How Sony Cemented iPod’s Supremacy | iLounge Article


How Sony Cemented iPod’s Supremacy

In the March 2004 article “Heir to Walkman’s Throne,” iLounge examined three companies - Sony, Microsoft, and Apple - and the products they have touted as successors to Sony’s Walkman, or “iPod killers.” We ended the article without reaching a conclusion as to which of the companies’ products will actually replace the Walkman, though we did have some feelings on that subject at the time.

After three separate events last week, we now strongly believe that one company has effectively eliminated itself as a contender to the next-generation Walkman crown: Sony. Controversial though it may initially seem, we will explain our conclusion in light of the three bad moves Sony made over only several days time, including our hands-on experiences with the PlayStation Portable music, movie and game playing “Walkman of the Future,” Sony’s unexpected premiere of a completely separate “iPod killer,” the hard disk-based VAIO Pocket, and finally, its disappointing launch of the Sony Connect music store.

PlayStation Portable

Los Angeles is not the first place you’d expect a Japanese electronics giant to unveil its newest product, but with generally friendly journalists already in town for the annual Electronic Entertainment Exposition (E3) show, Sony couldn’t have picked a more receptive audience. And, in fact, it did pick its audience, restricting invitations to its downtown pre-E3 press conference, selectively denying advance requests from journalists to attend the event, and posting security screeners at its gates to turn away unwelcome attendees.

There was good reason for Sony to be concerned; skeptical journalists would have seen through the artifice it had planned. The debut of its PlayStation Portable (PSP) was to be a carefully stage-managed event, starting with the presentation of a supposedly working prototype of the device that appeared to be physically larger than the product Sony promised to deliver. Compounding the intrigue, Sony would never actually show the prototype playing a game; instead, it would only be used to show six or seven minutes worth of pre-recorded music video and movie trailer content. Finally, key developer Electronic Arts would present upcoming software on a large video screen - rather than on the prototype - and precede its showing with an unusually legalistic disclaimer: the audience would be watching a video capture from a PC emulating “early specifications that Sony released in their public statements about the PlayStation Portable.”

The quote seemed to confirm what developers had been whispering for days if not weeks before the event: as of May 2004, Sony hadn’t finished the device they were supposed to be manufacturing for a huge fourth-quarter 2004 Japanese launch, and no games were really ready, either. Only days earlier, The Wall Street Journal had reported that key game developer Square Enix - minority-owned by Sony - was “still not sure what Sony wants to do with [the PSP] - that’s a problem[,]” and didn’t know whether PSP would “be a game machine or a Video Walkman[.]” Consequently, Square Enix’s contribution to the PSP press conference was merely footage from a straight-to-video movie it planned to release. As the United States release date of the PSP had already slipped to 2005, even members of Sony’s hand-picked friendly audience began to wonder when and how the company actually intended to sell its new device. If PSP was to be the “Walkman of the Future,” some began to suspect that the future wasn’t about to start any time soon.

Many observers hoped that Sony would leak additional details on one of the three official days of the E3 show, but it didn’t. A small, roped-off section of Sony’s booth allowed people to stand in line to photograph or touch actual-sized prototype PSP shells, which were wired to display Evanescence music videos, the Spiderman 2 movie trailer, and pre-recorded game footage. Three kiosks, rumored to be PSP casings wired to PC emulation hardware, displayed modestly interactive game demonstrations. The Sony representative on the floor would not confirm whether the prototype PSPs were actually running the games they were showing, or whether they had working UMD discs inside. After extended probing, two noted journalists claimed that the only “real” prototype at the show was a larger-sized unit being carried in the jacket pocket of Sony COO and PlayStation creator Ken Kutaragi, a claim we could not independently verify.

More importantly, Sony refused to disclose at E3 two critical facts regarding the new platform: its price and actual battery life. Though developers have been led to believe the PSP will launch at a price point between $249 and $299, one Sony executive previously went on record with a 48,000 yen price estimate - translating to approximately $420 U.S. or 350 Euros. Sony representatives at E3 would only say that the company was waiting to see what component prices looked like closer to the unit’s release, and that the PSP’s battery might range in performance “comparable to portable DVD players” at “two and a half hours,” and music players at “approximately eight hours.”

