“For Keiji Kimura, the problem is small enough to fit in his pocket and just heavy enough to weigh on his mind. Kimura is a senior VP at Sony headquarters in Tokyo, and the problem in question is Apple’s iPod, the snappy little music player that’s revolutionizing consumer electronics the way Sony’s Walkman did some 20 years ago. By rights, Sony should own the portable player business… But the 21st-century Walkman doesn’t bother with tapes or CDs or minidiscs; it stores hundreds of hours of music on its own hard drive. And it sports an Apple logo.”
“‘It’s a good product,’ Kimura says of the iPod. ‘It’s exciting. I am positive the hard disk is a key device that will change our lifestyle.'”
“[Sony President Kunitake Ando] wants nothing less than for Sony to reinvent itself. But that will never happen as long as the company is frozen by its fear of piracy… it’s conflicted: Sony’s entertainment side needs to let customers move files around effortlessly, but its entertainment side wants to build in restraints… Where the iPod simply lets you sync its contents with the music collection on your personal computer, [Sony] Walkman users are hamstrung by laborious ‘check-in, check-out’ procedures designed to block illicit file-sharing. And a Walkman with a hard drive? Not likely, since Sony’s copy-protection mechanisms don’t allow music to be transferred from one hard drive to another – not an issue with the iPod. ‘We do not have any plans for such a product,’ says Kimura, the smile fading. ‘But, we are studying it.'”
“…Apple is delivering the innovation while Sony studies the matter,” writes Frank Rose in his upcoming article “The Civil War Inside Sony,” in Wired Magazine’s February 2003 issue (not yet online).