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The Sony/MP3 Saga Continues 629

Renegade Lisp writes "Sony's rolling out their new line of flash-based music players to the market these days. More stylish than ever, they surely look like a serious attempt to regain territory lost to the iPod, and perhaps even to create the Walkman of the 21st century. And it looks like Sony has finally given in to consumer pressure: these new "MP3 players" can finally play MP3 natively, not just Sony's proprietary ATRAC format. But wait -- you cannot just put your MP3s onto the device, you have to run them through Sony's obfuscation software first. The obfuscated files, when installed properly on the device, can be played. But you can't just move them around, share them with your friends, whatever. Well, of course the obfuscation scheme has already been broken by a brave hacker. But is this really the way to create the "Network Walkman" of the 21st century? Sony, please wake up!"
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The Sony/MP3 Saga Continues

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  • Egh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DarkHelmet ( 120004 ) * <mark&seventhcycle,net> on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @03:31PM (#12226310) Homepage
    Sony still doesn't get it yet.

    We don't want something hip and stylish. We want something that works well.

    Oh yeah, I've never personally been able to understand the whole hooplah over the Ipod shuffle, or even the Ipod mini? 1 gigabyte? 5 gigabytes? Do you have ANY idea how old the songs get on your mp3 player if you keep hearing stuff over and over again like a radio station?

    I suppose for top 40 teenie boppers, that's okay. Not for me.

    20 gig and 40 gig are good sizes, respectfully. The more, the better.

    Sony's designs are ugly, too. I barely tolerate the fact that my ipod is white. It's bad enough that Bono is pushing the player I own. Now, Sony comes out with Grape, Cherry and Orange flavors. Ugh!

    Why can't they make an mp3 player that's like Nyquil. In the words of Denis Leary, that "original green death fucking flavor, but it doesn't matter..." If an mp3 player is green-death nyquil colored, but has a great interface, and does all I want in regards to playability and reliability, that's all I need.

    I'm sure everyone else's priorities will be similar after they buy an orange mp3 player, and throw it against the wall in rage when it doesn't do what they want it to do.

    • Re:Egh (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TheRealMindChild ( 743925 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @03:36PM (#12226387) Homepage Journal
      Sony is notorious for coming up with useful, and often superior technology, while at the same time ignoring the actual markets demands that they are targeting.

      See betamax and minidiscs
      • Re:Egh (Score:5, Insightful)

        by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <> on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @04:05PM (#12226791) Homepage Journal
        Or more precisely, Sony is famous for constantly churning out new inventions and occasionally having a few stick. It's hard to argue that they produce cool looking stuff that works great, holds together well, and is more technologically advanced than everything else on the market. However, they always want to be the market leader, and thus end up with quite a few failed products because of it.

        In this case, I think Sony is probably toast. Apple is the market leader, and it is doubtful they'll give that up. Sony has produced too little too late. And their idea of making the PSP a portable movie player is probably not going to pan out either. I would like to see them do an iTunes-like movie purchase app, though. I don't know about anyone else, but I use my computer as my television. Being able to purchase movies online would mean I could finally stop visiting that *E$#$#$ Blockbuster.
        • I would like to see them do an iTunes-like movie purchase app, though.
          Yeah, it would be really cool if they would do that. []
      • Re:Egh (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @04:38PM (#12227196) Homepage Journal
        Yeah; this reminds me of the old weirdness that Sony's 1/8-inch plugs were almost but not quite the same as the industry standard. Sometimes you could plug a Sony gadget into another brand's gadget and both channels would work; sometimes not.

        This was a fairly clear case of "We don't want our customers to connect our stuff to our competitors' stuff; everyone should just by Sony stuff". Not exactly an unusual attitude among market leaders, but it does show a certain amount of contempt for what customers want.

        Their munging of the MP3 standard is pretty much the same deal. "We support MP3. Well, actually, it's not quite MP3, but it's almost the same thing. We've just tweaked it a bit so our stuff won't interoperate with other MP3 stuff."

        The best approach would be to tell them that you're not buying their gadget because it's not compatible with your other gadgets. While you're at it, say the same thing to Microsoft and any other company you can find that's doing this sort of thing to you. What we want is a world where everything connects to everything else, and anything you buy works anywhere that you want to use it.

