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Sony Already Lost Media War to Apple? 325

Declan McCullagh writes "Sony's Walkman was the king of media players. Now Apple's iPod is, and Sony Connect was a flop. But Sony's problems may soon be even bigger: the company is having a remarkably difficult time coordinating software development across different divisions and continents, and some managers are worried that things may be getting worse. Will Apple's recent forays into the living room create even more of a problem for Sony?"
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Sony Already Lost Media War to Apple?

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  • by jjleard ( 575385 ) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @05:29PM (#14837945)
    Sony's EQ2 is taking a beating as well. Not to mention the original EQ that they simply let (are letting) die. I think the guy's at Penny Arcade hit the nail on the head with a recent cartoon: (paraphrase) they seem to be generating content by robots completely devoid of a human touch.
  • by SheeEttin ( 899897 ) <> on Thursday March 02, 2006 @05:31PM (#14837962) Homepage
    Sony's been making audio equipment for a long time, and it's really good quality. If Apple can compete with Sony's quality and Sony can't get cooordinated enough, they may have competition.

    But what exactly is Apple going to do?
    What would they do for stereo equipment? iPod docks? It's been done.
  • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @05:32PM (#14837973)
    I only buy 17" component equipment. I like having a seperate receiver, cd player, dvd player, vcr, and the like. Apple doesn't produce anything in that form factor (and a 17" wide speaker with an ipod sitting on top doesn't count) and hasn't since the days of the pizza-box Quadras of the early nineties.

    For me to consider putting Apple into my AV cabinet they need equipment that fits the form factor that both industry and I have chosen. I can put a cheap PC into a rack mount server chassis and use that for music and video playback a lot less expensively than even the iPod solutions cost.
  • Re:I dunno... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Golias ( 176380 ) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @05:37PM (#14838023)
    I think that rather then split up, they need to do the opposite.

    If they get their company to work together better, they become the 800-pound gorilla that they are naturally set up to be.
  • (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Expert Determination ( 950523 ) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @05:46PM (#14838118)
    The only difference between the Sony products and the Apple ones is that the Sony ones are less sexy
    Did you ever look at Sony's apology for an mp3^H^H^Hatrac player? The iPod succeeded because it, and iTunes, were awesomely easy to use. People didn't have to stop for a moment to figure out how to use them. They just worked, straight out of the box. (So well that countless applications have now copied many of iTunes GUI elements.)

    Apple didn't succeed because new social practices become possible. This is obvious - mp3 players were available before the iPod came along. (And anyway, half the social practices associated with iPods are mythical - like random strangers jacking into each other's iPods.)

    When are people going to stop making up ever more fanciful notions about why the iPod is so popular and just look at the device and software itself? Unless you're a geek who likes to waste their day messing about with clunky hard to use software and devices it's pretty obvious why the iPod is a superior product to its competition.

  • by Johnny Mozzarella ( 655181 ) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @05:55PM (#14838212)
    Although Apple's fan base has made it clear they want a media center device with recording capabilities, they don't want to give them what they want.
    Why? because it will hurt their iTunes video download business? Sound like any major conglomerate you know?

    I believe Apple will overcome this by developing a better movie/video, distribution/download, system/service. The service will hopefully be good enough to silence most of it's critics.
    Apple would need to convince us that subscribing to their service is a better value proposition than doing all the "heavy lifting" of recording our own content.

    As Apple continues to grow and venture into new territories there will be more "conflicts of interest" in the future.
  • by soupdevil ( 587476 ) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @06:20PM (#14838421)

    Five years ago, Sony's music labels should have started releasing all albums as mp3 on Memory Sticks. They should have released a Walkman with a Memory Stick Slot. Sony would have owned the music hardware scene, and limited-edition Memory Sticks with unique content would have established the Memory stick as the standard flash format.

    But now Sony's hardware is languishing, and their Sony label artists are all sporting iPods. As the only label/hardware manufacturer, they had an undeniable advantage, and they blew it. Oh well.
  • by jillako ( 790560 ) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @06:35PM (#14838550)
    SNE - approx $45 Billion AAPL - approx $59 Billion Even with its narrower focus, Apple is already a more successful company. Any new successful consumer product is only going to take more away from Sony.
  • by Snap E Tom ( 128447 ) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @06:47PM (#14838663)
    Most Mac TOSLink cables are getting plugged into Sony receivers to play music from Sony lables and movies from Sony-owned studios. If you buy a Mac instead of a Sony PVR, or an iPod instead of a Sony Walkman, they still make lots of money off you.

    True, but Sony music and Sony movies are not physical devices sitting in your living room, which is what the original article describes. Sony's still going to make money from their studios, but in affect, they've been booted out of the living room.

    The exception to what you describe is the receiver, but that could be just a matter of time...
  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) * on Thursday March 02, 2006 @06:48PM (#14838672)
    Sony isn't the best at anything, and is overpriced at everything, but if you don't feel like doing any market research, buy a Sony and you will do okay.

    Honestly I am not sure your statement is as true at a general level for Sony any longer as it is for Samsung in the minds of most consumers, and I have heard less technically ept people express the same sentiments.

    When I am not sure about a purchase today and have no time to look up product details, I am a heck of a lot more likely to go with Samsung because I can be sure of a general level of quality. I would say I have had some Sony duds over the last few years and do not consider the brand quite as reliable as you note.

    Sure my 20 year old Sony CD player is great and still works. But I would not be likley to buy a CD player from them today.

