article by Steve Albini [] (one of the best known producers in the world) about the reality of the economics of the music industry. If anything it understates the degree to which the music industry is broken.

    I'm a musician as are many of my friends. Musicians, or the vast majority of them anyway, do not make music to make money but to make music. Historically of course, it was ever thus. Before the means of recording music, there WAS no recording industry. The vast majority of great music in history was written without the RIAA's help and without the 'protection' of copyright. It didn't seem to bother Beethoven.

    The small minority of professional musicians mostly make their money from live performances (cruise ships, bars etc). A small minority of the small minority of professional musicians make money from recording, but a large part of this is non-consumer oriented such as film soundtracks, game scores, stings, jingles, ads and so on.

    The current inflection of the recorded music industry benefits only the major corporations and a few bands who have enough leverage to make deals that actually result in money. The vast majority of bands who record make little or no money.

    If we were drowning in a sea of great music produced by the members of the RIAA I would be the first to defend them, but we aren't. We're drowning in garbage, and thousands of good bands languish unsigned and unproduced. You only have to watch American Idol to see how the process works.

    Fortunately now the innards of a pro recording studio can reside on your home PC or Mac, and raison d'etre of the major studios no longer exists. Musicians can go back to doing what they have always done -- making music. Once the recording industry finally dies, those who make great music will earn lots of money from live performances and direct-pay-downloads spread by viral word-of-mouth.

    If you think I'm wrong, consider this: poetry. Pretty much nobody makes any money out of poetry. But it still gets written. The same is true of music. The sooner the industry dies, the better.

  • The Bush administration admits there were no WMDs and that W only wanted war because he's a religious fanatic.

    Microsoft admits that Win9x was NOT a real 32-bit OS.

    And IBM finally admits that OS/2 Warp never actually helped even one nun surf the net!

  • so what? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fermion ( 181285 )
    with any luck future devices won't be crippled with silly formats no one uses.

    What do I care what sony makes, as long as someone else makes something I want. Sony or whoever can make all the silly useless gadgets they want, as long as Apple and Creative are making player that understand the MP3 format. It is not like the OGG problem, in which few players work with it, and few major market vendors are taking it seriously.

    Sony needs to be honest. They took a risk based on greed and fear. The risk turn

  • MiniDisk, El Cassette, ATRAC, Betamax, Memory Stick... not a good track record for Sony. Wonder if their support for BluRay will jinx the format...
  • by hexxeh ( 790587 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:53AM (#11431004) Homepage
    Ken Kutaragi, president of Sony Computer Entertainment, said he and other Sony employees had been frustrated for years with management SCE are the Playstation people. The Playstation people say "Sony screwed up". The Walkman people are probably still creaming their pants over how nobody wants MP3 and would prefer ATRAC
  • Ummm, no... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bloggins02 ( 468782 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @10:09AM (#11431168)
    From TFA:

    Mr Kutaragi - known as the "Father of the PlayStation" for making the game machine a pillar of Sony's business - said the new PSP, or PlayStation Portable, handheld will grow into a global platform for enjoying music and movies as well as games.

    Ummm, no it won't. Movies maybe, but not music. It's too big. Why don't these companies understand that people are looking for three things in music players:

    1) Useful
    2) Small
    3) Beautiful

    So far the only company (IMHO) who seems to have this figured out is apple.
  • by Johnny Mozzarella ( 655181 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @10:49AM (#11431589)
    Did anyone else notice how much stage time the President of Sony got during the Stevenote? Not only was he up there a loooong time but he was gushing like a little school girl in love. The Reality Distortion Field was on full blast and Steve had it pointing right at Sony's president.

    I suspect there was much more that went on behind the scenes that week that will unfold over the course of the year.
    Despite Steve's claim that this is the year of High Definition we all know that HD is not his focus.

    How long has he been telling us that Apple doesn't want to make a $500 dollar Mac while secretly designing it for the past year?

    How many times did he tell us that flash based MP3 players were a waste until he had one of his own?

    How many times did he badmouth PDAs which he later admitted he had developed but decided not to ship?