      • See also: Firewire (Score:4, Interesting)

        by lullabud ( 679893 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @06:51PM (#12228530) Homepage
        Coincidentally, Sony and Apple were two of the leaders of the Firewire/iLink push even though the 1394 market was less obvious than the digital music market, which puts both adversaries in the same boat. Nobody can rationally doubt that Apple has beaten it's 1394 partner this time around since Sony is poorly playing catchup in a market that Apple has defined. I also have to say that FP guy is going a bit overboard on his judgment of the iPod. For one, the iPod shuffle has an auto-fill option that does exactly what it says, removing any replay action. And even if you don't have an iPod shuffle with its auto-fill trick there are plenty of ways to make up for it using smart playlists which happen to be database queries based against the iTunes Music Database. (You didn't think iTunes and the iPod were simply music players did you?) There is even a site dedicated to techniques for effective smart-playlist usage [] (though that's no surprise since there are sites for anything) which directly correlates to heightened iPod enjoyability since you have the ability to sync certain playlists to your iPod automatically. The iPod is a very good front-end to a music databasing system which is robust, easy to use, and works well for the majority of people who want to listen to their music and who do not have esoteric or clandestine old-school technology fetishes or a passionate desire for a dumb (as in feature-poor), manual-update drag-and-drop music player. Even though Sony and Apple pioneered 1394 together it looks as though Sony is only partially (not at all?) clued in as to what makes a whole Digital Music Player solution. It's not just the player.
    • Re:Egh (Score:3, Informative)

      by DogDude ( 805747 )
      5 gigabytes of 128K MP3's that are roughly 1 Meg/Minute equals about 1250 4 minute songs. That's MORE than enough for anybody that's not an audiophile.
      • Re:Egh (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jace of Fuse! ( 72042 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @03:43PM (#12226475) Homepage
        Even someone who is an audiophile will often still have a hard time telling the difference (between 128k and higher) through the shit headphones that often come with MP3 players. :)
        • Re:Egh (Score:5, Funny)

          by Moofie ( 22272 ) <lee@ringofsatur n . c om> on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @04:28PM (#12227095) Homepage
          An audiophile will be too busy twitching because the circuitry inside the MP3 player isn't made from hand rolled silver anointed with the sweat of Honduran virgins. Then they'll be gnawing on the arms of their chair because the interconnects aren't made from gold ingots mined from the deepest darkest mines of Central Kenya by underage workers (because they're small, and they can get to the best gold!)

          I am so, so glad I'm not an audiophile.
    • Re:Egh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @03:39PM (#12226414)
      We don't want something hip and stylish. We want something that works well.

      You are not the target audience.

      I suppose for top 40 teenie boppers, that's okay. Not for me

      Now you're starting to get it.

      I barely tolerate the fact that my ipod is white. It's bad enough that Bono is pushing the player I own. already drank the koolaid. The marketing dept's job is done.

    • Re:Egh (Score:5, Funny)

      by peculiarmethod ( 301094 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @03:39PM (#12226415) Journal
      yeah, this isn't what I want. I want a disc that is belt buckle size (cowboy, not clubbing) with a screen entirely on one side.. navigation alla wrist watch with small buttons on the horizontal lower edges, placed like a game controller - sd card storage.. it should come with 2 x 1 gig cards, britney spears video in the trash bin on the tiny os which would allow me to surf open wifi channels with a firefox mini browser. It should have a small wireless earpiece with option to have wireless tooth-microphone adapter for local networked chat (like on a bus with all the other owners of said device).

      It should also do the dishes and fetch beer.

    • Re:Egh (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TheFlyingGoat ( 161967 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @03:42PM (#12226469) Homepage Journal
      You won't believe this, but people actually do have different needs and tastes. I personally love the way iPods look, even though I don't have one yet. However, they're a bit too clunky for my wife, who would love an iPod mini or iPod Shuffle for using at the gym. You can even change the music out every night to avoid the songs getting repetitive (imagine that).

      As for the colors and design, I agree that many of them are ugly. However, according to your own statements that doesn't matter one bit as long as it functions well. So find one you like, use it, and quit worrying if my model is pink and fallic-shaped. :)
      • Re:Egh (Score:5, Funny)

        by sTalking_Goat ( 670565 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @04:26PM (#12227064) Homepage
        As for the colors and design, I agree that many of them are ugly. However, according to your own statements that doesn't matter one bit as long as it functions well. So find one you like, use it, and quit worrying if my model is pink and fallic-shaped. :)

        No, fellow goat you're missing the point. No geek wants to see his new toy hanging off the belts of the likes of Paris Hilton and Bono. Thats why I personally hate all things Apple. Technology should not be cutting edge and also fashionable. I pine for the days of laptops that look and feel like cinder blocks evacuated by albino elephants. We as geeks have had to endure childhoods of bullying and female rejection, the one high point is that we've always had the coolest toys, now people like Apple want to come along and make it all cute and accessible. Blasphemy I say.

        Now excuse me while load *.OGG files onto my Rio Karma via SHH from a remote SAMBA server...

    • by stlhawkeye ( 868951 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @03:43PM (#12226483) Homepage Journal
      I appreciate the impact of the piracy issue on them, but they haven't figured out how to beat it.