Finally, as we discovered at the show, the weakest link in the PSP’s chain of Walkman appeal is its utility as a music player: you can’t record on its discs, only on Memory Stick Duo Pro flash cards, which are sold separately. As of today, it’s a foregone conclusion that any device based on pre-recorded discs or flash cards doesn’t have a prayer of beating the iPod, and this is especially true if either medium is a proprietary new Sony format. (Recall Betamax, MiniDisc, and any number of other Sony format flops.) But those are the only media the PSP uses, so unless your favorite artist releases music on UMDs or you want to shell out for the expensive newest-generation Memory Sticks (512 Megabytes = $250 and up), the only music you’ll hear on a PSP will be in the background of a game.

In sum, even if Sony’s PlayStation Portable turns out to be a popular portable game console - which would itself be a historical anomaly given Nintendo’s dominance with sub-$100 portable game hardware - we think that the chances of the device becoming the “Walkman of the Future” are close to zero. Unless there is a dramatic breakthrough in flash memory prices, the immediate future of portable audio entertainment is in hard disk-based solutions.

VAIO Pocket

In order to appreciate what we’re about to describe, it’s important to understand the corporate bureaucracy that is Sony, a Japanese corporation that includes several distinct subsidiaries, each a separate fiefdom with unique assets and a prince-like leader. Though all of the subsidiaries are overseen by Sony’s CEO Nobuyuki Idei, who was incidentally named one of the world’s worst corporate managers by Business Week magazine last year, each subsidiary operates more or less independently, developing products that compete with other Sony offerings almost as frequently as those from other companies.

Sony’s internal conflicts manifested most dramatically last week when two of its subsidiaries unveiled products that arguably contradict each other: in the Western hemisphere, a U.S.-based Sony executive was unveiling the “Walkman of the Future,” PlayStation Portable, only one day after his Japan-based counterparts had debuted the “iPod killer” VAIO Pocket, a hard disk-based handheld jukebox with a color screen. Assuming that the devices came out at roughly the same time - as they might if Sony intended to stick to its announced release dates - they would be competing iPod alternatives, each based on different technologies, media formats, and marketing schemes, yet both from the same company.

Clearly, the VAIO Pocket is Sony’s most desperate attempt to clone the iPod: it acknowledges the strength of Apple’s packaging by trying to be stylish, the simplicity of the iPod’s large touch wheel interface by using an odd square of touch-sensitive nubs called “G-Sense,” and the power of Apple’s chosen storage medium by including a hard disk.

More interestingly, the VAIO Pocket avoids all of Sony’s prior music and portable brand names, including Walkman, Network Walkman, and CLIE, instead relying on the branding of the company’s personal computer line. And it adds two features the iPod lacks: extended (20 hour) battery life and a color screen. The color screen can be used to display digital photos, but apparently not movies or other video content.

But in addition to being physically larger than the iPod - an issue that has dogged other iPod competitors - the VAIO Pocket, like the PlayStation Portable, has two critical Achilles’ Heels: the first is Sony’s proprietary standards. As is the case with Sony’s other digital music devices, the VAIO Pocket requires users to convert their songs into the proprietary Sony ATRAC audio format, which takes more time and hassle than transferring MP3s straight onto an iPod. Notably, users of other Sony devices have previously complained loudly about the poor performance and stability of Sony’s ATRAC conversion and uploading software.

The second problem is a high price: at 53,000 yen (currently $468 U.S. or 390 Euros), the 20GB VAIO Pocket will cost about as much as a 40GB iPod, itself currently a low seller relative to Apple’s more popular mini, 15GB and 20GB iPods. Given that consumers have complained about the iPod’s price, the prospects for a product that is relatively more expensive, larger, and requires ATRAC conversion software are very weak.

The Final Nail in the Coffin: Sony Connect

It would have been a bad enough week for Sony if the company had only shown two products that were unlikely to knock the iPod off its perch, but on May 7, the company launched Sony Connect, a competitor to Apple’s iTunes Music Store. Relying on a digital jukebox program called SonicStage, which pales in comparison with the sophisticated iTunes, Sony Connect cloned parts of Apple’s pay-per-download music strategy, but poorly.

