When it comes to portable digital music players and online music services, “how Sony got outflanked is as much about Sony’s inflexibility as Apple’s initiative. With its ownership of premier music labels and its foundation in electronics, Sony had all the tools to create its own version of iPod long before Apple’s product came to market in 2001. But Sony has long wrestled with how to build devices that let consumers download and copy music without undermining sales in the music labels or agreements with its artists,” writes Ken Belson for The New York Times.
“A lot is riding on the Connect online store, which will be released in a few weeks. If it catches on with consumers, it will help validate the company’s longheld goal of integrating its electronics, music and movie businesses–and give it a shot at re-establishing its leadership in the latest generation of portable music… Sony’s brand name, vast retail network and expertise in electronics are notable advantages, which Samit said made it possible for Sony to offer a more affordable and more convenient alternative to Apple’s music system,” Belson writes.
“Like Apple’s iTunes online music store, Connect will have 500,000 songs that can be downloaded for 99 cents each. But while iTunes songs can be played only on iPods, Sony already sells a variety of devices, including minidisc and compact disc players, which can play songs bought on Connect’s Web site. Sony’s new Hi-MD disc player, for instance, will hold up to 45 hours of music on one disc, which will retail for about $7,” Belson writes. “One of Sony’s flash memory players will store up to 22 hours of music and have batteries that last about 100 hours. ‘We’re not about one-size-fits-all,’ said Samit [general manager of Sony Connect], sitting in his Manhattan office with Louis Armstrong playing in the background. ‘You can’t believe it’s about just one brick that people will carry,’ he said, referring to the iPod.”
Belson writes, “Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, said the minidisc player, which uses discs that can be recorded on, much like a cassette player, would not catch on in the United States the way it had overseas. ‘We have a very healthy respect for Sony,’ Jobs said in a telephone interview. ‘But Sony believes very strongly in the minidisc, and we don’t. It might work in Japan but not here.’ Apple’s most expensive iPod, by contrast, uses a hard drive that can store up to 10,000 songs.”
“‘Sony is coming out with their own format, but we don’t need another standard,’ said Joe Wilcox, an analyst at Jupiter Research. ‘The market for protected digital downloads is in the early stages of a format war. It’s a recipe for consumer confusion.’ Still, Wilcox and other analysts said that Sony had a loyal following that could help it seize a share of the digital music market quickly. ‘Look at the resources at their disposal,’ said Douglas Krone, the chief executive of Dynamism.com, a Web site that sells high-end electronics. ‘They own all the intellectual property and they have the retail channel. It will be hard for Apple to maintain its market share,'” Belson writes.
Full article here.
Related MacDailyNews articles:
Sony to launch European Connect Music Store in June – March 17, 2004
No Big Mac for Apple; McDonald’s to give away over 100 million Sony Connect songs – March 22, 2004
Potential McDonald’s, Sony music download giveaway just plain stupid – March 24, 2004