      1. Create digital music store (should have done this before Napster taught us all that we could easily get music for free with little risk)
      2. Establish digital management rules within range of the "Home Use" interpretation of Fair Use (for the curious, your Fair Use rights are established in US Code under Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 106 or 107, I forget which. I think it's 107, 106 is Copyright holder rights; it's worth noting here that "home use" was not originally part of the Fair Use clause, but it has since been interpretted to fall under its umbrella)
      3. Make use of store convenient and reliable enough to be measurably superior than scrounging p2p networks for uncorrupted files.
      4. Establish a cost such that the added convenience, legality, and reliability of your digital music store is worth paying for in lieu of the sort of dumpster-diving you sometimes have to do on p2p
      5. Include some additional benefit for buying instead of stealing, such as a "frequent flyer" type program that rewards you with the option to get ahold of preview tracks earlier than other people (granted, these all just end up on p2p so it becomes moot), discounts on concert tickets and fan merchandise, access to reserved ticketing for popular concerts, and less restrictive DRM for loyal customers
      6. This part is critical: respect the customer, respect his rights. Do not assume everybody who buys your music is doing so to put in on eMule. Establish that you trust your customer to be a good consumer.
      The profit here may or may not be significant, but a combinaton of a revenue stream plus reduced losses from piracy might make it worth the effort.

      Don't bother telling me that piracy doesn't actually cost them anything, it doesn't matter whether it does or not as long as they think it does. If they think it does, and they want to reduce/eliminate it, far better than they do so by leveraging technology to our benefit than try to get their business model legislated.

    • Re:Egh (Score:2, Insightful)

      by xtracto ( 837672 )
      Yeah I agree

      From TFA: ...huge storage capacities thanks to the advances of ATRAC3plus. The NW-E403, NW-E405 and NW-E407 feature 256MB, 512MB and 1GB of storage space respectively... mmm thats not kinda Huge, come on! I just bought a 512 MB small mp3 player on Ebay, and you can buy 1GB player for GBP 70 (like $132 USD)... and they play raw mp3...

      So because these new Sony players does not have anything GREAT new feature they just fall in the really big set of the-others-that-are-not-iPods list of players.
    • We want both (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ianscot ( 591483 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @03:46PM (#12226532)
      We don't want something hip and stylish. We want something that works well.

      Personally I want both. Only to the /. world would those seem like mutually-exclusive options.

      That said, Sony is such a classic example of interesting design that completely ignores major sore points in implementation, it isn't even funny. I'd have one of their tiny upright-model camcorders right now, if they hadn't required their own special compression format for the resulting movies a couple of years ago. Ah well -- ended up with a different make, which then allowed me to make the choice to grab up a cheap and oh so handy Mac to edit on, and so on. If I'd taken the little Sony it'd have been endless compromises just to stick with their proprietary formatting.

      Here we have them requiring me to bend over backwards to implement a sort of personal DRM on my music files. How much more clumsy than Apple's iTunes-purchased files is that? Major, major disincentive to buying for me. Big sore point. That's what they're not "getting." Stylish I like just fine.

    • Oh yeah, I've never personally been able to understand the whole hooplah over the Ipod shuffle, or even the Ipod mini? 1 gigabyte? 5 gigabytes? Do you have ANY idea how old the songs get on your mp3 player if you keep hearing stuff over and over again like a radio station? I suppose for top 40 teenie boppers, that's okay.

      Top 40 teenie boppers like George W. Bush [], you mean?

      Mr. Bush has had his Apple iPod since July, when he received it from his twin daughters as a birthday gift. He has some 250 songs

    • Don't like? Don't buy!

      Yes, I know Sony marketing read /. every day and appreciate all the great feedback but really if you don't like it don't buy it.

    • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @04:00PM (#12226713)
      Oh yeah, I've never personally been able to understand the whole hooplah over the Ipod shuffle, or even the Ipod mini? 1 gigabyte? 5 gigabytes? Do you have ANY idea how old the songs get on your mp3 player if you keep hearing stuff over and over again like a radio station?

      you obviously dont get it as you say. the ipod shuffle is designed to look and feel like it has infintie capacity.

      that is to say I would challenge you to a turing test to see if you cold tell the difference between an ipod shuffle and a 80 gig ipod just by listineing to it in shuffle mode.

      I'm not kidding, here are the ground rules. A shuffle holds 150 to 300 songs randmoly selected from the 80gigs on your hard drive. You listen to it for a day or so, and have not listened to all 200 songs. then you jack it in to recharge it and while that is going on the shuffle gets refilled. Then you listen the next day. and repeat.

      From your point of view it would be no different than listening to your 80 gig drive drive or a 40 gig ipod. you could not tell the difference by listening.