Within days of its debut, Sony Connect had been roundly criticized from all corners, including deep complaints from The New York Times (“almost embarrassingly crude,” “maybe they ought to call it Sony Disconnect”), USA Today (“a flop,” “poorly designed,” “confusing”), and others. Not only did users and critics complain about the software and Sony’s music library, but prices earned scorn as well: Sony decided to ask double their standard charge for tracks longer than seven minutes in length, a perceived “price creeping” violation of Apple’s consistent and popular 99 cent per track philosophy.

Sony Connect’s biggest limitation: like Sony’s audio devices, it only uses songs in ATRAC format, which renders the service next to useless for both iPod users and those with WMA-based audio players. And its biggest “uh oh” for the future? Sony has touted Sony Connect as its centerpiece for selling music, and potentially downloadable games, for both the PlayStation Portable and VAIO Pocket devices. That’s only a good thing if you can accept the fact that you can’t easily convert anything you bought from iTunes, Napster, or other paid services and use it with Sony’s products.

Historically, Sony’s record with personal computer software has been terrible: application bugs, refusal to update drivers for anything other than recently-released computers, and other issues have plagued Sony’s PC development efforts. As a result, we remain skeptical of their ability to fix the problems with Sony Connect any time in the near future - and certainly even more skeptical that the company will catch up with iTunes or the iTunes Music Store.

Concluding Thoughts

Stepping briefly out from the curtain to offer a personal opinion as the primary author of this piece, I would like to add the following: after roughly a dozen years writing about electronic entertainment products, I’ve seen plenty of interesting new technologies - enough to know the difference between likely hits and certain misses. Last year, I was one of the first writers to publish a print article tearing apart 2003’s false prophet of consumer electronics, Nokia’s $299 N-Gage, which tantalized some writers and analysts by blending MP3 and game playing features with a cellular phone. Nokia’s size and large advertising budget encouraged less than critical early journalism on the platform, and it was only after the N-Gage crashed spectacularly on launch that supposedly informed critics were willing to publicly condemn it.

Given the tricks Sony appears to be pulling with the PlayStation Portable, from manipulating journalists to refusing to disclose key launch details, as well as the mistakes it has made with its ATRAC format, its consistently high pricing, and the near-universal condemnation of the only legal download service available for its platforms, I and we at iLounge feel quite strongly that Sony is too organizationally confused to mount an effective challenge to the iPod juggernaut. Even if we are wrong, and the company releases the PSP for $199, we think that its proprietary media formats and likely release date will cripple its appeal as an iPod-competitive audio device. At best, it will be the Gameboy of the Future, and nothing more. Similarly, even if the VAIO Pocket was cheaper and offered direct MP3 playback support, Apple’s lead with the iPod now is so large that Sony would be hard pressed to match it.

Some may prefer to dismiss our conclusions, especially in light of the otherwise under-critical press the PSP and VAIO Pocket have previously received, and particularly given that iLounge is, after all, an iPod-specific site. Bear in mind, however, that we continue to keep an eye on all emerging technologies, and have previously complimented iPod competitors when they have bested Apple on features or pricing. Our feelings about Sony’s PSP, VAIO Pocket, and Sony Connect should therefore be understood for what they are: critical, but reached after hands-on testing and serious consideration.

When Sony first disclosed the concept for the PlayStation Portable last year and called it the “Walkman of the Future,” it was clearly jabbing at Apple’s global success with the iPod. But after using and learning more about the PSP last week, we’re now convinced that Apple, not Sony, has already landed the knock-out punch in the Walkman wars. Only time will tell whether Sony will keep trying for a rematch, or take the wiser road and join forces with a clear winner. The sooner it abandons its obsession with proprietary encryption and storage mediums, the sooner consumers will return en masse to its products. In the meanwhile, the digital music revolution definitely won’t be waiting around for Sony.

Jeremy Horwitz is Senior Editor of iLounge and practices intellectual property law in his spare time. His recent book, Law School Insider, has been called the “best book about law school - ever,” and he continues to contribute to Ziff-Davis electronic entertainment magazines.