    Go into a Best Buy and look to see which electronics have the least number of boxes left on the lower shelf. Very illuminating...
  • sony sold out (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 02, 2006 @07:20PM (#14838909)
    The past 3 Sony cd players I've had in my car looked really cool but they would skip constantly even with new cds. Apple is just one of many non-sony options, I don't buy Sony anymore.
  • (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 2nd Post! ( 213333 ) <gundbear@ p a c b e> on Thursday March 02, 2006 @08:06PM (#14839206) Homepage
    Actually, there is at least one social practice the iPod made possible:

    Carrying all your music with you; a soundtrack to your life.

    Prior to the iPod you had three choices:
    1) Unit based players, like a CD player or a tape cassette with limited music selection
    2) Network based players, like a AM/FM radio with limited music selection
    3) MP3 players, like the Nomad or Rio with crude design and usability

    The iPod, in one package, provide three things the other three existing devices did not have:
    1) Wide music selection (your entire music collection)
    2) Easy music selection (not only your entire collection, but being to easily browse through it)
    3) Portable music selection (smaller than everything out there with a comparable storage density; the Rio was smaller, but only could store 128mb!)
  • Re:I hope not... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by WingedEarth ( 958581 ) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @09:24PM (#14839678) Homepage
    You may say Apple computers are overpriced, but I've been a PC user all of life until about a year ago, and can justifiably say that Apples are above and beyond PC's and well worth the extra cash. My Dell Inspiron 1100 running WinXP crashed about five or six times PER DAY. I've owned this iBook for about a year now and it's crashed a total of twice. My supposedly 2.0 GHz Pentium 4 Dell didn't have the power to run Counterstrike without seriously slow processing, but my G4 iBook runs World of Warcraft perfectly smoothly without any problems ever. I haven't owned a single PC that took less than 4 minutes to boot up, but my iBook boots up in 30 seconds. Furthermore, as between Sony and Apple, iTunes is refusing Sony's demand to raise music download prices above $0.99. I'd rather go with the company that cares enough to defend consumers from disgustingly greedy corporate whores. Sony, through most of its history, was great because they innovated so much and added so much great technology to the world, but now they're becoming as tyrannical as a Manhattan landlord.
  • by Zantetsuken ( 935350 ) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @09:33PM (#14839725) Homepage
    Hell, there's nothing wrong with CRT, they're a helluva lot cheaper than thin-panel lcd screens, leaves me a few bucks extra to get better hardware - do I care if I wont be able to watch BD movies at their fullest definition/resolution potential, I dont get HD tv or movies now, and I dont run my 17" monitor - desktop or games - anything over 1024*768, so as far as my personal preference at least, I dont give a damn if Vista/new monitor crap DRM will prevent me from nice high res movies...

    But then again, thats just my personal preference...

  • (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Saxophonist ( 937341 ) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @11:09PM (#14840212)
    Actually, there is at least one social practice the iPod made possible:
    Carrying all your music with you; a soundtrack to your life.

    I know of an instance where that idea was taken quite literally. A rather popular professor at the university I attend recently passed away. His kids chose music for the memorial service based on the most-played songs list on his iPod.

    I'm guessing that's one Apple didn't think of when they included that feature.

  • Re:Why (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 03, 2006 @06:33AM (#14841555)
    But half of those didn't even end in 'defeat' for one of the brands. Both SNES and Genesis were highly successful consoles that are well remembered today. And can you really call machines like the C64, the Amiga, or the Atari ST failures? Sure, they're not around these days, but they were bloody popular in their day.
  • by gozar ( 39392 ) on Friday March 03, 2006 @10:28AM (#14842263) Homepage
    You're forgetting that in order to get a distribution license Apple will really have to guarantee a 'trusted path, NO hacks' for the movie decoding chain - which still requires HDCP which no current hardware supports. And guess who will have to be comfortable with such an online retail model? well, Sony Pictures Entertainment among few others (go check the holdings list in that link and see how many mainstream movies Apple will have to choose from if SPE won't play ball)

    Apple can start out not worrying about Sony content, because they have an inside track to Disney content, which includes:

    • Walt Disney Pictures
    • Touchstone Pictures
    • Miramax
    • Buena Vista

    I think if Apple decides to start with just Disney content and is successful, other studios will jump on board. Look at Mark Cuban and his theaters/Production Company/HD Net? He would probably be one of the first to jump on board.

  • by Blue_Wombat ( 737891 ) on Friday March 03, 2006 @08:38PM (#14847349)
    They can't make up their minds whether they are a hardware or content business. The Hardware was formerly good (I have had Sony TVs, Stereos, walkmen, VCRs) but my home is now a Sony-free zone. Their products simply don't make the cut. There are a few reasons for this:

    * DRM - Sony products seem to have more restrictive and annoying DRM than any other, and they seem to push it harder and more arrogantly. Cases in point - the Minidisc (bleech) software, and the fact thay every practically DVD player EXECPT Sony is region free.

    * Lack of price competitiveness - bad news Sony, simply sticking a Sony badge on 3rd party products does not get you a 20-30% price premium.

    * Utter contempt for ethics and customers - 1,2,3...say it in unison "Rootkit"

    Far from being a premium label, it is rapidly becoming one to avoid. If you look at its behaviour, and that of the consortia it belongs to, there is probably no company in the world doing more to deprive consumers of their rights.

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