      You see the thing you are not understanding is that the software, itunes, makes this transparent. If you had some piece of shit software like win amp and had to drag files by hand onto the device or run them through a sony deobfuscator then you would not be constantly refilling it. But with itunes, CHARGING = REFILLING. since you can just barely play all the songs on a single charge this basically means that in any practical usage you are constantly refreshing the songs before you hear them twice.

      • What I don't get is how anyone could listen to their entire collection on shuffle. Perhaps my collection is more eclectic than most, but I have audio books, Xmas music, weird classical, Jim Morrison reading poetry, and a million other things that don't necessarily play well together with the pop, rock and jazz that make up the majority of my collection.

        I love MusicMagic Mixer from Predixis, which uses computer analysis of each audio file to determine which songs play well together. Pick one song, or ten
    • Re:Egh (Score:2, Informative)

      by defy god ( 822637 )
      I've never personally been able to understand the whole hooplah over the Ipod shuffle, or even the Ipod mini?

      i personally own the ipod shuffle. what got me was how lightweight it was compared to the regular iPod or even the mini. i use it all the time when i workout or go jogging. it's quite unnoticeable.

      aside from the weight factor, the main thing that differentiates this with other flash-based mp3 players i've seen is iTunes. no, not the store. i have a lot of music already and usually buy the CD

  • by stlhawkeye ( 868951 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @03:32PM (#12226326) Homepage Journal
    They're a major member of the RIAA" [], don't be so shocked.

    Distributed Labels of Reporting Companies Sony Classical Sony Discos Sony Japan Sony Labels Sony Music Sony Music US (Latin) Sony Wonder

    • They're a major member of the RIAA", don't be so shocked.

      Sony is part of the RIAA!?

      GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!! *Jumps out the window*
      • by stlhawkeye ( 868951 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @03:47PM (#12226545) Homepage Journal
        Troublesome, isn't it? I want so much to embrace Sony, a big warm fuzzy company that makes neat stuff that works. Happy Fun Sony! Good Sony!

        I bet their internal board meetings are a riot. On one side you've got their hardware guys who don't want to spend their R&D money and waste time/resources on redesigning and rebuilding playback devices that have worked just fine for years to respect the mandated DRM that the RIAA is trying to get into the law books.

        Then you've got the label people pushing Sony's attorneys and reps at the RIAA to get this legislation done!

        You've got Sony's legal department sending letters to people using Sony's laptops to rip MP3s of songs owned by a Sony label from their Sony DiscMan. And people becoming felons by violating the DMCA when they bypass the copy protection included on Sony CDs. They're violating the copy protection by using hardware produced by ... Sony. It's like a weird hybrid of a Kevin Smith movie and the Twilight Zone.

        • On one side you've got their hardware guys who don't want to spend their R&D money and waste time/resources on redesigning and rebuilding playback devices that have worked just fine for years to respect the mandated DRM that the RIAA is trying to get into the law books.

          Then you've got the label people pushing Sony's attorneys and reps at the RIAA to get this legislation done!

          The power people give to the RIAA is amazing.

          You do realize that the RIAA is paid by Sony as a trade group to protect _Sony'
        • I bet their internal board meetings are a riot.

          Actually the pity and irony is: they're more likely two distinct, separate, exclusive board meetings. One for hardware, one for music label. (and technically a third for movie studio / multimedia label.) Note: I am not speaking from experience, merely word of mouth feedback. IANASE (I am not a Sony Employee.)

          Sony, the electronics manufacturer, has its own agenda. Sony Music (now officially Sony-BMG Music) has an obvious other agenda. This gets worse too, because the Japanese company doing all the real innovation in design of electronics products, etc. has next to no contact with the US / North American one. Some products trickle down, yes, but not nearly as many of the 'cool' ones they put out in Japan.

          Wired had a fantastic article almost two years ago now called The Civil War Inside Sony []. Definitely worth a read.

          One should not confuse the two (electronics manufacturer and music label.) Just because you see the "Sony" brand on an mp3 player doesn't mean at ALL that Sony Music had anything to do with it.

          If the company was really smart they would co-brand Sony electronics products with Sony music artists. That's the biggest no brainer ever and they have yet to do anything like this. (Not that I would buy a "Jennifer Lopez MP3 player" but I'm sure somebody would.)

        • by acomj ( 20611 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @05:09PM (#12227542) Homepage
          This article [] talks about the demotion of the hardware guy Ken Kutaragi. People thought he might be the next CEO. Instead he was demoted (lost his seat on the board) and one of the reasons is he had the gall to say "Sony also has been hurt by its insistence on making its content proprietary"

          More links to same story []

          Very very sad. Explains what happened to the MD which could have been a great format...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @03:32PM (#12226328)
    Their CD based MP3 players require no such obfuscation scheme.
    • Yeah, and it's even easier to share MP3's that are already burned on a CD, than to have to try to copy them back off using USB/Firewire/Whatever. I don't understand why their new flash and HD players have to be so crippled.