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people think sony is all that… damn im glad i grew up and smelt the roses oops i mean “apples” hehe

Posted by Jamie "pyromaniac" on May 19, 2004 at 8:44 AM (CDT)


My concern with the PSP is that I want A GAME PLAYING device.  I don’t want all this other crap.  Give me games. I can do the rest of that stuff on my PPC.

Posted by Cameron on May 19, 2004 at 9:12 AM (CDT)


The PSP was playable:

Posted by Adrian on May 19, 2004 at 9:58 AM (CDT)


Er, nevermind. The units mentioned in the ign article were probably the emulated units mentioned in this article.

Posted by Adrian on May 19, 2004 at 10:04 AM (CDT)


Sony would do much better to not try to combine everything into one expensive device.  Make the PSP exclusively a GameBoy killer and focus the VAIO Pocket at the iPod.  Trying to combine all in one (or in this case sorta all in two) is going to be Sony’s undoing.

Posted by Dave on May 19, 2004 at 10:33 AM (CDT)


Correct, Adrian.

I opted not to go into greater detail regarding the “playable” (quite possibly emulation) units that were on the show floor, but I did spend a fair amount of “hands-on” time with them. There was a RPG (Tales of Eternia) demo that just let you move someone on a map screen, and a Metal Gear Ac!d demo that let you change camera views. The top photo above (with the washed-out screen) is from my hands-on time with Metal Gear.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz on May 19, 2004 at 10:49 AM (CDT)


This has to be one of the funniest things I’ve ever read. It’s unbelievable that Sony invented the wildly successful Playstation and PS2, because those have been their only successful products in recent years. Sony seems to have a fixation not with developing good, solid products, but with inventing new “standards” and trying to breathe life into formats that should be allowed to die.

That’s why I love my iPod.

Posted by jbrez on May 19, 2004 at 12:13 PM (CDT)


The psp is obviously ment to play games. Movies and music will never really be a worthwhile addition to the device.  The only thing I might be interested is streaming over the 802.11b conection.  As for the price, you have to remember that prices are almost always higher in japan. IIRC PS2s sold for about 400.00 when they came out in japan.

Posted by Matt Kelch on May 19, 2004 at 12:55 PM (CDT)


the PS was popular because it was the first CD based gaming system to coincide with the CD Burner boom and be able to have (illegal) mod chips installed. The large numbers in sales of consoles intrigued Game makers to release more titles for the platform, allowing gamers to obtain larger libraries of games (burned and purchased). The K.O. for sony came in making the PS2 backwards compatible, Increasing gamers libraries even further, giving people the sense of more value.

My point? it’s interesting the reason that the Playstation _really_ took off was they went with a standard data format when others were were stuck in a proprietary cartridge format.

I guess it was a fluke.

Posted by WebsnapX2 on May 19, 2004 at 1:27 PM (CDT)


This article is absolutely rediculous. The PSP is not a handheld music device, nor is it a proposed “iPod killer.” It is a handheld gaming device, and it is not in the market to compete with the Viao Pocket or the iPod. It can play music off of a memory stick, making it similar to flash memory MP3 players, but probably about three times as expensive, since it also has a little side feature called PLAYING VIDEO GAMES. I’m appalled that they compared the PSP to the iPod at all. It may become a “Walkman of the Future” but certainly not in the musical sense, but rather in the field of portable electronic entertainment.

Posted by TripMachine on May 19, 2004 at 1:33 PM (CDT)


TripMachine: We’re actually in agreement here, since we also think that the PSP is being misclassified. It is a game device, not a legitimate music or movie platform, but Sony chose to make the comparison with the Walkman, not us. We think the PSP is little more than a next-generation Game Boy that just happens to play music and movie content.

As noted, Sony has called the PSP “the Walkman of the Future” since it first disclosed the device last year, and specifically emphasized again and again that it is intended to play music and movies, not just games. Sony spent more time showing music and movie footage at its pre-E3 press conference than showing footage of games.