    My intuition tells me that one or more of the following will happen this year...
    1) Sony will license FairPlay
    2) Sony will start selling Sony banded iPods
    3) Sony will make its own music player which uses the iPod OS
    4) Sony and Apple will jointly develop new digital lifestyle products
    5) Sony will become a Mac OS X licensee(eliminates the single source argument)
  • by AFCArchvile ( 221494 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:36PM (#11432802)
    I remember back in 1999/2000, when Sony entered the portable music market with the MC-P10 "Music Clip" and another, larger flash-based player. The "Music Clip" was the size of a pen, had 64 megabytes of internal, nonremovable flash memory, and took a single AA battery as a power source. Here's its COMDEX 1999 press release [], which also announces a partnership with Microsoft to support WMA (remember? The "secure" format that got cracked in a day?). The other player took Sony's proprietary "Memory Stick" format, but not just any old stick would do: it would only accept "Magic Gate" Memory Sticks, which were white, and cost at least twice as much as a standard MStick with the same capacity. It was part of Sony's proprietary "OpenMG" content protection system. I don't know in what way it's "open", and since you could process MP3 or WAV files into the device without problem, I don't know how it protected anything, other than the "transfer songs from the player to a computer other than the original uploader" avenue, which was NOT the problem back in the heyday of Napster.

    I actually owned the Music Clip at one time. The interface software accepted either audio CDs, MP3 files, or WAV files as input, and transferred songs into the device. The transfer process took as long for each song as it did to encode each song into MP3, because the interface was indeed doing encoding, to ATRAC3. I don't remember much about sound quality, mostly because back then I still thought Sony's earbuds and headphones were pretty good (insert laugh track here). I do remember that the max you could encode in ATRAC3 was 144kbps, IIRC, but then you'd lose quite a bit of space on the flash memory. I would usually encode at 128 so I'd have the space, but the transfer process took so long, I only did about one or two transfers during the short time I actively used the device.

    Sony's competition back then was already well established, with Diamond's Rio line. The 32 MB PMP300 had been out for around a year, and the 64MB PMP500 was just in. They also used an interface software, but it would carry MP3 files right over to the player, without doing any intermediary re-encoding. Creative was soon to come out with a flash-based player, and later the HDD-based Nomad Jukebox. RCA also had an MP3 player come out, and much like RCA's other electronic devices, was avoided like the plague by those in the know. These non-Sony players dealt natively with MP3, used standard removable flash media without "content protection" locking, and frankly worked better than Sony's pittance of an offering, even in the infancy of the portable music player market. Sony's players were left in the dust, their only remaining market being the fanatics.

    Fast-forward to today. Past the fall of Napster, the maturation of the LAME encoder, the introduction of Ogg Vorbis, the iPod, larger flash capacities and lower flash prices. For the same $300 price of the Music Clip back in 2000, one could buy a Palm Tungsten E (today's equivalent of the Vx back then), fit it with a 128 MB MMC card, install AeroPlayer, load the Palm up with a bunch of songs in Ogg format, and go. The Palm also has a bit more bang for buck, considering you can use it as a clock, calendar, day planner, flashlight, MATLAB-esque calculator, etc. Plus, many portable music players allow the user to just copy the files directly into the storage medium instead of tangling with a proprietary transfer interface with proprietary drivers. I can just throw my MMC card into a flash reader, copy what I want into the card directly, and go. I can even do it from Linux! So where's Sony in all of this? Still stuck in 1999, with their "Sonic Stage" software, which still encodes everything it receives into ATRAC3, which is all Sony's players can still handle. Their big marketing push during the years was that they had MiniDisc players that can be loaded up with MP3s (which had to be converted to ATRAC3). They even advertised that the

  • by digitalgimpus ( 468277 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:38PM (#11432827) Homepage
    Sony IMHO is going into serious trouble.

    The mp3 controversy is far from the only thing. It's not even close.

    Sony lacks the inovative feel that it used to have. Sony used to be much more bleeding edge. Their designs were cutting edge... but not really any more.

    IMHO Apple used to trail them. Now Apple is beyond them.

    Sony has been late to the game for quite a few things over the years, then failed. mp3 players, laptops, computers, etc etc.