      I have a Sony D-NF610 CD-based MP3 player that also has FM/AM/TV (audio only obviously)/Weather bands too. It gets insane battery life too when playing MP3's from the CD (35+ hours). It seems to be very well built too. I've dropped mine while riding my bike and it hit the ground an

      • And they last, i got a sony D-CJ501, its about 4-5 years old abouts and i've put it through hell, it lives in the outer pocker of my backback and gets bashed all the time, scratched, dropped, dunked in water, whatever, It looks pretty bad lol, and it still works perfectly. Doesn't skip with MP3s either when i'm hiking/biking.

        plays MP3 right off the CD, sounds great, batteri life is good, not as long as parents, but that might be age, i think i get 15-20hours, but never really measured as double AAs are che
  • by fembots ( 753724 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @03:33PM (#12226336) Homepage
    Sometimes I don't understand why companies would go to such an extent to come out with some nice products, then hopelessly find a way to ruin it.

    But then again, maybe I think too much. All these gadgets are sold for brand rather than technology, most consumers really don't care whether or not they can shares songs with others using this device, they can simply lend CDs out like they've been doing with tapes.

    As long as Sony has designed a good GUI that users can (1) pop in the CDs, (2) select songs, (3) transfer to the player, its technical responsibility is done.

    The more important job is to make it look and feel cool so that you want one if your friend got one.
    • Sometimes I don't understand why companies would go to such an extent to come out with some nice products, then hopelessly find a way to ruin it.

      Read more Dilbert. That will explain it all
    • Sometimes I don't understand why companies would go to such an extent to come out with some nice products, then hopelessly find a way to ruin it.

      It's pretty simple with Sony. On one hand you have bright engineers doing whizbang stuff with electronics. On the other, you have the SonyBMG member of the RIAA, and Sony Pictures, member of the MPAA. Imagine designing a MP3 player, then imaging having Sony music and Sony pictures legal advisors looking over your shoulder telling you to add this DRM feature and
  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @03:33PM (#12226340) Homepage
    Because they always are incompatible in some annoying little way.

    I was actually comparison shopping for an MP3 player this week, and I ruled out the Sony 'network walkman' because I don't trust them to play nicely.
  • Just IMO but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rokzy ( 687636 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @03:34PM (#12226359)
    ...the iPod is great not just because it's stylish and functional, but because it's as simple as possible wrt DRM. no DRM simply isn't going to happen, but with the iPod (and its *seamless* integration with iTunes) DRM is hidden from the user in 99.9% of cases.

    if this Sony DRM stuff even requires a SINGLE extra click, then imo it has failed and has no chance of making me move away from my iPod (even though the designs I've seen look very nice).
    • Re:Just IMO but... (Score:3, Informative)

      by blorg ( 726186 )
      ... and more to the point there is *NO* DRM with your own direct-ripped mp3s...
    • Re:Just IMO but... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ad0gg ( 594412 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @05:58PM (#12228026)
      My mp3 player has no DRM. Files are stored on a standard MMC card. I can pop the card into any flash reader and transfer files. You apple fan boys seem to think DRM is ok. Because of growing support of iTunes, and the general acceptance of DRM and DRM friendly products(iPods). We will see DRM propagate. There are alternatives like Emusic [] who sell non DRM mp3s from artist like Ray Charles to Creedence Clearwater Revival. But since the general public has shown that they will accept DRM into their lives, record industry won't be licensing music to distributers that don't provide DRM. Thanks again for screwing over our consumer rights.
  • by Silverlancer ( 786390 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @03:36PM (#12226384)
    1. Cheap.
    2. No proprietary formats required.
    3. No "DRM."
    4. Reliable, built to last, long battery life.
    5. Connects to my machine without drivers, i.e. acts like an external hard disk.

    Please, just that. And I'll buy it. No need for fancy buttons or stylishness. I'm currently using an HD Lyra 20GB--it satisfies most of those. Its damn cheap (costs under 100USD now), it uses plain old MP3s, it doesn't even support most DRM, its built like a tank, and acts like an external hard disk. However it still requires drivers, isn't very reliable, and has mediocre battery life.

    • These requirements fit quite a few players on the market. Even the iPod fits most of them. (The music DB can only be manipulated by iTunes)
    • The iPod Photo and iPod mini both satisfy 2 - 5, which you must admit is closer to your dream than your current player. 1, "cheap", is a matter of perspective. There's plenty of people with sigs that will tell you how to get them for free, though.
    • Archos [] music players satisfy these requirements for the most part. The only one I'm not totally sure about is number 4, though I'd probably still buy from Archos again. Some Archos MP3 players even have open source firmware [] which you can use instead.
    • by ucblockhead ( 63650 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @03:55PM (#12226647) Homepage Journal
      iRiver recently released firmware which lets their devices look like any other USB drive. I was able to plug it in cold to a Linux box and copy music to it with "cp". No drivers needed (other than the standard USB ones which you already have.)