The music and movies point was made so often, and so repeatedly, that Sony’s closest developers were confused about what the company is doing with the PSP, whether it is supposed to be a Walkman of the Future or a Game Boy of the Future. We do not think that the Walkman comparison is accurate, hence, this article.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz on May 19, 2004 at 1:49 PM (CDT)


One thing I forgot - how can they say this is “cementing iPod’s supremacy” when none of this technology is even available yet? They haven’t used any of it, and they’re just biasedly blasting it. Let me explain.

“it acknowledges the strength of Apple’s packaging by trying to be stylish” - What?! So it should try NOT to be stylish? And Apple pioneered being stylish? This is bias, plain and simple.

“the power of Apple’s chosen storage medium by including a hard disk. ” - What else are they supposed to use? Flash memory, that’s 20 GB large? Of course they’re using a Hard Disc. This is not showing that they’re copying iPod. It simply shows that they’re making a Hard Drive based MP3 player. That’s like saying that Chevy obviously emulates Fords by using engines in their cars.

“Sony refused to disclose at E3 two critical facts regarding the new platform: its price and actual battery life” - it is openly known that the PSP will run for 10 hours playing music from a memory stick, which as I mentioned before, is not it’s intended main use.

Overall, they critique the PSP as a portable music player, for which it was not intended, and it will likely not be a major factor. You didn’t say that the PS2 sucked because it was a bad CD player. This entire article amazes me with it’s ignorance.

Posted by TripMachine on May 19, 2004 at 1:54 PM (CDT)


I see what you mean Jeremy, but I assume they are viewing it as a walkman of all forms of entertainment, not using “walkman” simply to mean “music”. When I hear walkman I think that it means portable electronic entertainment of any type.

Posted by TripMachine on May 19, 2004 at 2:07 PM (CDT)


TripMachine: Sorry that it looks like we can’t agree on some of these points, but to respond:

First, we have “used it.” We went hands-on with the PSP last week in Los Angeles and have Sony Connect software, as well.

Second: Yes, as has been quite widely acknowledged, the style of Apple’s digital music players has been regarded as a major selling point lacking in its competitors.

Third: When you say “of course they’re using a Hard Disc [sic],” Sony has not used a hard disk in any of its prior digital music players, despite having released tens of different models, from MiniDisc to MP3-CD Walkman to Network Walkman. Sony has been motivated to sell low-capacity/CD-based solutions because of their music CD selling business and desire to avoid obsoleting the “album” format. This is the very first device they’re making, and by the way, we’re not the ones who chose to call it an “iPod killer.”

Fourth: when you say “openly known,” Sony was asked repeatedly to specify exact battery life and would not go on record doing so. On music specifically, Sony said only that PSP would _compare with_ devices providing eight hors of battery life, not ten, and would not be more specific than that. So where is this openly known?

Fifth: Sony chose to call this device a portable music, movie and game console, not us. It seems like you want it to do well as a gaming device, which we have no issue with. We are simply saying that it is not the next Walkman, despite Sony’s unambiguous claims to the contrary.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz on May 19, 2004 at 2:11 PM (CDT)


1. As to having used it, I apologize if I was unclear, I was referring to the VAIO Pocket.

2. I find it silly to compare the usage of style in the VAIO to that in Apple since they styles themselves are totally different. The fact that it in fact has style is inherent, and they obviously are going to try to achieve some level of asthetic excellence in their product.

3. If you’re comparing two Hard Disc [sic] music players, then it’s redundant to point out that one will, in fact, contain a hard disk. If a music player is to compete on the iPod’s level, it must contain a hard drive, otherwise it would be very difficult and costly to obtain the multi-gigabyte storage capaticy of the iPod. I assume an “iPod killer” would have to be a HD based music player to compete.

4. From - “The PSP will contain a lithium-ion battery. They claim roughly 10 hours of playback with this battery.” Althought not official, it is from Sony.

5. How can you say it isn’t the next walkman? It probably isn’t the next big music player, but that to me isn’t the definition of “Walkman,” as I previously mentioned.

Posted by TripMachine on May 19, 2004 at 2:20 PM (CDT)


Also, I agree that the Sony Music Store looks primed for failure. That is one point that I won’t debate you on.