    Their Clie PDA's weren't bad. But didn't quite live up to the Sony Hype. They were just better than Palm and Handspring... like that takes much.

    IMHO this isn't the fix. Sony needs to rediscover themselves.

    In an age of companies being more inovative (Apple, Samsung, LG, etc.)... time to redraw the box THEN think outside of it.
  • by superultra ( 670002 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @01:41PM (#11433483) Homepage
    The problem for Sony is not that they lack engineering or design prowress. Sony is not just Sony, they are Sony Electronics, SCEA, Sony Disc Manufacturing, Sony Entertainment (music and movies), etc. Sony Entertainment will never let Sony Electronics design a music player that could "threaten" their profits. Sony Disc Manufacturing, which also produces memory sticks, would never let a music player going out that wouldn't benefit their company.

    That's one reason why Apple's iPod has been far more successful than Sony's playuer, even though Sony has had a major foothold on CD and tape players for 20 years. The iPod's only attachments are iTunes and the Mac; and Apple learned quickly that isolating the iPod to the Mac was a mistake. Whether this kind of intracorporate meddling affects the PS3 and its dependence on Blu-Ray remains to be seen.
  • by tkrotchko ( 124118 ) * on Friday January 21, 2005 @02:49PM (#11434283) Homepage
    This will sound crazy, but follow my logic here.

    There are tons of players that do ATRAC out there. Virtually all the Sony music stuff these days does either ATRAC and MP3 or just ATRAC. That's a lot of devices.

    Here's how sony can win out over Apple in the end.

    Put together and open source an implementation of ATRAC. If they did that, there would immediately be tons of proprietary and non-proprietary implementations of ATRAC for every platform. Then put the thing out there in a standards body and get it sanctioned. I know some people in Sony think they have the Holy Grail with ATRAC, but as it stands, its virtually useless. If ATRAC is out there and popular, it would be a viable option to the .m4p format apple uses to protect content.

    Its that's simple. Seriously. Sony could go from last to first in less than a year.

    They would still have to do MP3, of course, but like Apple, they could do MP3 and ATRAC, set up a music store, and then by licensing the DRM to other music stores, effectively take control of the market.

    I doubt this will happen, but it really would work.
  • by occam ( 20826 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @02:56PM (#11434369)
    Has Sony really learned the lesson about fighting preexisting standards to its own disadvantage? Then why virtually all Sony digicams sport _only_ Sony proprietary memory stick for flash memory? Even when memory stick costs roughly twice the compact flash equivalent?

    Answer: Sony has not learned the underlying lesson and continues to commit the same betamax faux pas indefinitely. It's OK when they win a format war (Playstation*), but they're too slow to realign when they can't possibly win.

    Sony still needs to learn the fundamental lesson: play nice with the prevailing standards, and don't shoot yourself in the foot with unnecessarily proprietary standards.

    = Joe =
  • by popo ( 107611 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @03:00PM (#11434419) Homepage

    Did they learn something after Betamax?

    Did they learn something after DVD Regional Encoding?

    Did they learn something after Memory Stick?

    Did they learn something after that ridiculous proprietary music format?

    The Sony learning curve looks like a horizontal line to me. They suffer from the same desire to "own" formats that MSFT does.

    Ultimately both companies will lose to open standards.

  • by porky_pig_jr ( 129948 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @04:09PM (#11435190)
    Sony minidisc format is really good. A very small RW magneto-optical disk, with 1GB capacity in its latest reincrantation, and with a standard FAT directory structure. Alas, all minidisc players/recorders are still limited to Sony's proprietory ATRAC format, and a bunch of restrictions if you want to move those files between the players and you computer (yes, Sony tries to easy them a bit, but still those are files are *not* treated as the regular disk file). By adapting standards like MP3 and AAC, Sony minidisc format will finally have a chance. Just think of it. Fairly small player. More efficient (in terms of energy consumption) than hard-drive based player. The cost of media (per GB) is about in the same ball park as hard drive based players and better than the solid state (you can get 1GB disk for $7-10). Give me MP3 and AAC as the compression options - and I'll be seriously considering those players.

Make it myself? But I'm a physical organic chemist!