Once again, Sony is sucking.

This story was in my RSS feeds this morning:
Copy-protected CDs useless to iPod owners
To me, this just smacks of Sony being late to the portable MP3 player market, getting stroppy about it when their “iPod Killer” didn’t pan out to the pipe-dream sales figures they hoped for, and saying, “Fine‚Äì we’ll just release a couple of our key popular artists on CDs that won’t import to iPods. That’ll show ’em. Jerks.”
Here’s a real quote from the article:

'Aiming to curb piracy, labels like Sony BMG are rolling out copy-protected albums in the United States, which let users make three exact duplicates of a CD, and store files on a PC in Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Media format,' reports Reuters. 'But the copy-protection bars users from importing music onto iPods since Apple's Fairplay software is incompatible with Windows.'

Now, there are two reasons Sony is sucking here.
First, they suck because when they apply the copy protection in an attempt to better align themselves with their own hardware, (which, if you recall, the Sony iPod-esque product wouldn’t even play MP3 when first released), they are damaging sales potential. (Of note, iPods play MP3, WAV, AAC, AIFF and more.) Who gets hurt in this? The bands/artists that are being released in these unfriendly formats. They are the ones that will feel the pinch, not the label. The label can claim a loss on an album with the accounting department; the band could go bankrupt or get dropped from the label if it shows disappointing sales figures. (Granted, I doubt the artists mentioned in the article will really feel the financial problems given how successful they are, but the point is that smaller bands will get hurt.) I realise the easy retort is to mention Apple’s AAC format only playing on iPods and iTunes, but that’s less of a point and more of an Apple bashing attempt. AAC is a copy protected format sold through iTunes Music Store, playable on iPods and iTunes both on PC or Mac. That’s where it’s a moot point. It’s cross compatible. It’s no different than complaining that your CD player won’t play MP3s or WAVs. Apple has made this AAC format compatible with both major OS platforms. Sony is not being so friendly.
Second, they are doing a shit job at it. Read the first article I mention, then skim to the comments at the bottom of the page. Clearly, the copy protection is riddled with holes. Several people have managed to copy the CDs into their computers and transfer the files to their iPods. A few haven’t, but most seem to have no problems. Perhaps there are multiple batches out there of the CD, but really, it’s a poor performance on Sony’s part.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not overly promoting Apple here and I love some of Sony’s products. (Glad I never got one of those Mini-Disc things though… did anyone buy those or are they just kept going because Sony refuses to admit failure?) But at least Apple consistently does something that other hardware makers don’t: Apple looks for the best solution for the consumer, not the accounting department. If Apple were a less scrupulous company they too could churn out cheap components riddled with incompatibilities and limitations. They could move a lot more boxes if they skimped on parts or design. But they don’t. They provide top quality products for a discerning customer base. They cost more per product up front, but ask an Apple owner to part with even old hardware and they’ll typically put up a fight. The stuff works. The stuff keeps working. Apple remembers that a repeat customer is a happy customer. What the rest of the industry doesn’t seem to understand is that the ease of use and positive technological advances in format and hardware makes a better consumer experience. So Apple has AAC. Does that stop 30 million iPod owners on PC or Mac? Are consumers worrying that Apple’s music service has upwards of 70% of the online music download sales? No. Why? Superior products and services that enhance the user experience, regardless of platform, tend to keep complaints low and return business high. That’s where the competition needs to look‚Ä쬆not at imposing even more restrictions and segregating further the customer needs from the corporate bottom line. That’s just bad business…
After all, if what Apple is doing is so wrong, why do they continue to survive? 😉

Suck on, Sony. Suck on.


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