Posted by TripMachine on May 19, 2004 at 2:22 PM (CDT)


Seriously, its drivel like this that makes me embarrassed to admit that I’m an Apple user.

Posted by Matt on May 19, 2004 at 2:26 PM (CDT)


You got it absolutely right! Journalism seems to havce gotten seriously lost in the past few years - especially when it comes to electronics. There were Mp3 players before the ipod but none of them were really any good (I know, I bought 2 different ones) - journalists don’t seem to realize that people waited until the ipod came out because it was the first to get the hardware-software right ... and while it’s nice looking, fashion is not the only reason the ipod sells itself ... so without an understanding of what it is - journalists just make a lot of presumptions - the worst being - the itunes store doesn’t have WMA so it will get knock off - without even understansing that MP3 drives the market - and that AAC Mp4’s is a nice whipped butter option but not the meal. Or that converting your Mp3’s (even on the fly) to a proprietary Mp3 format is like selling you a car that requires you to add a can of additives after each fill up. Most peope are not going to do it ... but hey, why risk an invite to the next Sony jumbo shrimp dance party to ask some serious questions?

Posted by jbelkin on May 19, 2004 at 2:30 PM (CDT)


It’s hard enough to find journalists, however biased, who are willing to be critical of new technology after attending PR events with free food, dancing girls and the like.  I give the writers of this article genuine kudos for expressing their feelings about the device.

This whole debate’s a little silly since this is the iPod Lounge, a place for evaluation of music players.  Anything compared to the Walkman is asking to be evaluated as one.  Therefore, the idea of evaluating the Playstation as a music player doesn’t strike me as being unreasonable, especially since it was showed off at E3 more as a music/movie player than anything else.

The device seems more than a little large to be a portable device.  I thought the iPod was sufficiently portable, but people are really going for the mini since it’s even more so.  This indicates to me that banking on a device that looks too big even to fit in an empty pocket is likely to be a non-starter.

I’m not a gamer myself, but I dated a single mom with game-playing kids, and they were happy with a puny Nintnedo device with a tiny screen that could fit in their pockets, and I don’t see a larger device as filling a “portable” niche.

The most curious thing about this debate, though, is that even Sony advocates seem to be agreeing with the original reviewer: These new devices are no serious threat to the iPod.  Since that’s what the article’s about, I don’t quite get why people are so combative; everyone’s agreeing but not being particularly agreeable about it.



Posted by David H Dennis on May 19, 2004 at 3:14 PM (CDT)


TripMachine: I appreciate your responses.

Just as with PSP and Sony Connect, we’ll test the VAIO Pocket in person whenever it becomes available. That said, we would be really surprised if the final released version differs from the announced specs, especially regarding ATRAC.

Re: style and functionality, you have to admit that G-Shock is a real stretch (in the iPod’s direction) given Sony’s prior control schemes for its audio devices. For a company previously so well known for its abilities to innovate, shrink, and mass-market technologies, it’s sort of amazing that Sony hasn’t managed to develop a product smaller, cheaper, and more likely to succeed than the iPod, don’t you think?

Re: hard disk, the point was simply that after years of avoiding portable HD-based music players (and selling really overpriced solid state devices like the Network Walkman), Sony is now following the leader and going with a hard disk storage solution. It’s a sudden switch for a company that was going in a very different direction only weeks ago.

Re: battery, yes, the comment from is speculation. The direct quote from Sony, current as of last week, contains all of the qualifiers and implicit question marks (what does “comparable to” really mean?) pointed out above. For what it’s worth, game developers have been operating under the assumption that PSP will have roughly 4.5 hours as a game playing device unless Sony switches battery technologies.

