Sony bows to Apple with plan for AAC format compatibility

“Sony Corp. on Tuesday announced a symbolic concession to Apple Computer Corp. on digital audio technology. The company will make its latest music management software compatible with the AAC data compression technology used by Apple. The change will enable users of some types of Walkman digital audio players to listen to music imported from Apple’s music management software… The electronics manufacturer’s acceptance of Apple’s AAC format, used for the immensely popular iPod digital music players, marks a particular about-face. Sony said the coming version of its music management software Sonic Stage will be compatible with AAC,” The Asahi Shimbun reports.

“Sony’s latest strategy is taken as an open acknowledgement that it can no longer ignore iPod’s dominant lead. In April, Apple controlled 52 percent of [Japan’s] portable digital music player market, in terms of units sold, according to market researcher BCN Inc.,” The Asahi Shimbun reports. “Sony is a distant second with a 15 percent share, followed by Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., with a 7 percent share.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: And that, as they say, is that. There’s one very big standard that’s not at all controlled by the dying behemoth. Betcha chairs are whizzing in Redmond’s corner office with this news.

MacDailyNews Note: Apple’s iTunes (Mac and Windows) rips CDs by default into AAC. Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) is at the core of the MPEG-4, 3GPP and 3GPP2 specifications. AAC was developed by the MPEG group that includes Dolby, Fraunhofer (FhG), AT&T, Sony and Nokia—companies that have also been involved in the development of audio codecs such as MP3 and AC3 (also known as Dolby Digital). All of the music sold in the iTunes Music Store uses Protected MPEG-4 Audio (AAC, .m4p) with FairPlay Digital Rights Management (DRM) for playback on the desktop or iPod or Motorola mobile phones with iTunes. Sony sounds like they will be adding support for unprotected MPEG-4 Audio (AAC, .m4a), not iTunes Music Store’s Protected MPEG-4 format (Apple would have to license FairPlay to Sony). More info about AAC here.

[UPDATED, 11:10pm EDT: Added info regarding protected vs. unprotected AAC to MacDailyNews Note.]

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Related articles:
Music lovers make Apple’s iTunes Music Store AAC format the de facto standard for online music – August 28, 2005
Sony Ericsson plans Walkman phone with AAC support – February 15, 2005
The de facto standard for legal digital online music files: Apple’s protected MPEG-4 Audio (.m4p) – December 15, 2004
Digital music format shakeout continues; AAC strengthens claim as standard – January 13, 2004
AAC ‘is simply a better approach to digital sound encoding’ than MP3 – July 01, 2003
Apple’s iTunes Music Store threatens Microsoft; AAC vs. WMA – April 30, 2003


  1. I read MacDaily, well, daily and this is some of the best news I’ve read ever. That’s saying something because its been smooth sailing for the Mac since the birth of OS X. To rob M$ of its own clients is in the MP3 game is a huge victory.

  2. Adopting AAC doesn’t make their players able to play music from the iTMS. That said, this does represent a cpaitulation by Sony, in favor of the Apple supported standard.

    Imagine that. Apple setting standards. The significance of that can’t be underestimated. Setting standards is how Microsoft made itself inescapable. In order to be compatible with Microsoft technology, you had to adopt Microsoft standards. When Microsoft controlled the standards, they controlled everything that happens, no matter who develops the application.

    That clink you heard is the first piece of Microsoft’s armor falling to the ground.

  3. SN, your question is spot on.


    Apple will remain a closed shop. Remember, iTMS makes very little money. Its purpose is to bolster iPod sales, which make a LOT of money. Apple would be wiser to let the iPod play anyone else’s DRM, not the other way around.

  4. Sony still has no access to Apple’s DRM – they merely have access to the self-ripped CD libraries of iTunes users who didn’t switch the default away from AAC.

    In order to sell players, they’re no longer demanding that iTunes users re-rip all their CDs in Sony’s own ATRAC or MP3 format.

    Now will Sony come up with an iTunes plugin for their players as well? One has to wonder…! ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />

  5. Actually there was a firmware upgrade for the PSPs a few months back that included AAC support. Works and sounds great. With much chagrin I tell you it does not supprt DRMed AAC. I think it would be a fair assumption that was the testing water.

  6. What’s that?

    Look! Its a huge paddling of ducks! They all have something stamped on their butts! See! It’s an apple with a bite taken out of the right side!

    What are they doing! Why, look at that! They are all lining up in a row! A very, very long row!

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