      Plays mp3s. Plays oggs. Battery life's quite good, to. Though it's not cheap.
    • by MuckSavage ( 658302 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @03:56PM (#12226667)
      1. Cheap.

      The shuffle starts at 99 bucks.

      2. No proprietary formats required.

      All ipods play wav, mp3, and (un drmd) aac.

      3. No "DRM."

      Play any mp3 you want.

      4. Reliable, built to last, long battery life.

      I get around 12 hours out of my 4th gen 20gig ipod.

      5. Connects to my machine without drivers, i.e. acts like an external hard disk.

      Not sure what os you are using, but (obviously) ipods are seamless with X, and act as a lovely external firewire (or usb2) drive.
    • I want an MP3 player...
      1. Cheap.
      2. No proprietary formats required.
      3. No "DRM."
      4. Reliable, built to last, long battery life.
      5. Connects to my machine without drivers, i.e. acts like an external hard disk.

      Aria "own-brand" [] - £43 for "500MB", £89 for "1GB" seem to work quite nicely. Just copy MP3s onto it like a flash drive, single AAA battery lasts forever, nice easy user-interface on the player itself.

      Much better than the crap that comes out of Creative Labs, for example. Anyone want a Crea
  • Dear Sony, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Weaselmancer ( 533834 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @03:36PM (#12226385)

    The genie is already out of the bottle. He's not going back in. Give up.



  • aint gonna happen (Score:5, Insightful)

    by brontus3927 ( 865730 ) <edwardra3&gmail,com> on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @03:37PM (#12226391) Homepage Journal
    Despite having won the Betamax case in 1980, Sony is very afraid of being considered leinent of piracy, especially since it has its fingers in the content creation pot now. While it would be nice for Sony to have an open, DRM-free mp3 player, it simply isn't going to happen in today's environment.

    Having to use Sony's software to add songs...isn't that what you do with iPod, add songs through iTunes?

    Welcome to the Brave New World.

    • I would have really thought the forces of the free market would make companies serve, you know, the consumers; companies are supposed to *want to sell* their product. Intentionally crippling it is not something that should be happening. Using resources to *decrease functionality* is counter-productive in every sense imaginable. Those 'inferiorizing' their products shouldn't survive on the market. And this also goes for WinXP 'Starter Edition'.

      Just shows how messed up the system is.
  • by Kimos ( 859729 )
    I remember about three years ago when I was selling electronics. The MiniDisc players were about the same price as 128MB Mp3 players, but could hold way more tunes (depending on quality settings), had better battery life, and had removable media. It always seemed like an easy sell until they'd ask me how they put their Mp3s onto the MD. I'd then have to describe the awful interface and conversion software and how it's not really using Mp3s. I can't believe they haven't figured this out and finally comply wi
  • And furthermore (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aftk2 ( 556992 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @03:38PM (#12226401) Homepage Journal
    The thing that really amazes me about the competition at the low-end of the mp3 market is the way Apple's been able to compete on price! That never happens! I mean, according to Amazon Sony's price for its 1 gig and 512meg models are exactly the same as Apple's. And I don't think I need to specify which player is better integrated with the operating system, is lighter, or looks more stylish.

    Crazy times.
    • Re:And furthermore (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gmajor ( 514414 )
      Good point. Maybe Sony is deluded into thinking that its brand image makes it more desirable than Apple?

      (Among an older crowd this may certainly be true. All things being equal, if my father were to choose between an Apple mp3 player and Sony mp3 player, I am confident he would choose Sony)
    • Re:And furthermore (Score:3, Interesting)

      by X_Caffeine ( 451624 )
      re: And I don't think I need to specify which player ... looks more stylish.

      The Sony? Cause after a few months of handling that iPod shuffle is gonna look like a 12-year-old beige keyboard.

      (don't get me wrong, I'm totally sold on iPod line, but the Sony gumsticks don't look bad at all and that OLED is slick)
  • DRM (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Cow007 ( 735705 )
    Just furthers the case that DRM is bad for everybody. Bad for companies, bad for consumers, bad for artists. Don't get me wrong there is a good motivation behind not wanting free copying of copyrighted media but requiring somebody to encrypt something to listen to it when they have it locally unencrypted on there computer serves no end but to make people less interested in the product. The best way to prevent large scale piracy is to offer a value added product. Pay the money and get good quality music on a
    • Re:DRM (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JDizzy ( 85499 )
      Hardly, the process DRM'izing could be transparent. the device would do it on your behalf on input, and as long as it plays mp3's ; why do you care how they are stored on the device?
  • Not sure how much anyone here cares about the styling of their music player, but I think Sony has leapfrogged Apple in terms of design. The pictures on Sony's site don't do them justice. For one thing, the OLED display is embedded under the surface of the player, so you don't see the display unless it's on (and glowing through the metallic surface). It actually looks futuristic, instead of the chinsy pseudo-futuristic look sony has been selling us for years now.
  • Sony's PSP (Score:5, Informative)