Re: “Not the next Walkman,” because virtually anyone else asked the question “is the PSP like a Walkman or Game Boy” would pick the latter, and because the same question posed about an iPod would yield the opposite response. As mentioned in the Heir to Walkman’s Throne article, Sony has failed to popularize the Walkman name with any device except audio players, and we just don’t see the PSP as being a realistic choice for anything except game playing.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz on May 19, 2004 at 3:23 PM (CDT)


But but…. why cant anyone do it RIGHT?
You want an ipod killer? Do the following:

Posted by Hitesh Sawlani on May 19, 2004 at 3:25 PM (CDT)


well… if I was looking for a total entertainment package… I think I found it in the PSP. My Gameboy cost $100+, my portable DVD player cost $400+, my Pocket PC cost $300, and my iPod cost $300+... So, it’s either $1000 for four devices or under $300 for one device to do it all. I think Sony is going for an overall package… an overall package that Apple is not competing with. My iPod is great, but it’s games suck and it’s other features are useless compared to my Pocket PC. So, if you ONLY like to listen to music= then Apple’s iPod is for you. However, if you like to watch movies, play games, listen to some music, and keep organized, I say go with the PSP. Well, unless you are like me, and extremely rich so you can afford them ALL!!!!!

Posted by theMAINpoint on May 19, 2004 at 3:29 PM (CDT)


I’ll take an iMac or a PC that is as small as my iPod. Because that is basically what Hitesh Sawlani just suggested. Hey man, sounds good to me. The heck with the guy above and his pocket pc…. give me a hard drive pc that will fit in my wallet!

Posted by -cUrt- on May 19, 2004 at 3:35 PM (CDT)


“people waited until the ipod came out because it was the first to get the hardware-software right”

Even if you build it well they will probably not come.

The iPod was the first “good enough” product that was coupled with a huge marketing push.

That was the key. Most of the good mp3 players before the iPod were by niche players with zero marketing, and the few ones by relative biggies (Compaq, Creative) sucked donkeys’ balls.

If nothing else Sony are amazingly good at marketing. Not just at billboards and Tv spoots, ala Apple, but at in-club promotions, viral buzz, etc.

This analysis is totally “geek” technie focused and ignores Sony’s vast reach, deep pockets, and myriad of distirubtion and promotional channels. Not to mention that they have guaranteed shelf space on virtually every electronics store in the world!

Posted by Marketing, Stupid on May 19, 2004 at 5:32 PM (CDT)


the iPod’s reason for success was the styling and incredibly small footprint. Sony needs to give up on music players cause their’s sucks- sony should stick to what it does best: making game consoles, computers, and cameras. I can see how they style: light tan plastic almost always, but for some reason that doesnt work with mp3 players.(or whatever sony makes!) They are probably the only other company that can create “lust” for an electronic device.

Posted by Chris on May 19, 2004 at 6:30 PM (CDT)


sony has moved away from the light tan plastic casing for their products. its hard to find a [new] sony product that isn’t either black or silver, or a combination of both. i don’t think either of these products will do particularly well. I would expect sales levels for the vaio pocket to that around the same of the Network Walkman they brought out a few years back.

Posted by Harrison in Melbourne, Australia on May 19, 2004 at 7:04 PM (CDT)


The article failed to menion another reason why Sony Connect has and will fail: it’s utter reliance on Sony’s decade old and never accepted in North America MiniDisc.  Sure, it’s popular in Europe and Asia, and amongst journalists and other people in the radio/audio biz, but despite it’s actual usefulness, it’s not a format the general public gives a damn about.  So sure people can complain all they want that iTunes music is forever linked to an iPod, and least it’s a product in demand and going somewhere.  Sony Connect is linked to an antiquated technology, forced through Sony’s awful SonicStage and even more restrictive DRM and anyone can imagine.

Posted by Patrick on May 19, 2004 at 8:06 PM (CDT)


Granted Sony doesn

Posted by Andrew on May 20, 2004 at 2:49 AM (CDT)


Sony’s PSP is a portable game machine first and foremost, if you can’t see this you haven’t been following it very much. Also E3 was set just to show the hardware Sony said this before the show, TGS in Japan is for the software where it is being released first. I’m not sure where your getting all this conspiracy stuff your just looking foolish, I know the site is for I-pod love I always been a big fan of Apple but come on some info in that article is just spewing almost undeserved hate just attacking a product that many are excited about, the screen is just beautiful. You are also taking that Walkman of the future to literally, they mean more in terms of creating an exciting entertainment product that will be well known and copied and trust me things from the PSP will be copied. Just like the Sonys Walkman was copied. PSP was never meant to be an I-pod killer the way you try to knock it in with such venom seems really silly, almost like you fear it since it’s such great technology and trying to attack it any way with half truths or exaggerations. There are plenty of cons to any great electronic product if you look hard enough even the great Ipod.

