Video-Downloads: Sony's Next Waterloo?
The financial times reports „Sony to enter video download market” and every major news agency carries the news. Whereas the FT article is quite good, the derived „news offspring” is actually really bad and IMHO missing a few points. So I take a stab at the story.
Sony is in dire need of an online-success story, after it’s Connect Music Store debacle. Sony launched it’s online music store in May 2004 in the USA, almost a year after Apples initial launch of the iTunes Store and half a year after Apple’s launch of the iTunes Windows-Client. In my home country Austria, the Sony Connect Music Store became available on June 26th 2005!! Yes, 2005!
Stan Glasgow, the president and chief operating officer of Sony Electronics Inc., sums up Sony Connect’s „success” quite nicely:
„it has not been successful”
So I am quite sceptical, that Sony can successfully set up and run a worldwide online video store that can successfully compete with Apples iTunes.
On the other side of an online store, there has to be a device to play the bought content. Sony’s UMD flopped completely – and not to my surprise. The UMD was as expensive as a regular DVD, would not play in a DVD-Player and no re-writeable media was/is available. So Sony had to settle – for now – with a 4 GB Memory Stick as the re-writable mass-storage for it’ PSP. The 4 Gb Memory Stick can, according to Sony, store up to 9 hours of MPEG-4 movies. And there are also rumors of a upcoming PSP with a built in harddisk circulating.
For now, you will have to by one or more of Sony’s proprietary Memory Sticks if you want to view movies on the PSP’s excellent 4.3-inch, 16:9 LCD TFT screen with a 480x272 pixel resolution. And you have to use either Sony’s or somebodyelse’s Software to convert the videos and copy them to the Memory Stick. Oh, and don’t forget, that a 4 GB Memory Stick can only store up to 9 hours of video.
If you get one of the 80 GB iPods from Apple, they can pack up to 100 hours of video. On the downside, you only get a 2,5-inch LCD with a resolution of 320x240 pixel. But the iTunes Software handles all the conversion/copying stuff.
For now, both offers/ideas underwhelm me. Why should I BUY videos in poor resolution in an online store, if I already bought the content on DVD/Blu-Ray/HD-DVD for viewing in my home cinema? This didn’t make sense with the UMD and will probably won’t work for the online-stores either.
Dear Sony et al.: Get rid of the stupid and ineffective pseudo-DRM on DVDs and it’s successors and offer me an easy solution to rip my DVDs to iPod or PSP for viewing. Offer a software solution I can plug into my Windows Media Center – or similar – to record content from TV and let me put that on your gadgets seamlessly, quick and without hassle. If you offer that, I will consider buying one of your gadgets.
Oh, and by the way: If your gadget supports WiFi/WLAN, please do support WPA2.