    by DotDavid ( 554558 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @03:41PM (#12226441) Homepage
    Sony's PSP plays MP3 files right off the memory stick. Just plug the PSP into a USB2 port, copy your MP3 files to it, then listen and enjoy. Of course, I've only got a 1G memory stick, which holds enough MP3 files for my listening pleasure.
  • ...and trying to make a device for playing content at the same time in this day and age is that you're always at odds with yourself. Your right hand is dueling with your left hand; the content division won't let the hardware division make something that could aid in (gasp, shudder) copyright infringement, so of necessity whatever you come out with is going to be a compromise.

    Not just in music, either. Let's not forget the Librié ebook device [] and its fabulous expiring bookware...

    The more I hear abou
  • The Boingboing link is just a summary which links to the real thing [].
  • I have given up on companies to make stuff people want and can use.

    Back in yesteryear, you had walkmans, they played all tapes. They could play tapes you copied off the radio, off a deck, any tapes. You did not have to worry that your friend had different tapes than you. It all worked. The best $200 walkman and the cheapest $15 tape player from kmart, it all worked the same.

    Fuck corporations. I ain't buying their shit anymore. Why? So in 2 years the standard can change? So I have to re-buy everything al

  • Dear Sony, (Score:3, Funny)

    by ethernetmonkey ( 743390 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @03:48PM (#12226551)
    Let us get this straight. You:
    1. Take a working model and methodology
    2. Break it to fit you corporate culture
    3. Then you pretend this is how everything should have been done all along - as your whole concept goes up in flames

    What a great idea!


  • Just get a Rio (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DarkMantle ( 784415 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @03:48PM (#12226559) Homepage
    I personally have a Rio MP3 player. Called the Rio Karma. [] It's small, functional and does something most MP3 players don't. Supports the Open Source OGG format. When comparison shopping OGG was a requirement, since I didn't want to re-rip most of my music collection. iPod, Sony, RCA, and Creative MP3 players don't support OGG/Vorbis, Rio and iRiver do, and Rio has more features on the player, such as the DJ which can play your favorite (most played) songs from any Genre you want. Or have it select songs for you from all genres. It even *Attempts* to go from heavy music, to slightly "lighter" music and then build back up so you're not going from Slayer to Goo Goo Dolls back to back.
    • Have to agree, a Rio MP3 player would be a better bargain.

      And I own 400 shares of Sony, so there's no excuse for their actions, from my viewpoint. The market cares nothing for one's excuses, only one's actions.

  • Sony is between a rock and a hard place [] with music, and they still haven't figured a way out. While their hardware division comes up with gadgets that still err on the side of user annoyance, their music division is having problems of its own [].

    It is ironic that a company which ostensibly should be better at reconciling the competing interests of hardware developers and music distributors is still stumbling with this stuff.

  • I don't care how the music gets stored on these players and is used natively...and if that's where the DRM is, then I can live with long as I can retain my source material in whatever format I choose.

    I'd love to see more of the portable players support a transcoding interface. I store all my music as 320k oggs, and if there were something that could convert them to 96k mp3s on the fly as I want to upload them, then I'd be cool with that.

    If Apple built that capability into their iTunes/iPod soft
  • Dear Sony Corp (Score:4, Insightful)

    by argoff ( 142580 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @03:55PM (#12226653)
    Please renember that the people who pay your salaries do not work for and do represent the music industry. And also, please renember that your consumer division makes way more that your music division. And also, please renember companies like IBM and Apple who royally screwed themselves out of the PC revolution while Miscrsoft made billions because they simply could not hold themselves accountable to the economic forces and realities that drive the bottom line. And also, please renember that while Sony Corp is a multi billion dollar corporation, they are not bigger than the global economy that puts out well over a trillion per month - and will simply beat you to a bloody pulp if you try to force your misguided will on the market rather than obey what the market is trying to tell you. Finally, please renember you are putting faith in a business strategy that requires the ability to restrict the free flow of information at a time when it's never been more free flowing since the birth of human existence. Translation - you are a guaranteed looser.

    Consumer and common sense

    PS: good riddance and good luck, you'll need it
  • If the players don't support direct downloads, then Sony has not "given in to consumer pressure." They're just fiddling with their recording format -- something Sony engineers love to do.
  • Sony, please wake up!

    Why do you care if Sony decides to play or not? There are many other options out there, support them, forget about Sony if they don't want to catch a ride.
  • Don't forget in the head to head, that apple also 'Obfuscates' - I mean it's an easily broken obfuscation, and the iTunes platform has become so prolific that hacks to every aspect of it have been everywhere for years now and several parties have duplicated their DAAP protocol - easly the best LAN netradio scheme out there, and others have built clients to undermine it for p2p purposes...

    But they do obfuscate.
  • by gosand ( 234100 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @04:03PM (#12226767)
    From a pure and simple business perspective, I am amazed that the recording industry is still fighting digital music. 5 years ago, you could argue that they were trying to understand this new market. But I think it is quite obvious, now more than ever, that people want to download digital music. The RIAA is content to sue people for this, instead of embracing it and capitalizing on their HUGE catalog of music. I don't think that there has ever been such a no-brainer business decision - they have a proven market. There is no question as to if people want to download music in MP3 format. It is zero risk that music downloads will be accepted. Providing downloads at a reasonable price is just a technical feat at this point, and that is certainly no hurdle.

    I simply do not understand why music downloads have not been embraced by the people who own the music. They are being extremely short-sighted.

  • by soupdevil ( 587476 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @04:15PM (#12226924)
    The really sad part is that as the only combination audio hardware/music label corporation, Sony had the chance to totally own the digital music universe. Imagine buying an album of non-DRM mp3s on a memory stick, and playing it in your Sony mp3 player. Sony would have made money both ways -- by selling hardware, and by selling music -- and by the way, they would have made a much bigger cut on the music than Apple currently does as a music middleman, which means they could have shrugged off the paranoia that causes DRM.

    And they could have done this in 1999, long before Apple got rolling with iTunes. Sony, you screwed up big time.
  • they DO get it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @04:53PM (#12227362) Journal
    they just don't like it. Sony's main problem is they are a content producer as well as a technology company.

    Other tech companies that aren't creating content don't give a rats ass about Sony's video and music divisions. however, the people who run sony are composed of all these competing groups and their interests naturally conflict, because the hardware group has to compete against other tech companies that, as I noted, don't give a fat rats ass about Sony's special IP interests.

    As a consequence, in order to placate the Music and Video divisions, the engineers had to come up with a way to allow people to move mp3s to their MP3 player while, at the same time, preventing people fro musing the Player as a transference device for sharing. If it's proprietary, all te better to placate the PHBs in hardware who never saw a proprietary system they disliked (viz Minidisk, beta, ATRAK, etc.)

    The good thing about this is: Sony's gear will always be hobbled by having to drag the retards in the Music and Video divisions along, which allows other companies to come in and fill the void without having the 3,000 lb sony gorilla pooping all over the market.


  • by TractorBarry ( 788340 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @05:37PM (#12227815) Homepage
    Something is very very wrong with Sony these days.

    I for one read the bit about the obfuscation and immediately dismissed their devices as useless e.g. "here we go again.. more of their idiot DRM crapfuscation".

    Sony just don't get it do they ? They've simply lost the plot. People just want to play/copy etc. what they want when they want. That's what will sell. The original Sony Walkman was great precisely because you just taped something (either from a record, a CD, the radio or a microphone) you popped the cassette it your walkman and you played it. No fucking about with computer formats/DRM or other unecessary shite.

    Sony get your heads round this simple idea "The customer should control the device". The device should not attempt to control the customer. If you try this your device will fail.

    Mp3 is the "format de jour" of portable devices. People have collections of mp3 files. I for one just want to "copy them to my portable device and go" (something I can do with my cheap "no name" mp3 player). Sorry but I'm not putting up with anything that gets in the way of that. Not one thing. If I have to I'll just go back to a portable CD player with home burned CDs. And I bet I'm not the only one.

    On a simiar note a mate of mine has a Sony DVD player that cost him over £ 200 (uk) It's fussy as hell about the discs you put in it and rejects most "home burned" CD and DVDRs - and it should be said here these DVDRs are mostly of home video footage (of his bloody kids and holidays too... arrghh !!!!)

    One of my other mates has a Ronin 215 which cost her £ 23 (uk). In contrast to the Sony it will have a go at anything you put in it and so far she's not found a single disc that won't play in it - even some of the ones her 4 year old son has scratched to bits (another good reason for making backups of your DVD collection)

    So we got the players together for a "super test" and when they do both manage to play the same disc can you tell the difference in quality ? Only just but it's very, very close (although we didn't test them on a terribly expensive television)

    Moral of the story ? My first mate now has a Ronin 215 as well and it's put us off buying any expensive consumer "media playback" equipment for life.

    Sorry, Sony have completely lost it big time and are simply not worth considering for portable audio players.

Money can't buy love, but it improves your bargaining position. -- Christopher Marlowe