Posted by David on May 20, 2004 at 3:41 AM (CDT)


I am an ipod user and I love most of apple products. Although I can’t help feeling that this article is very bias and anti sony. First of all, it was sony who lead the electronic industry with innovative design. So when the article suggested that sony’s vaio was tyring to be stylish as Apple’s Ipod is plain wrong. Sony’s product has always been ‘stylish.’ It was Apple who copied that. In fact, Job admitted to it when he unveiled the thin powerbook and claimed that he wanted to be the “sony of the computer industry.” Yes, IPod had spurred many other companies to follow it’s lead. But that doesn’t mean that Apple is the best and leading technological company in the world. Sony had done far more innovative achievements done Apple. I just wish the writer of this article would be more objective and do a little research.

Posted by Xavier on May 20, 2004 at 3:55 AM (CDT)


I couldn’t agree more. Sony may very well beat Nintendo. But take note that Nintendo will also be releasing Nintendo DS (Dual Screen) - The next gen Gameboy. It may not be as powerful than the PSP, but if Nintendo keeps it’s “Gameboy Reputation” with regards to their price range, Sony may fail in overthrowing the king of handheld gaming that is the Gameboy.

Speaking from a gamer’s perspective, yes I would most probably buy a PSP, but not for anything else than playing games. I just hope Sony keeps up it’s promise.

As for the vaio, IMHO, it would never replace the iPod. For vaio’s additional features, I rather buy a high end PDA.

Posted by Darrell on May 20, 2004 at 5:12 AM (CDT)


i’m glad that at least one person who read this article (TripMachine) recognizes that its pure apple propaganda, full of weak attempts to make ipod users feel good about their sleek hardware.  i have yet to buy an mp3 jukebox, but i’ve been keeping up with them for years.  the ipod is a brilliant player (which i may end up buying), but it deserves fair comparative trials against its rivals (as opposed to weak editorials like this b$llsh&t).  shame on those of you who refuse even the POSSIBILITY that the ipod could lose its crown (gasp!). 

also, please stop arguing that apple was the first HD player and that the rest of the electronics companies are just following behind its lead.  rio and others made hard drive players before apple—they just didn’t have hitachi’s microdrive technology.  other companies will use the same drives, even if apple was one of the lucky first!

stop acting like ipod is god’s gift to man.  its great but still has some major drawbacks (price, battery life).  check out the rio karma and the iRiver H120.  these players are less expensive and in some other ways better than the ipod.

other great players will exist, possibly including one of these sonys . . . i’m sorry thats just the way it technology evolves.  look on the bright side, if some of these players eat into apple’s market share, then they’ll have to lower their prices to compete.  and thats good for us.

Posted by terrible article on May 20, 2004 at 10:18 AM (CDT)


David + Xavier: No one is saying this won’t be a good (if expensive) game platform, and it’s not a matter of being “anti-Sony.” I’m sure all three of us own the same PlayStation and PlayStation 2 consoles, the same Sony headphones, audio components, etc. No one here’s saying Sony sucks as a whole. Take a look at the Heir to Walkman’s Throne feature we ran in late March.

This article is focusing on one and only one question regarding the PSP - is it the “Walkman of the Future” or not? It’s a question Sony raised, and we think the answer is no.

I suggest that you do a search for the May 2004 Wall Street Journal article containing quotes from Michihiro Sasaki (general manager of corporate strategy for Square Enix) and Kazumi Kitaue of Konami. You might also want to go back and watch recordings of Sony’s press conferences regarding the PSP - try Gamespot. You will note that as of May 11, Sony responded to the WSJ article by starting to emphasize the gaming aspect of the console. Is it backing away from the “Walkman of the Future” rhetoric on its own?

As an additional point, regarding “conspiracy,” what “conspiracy” is it exactly that you’re talking about?

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz on May 20, 2004 at 10:34 AM (CDT)


also, lets not knock sony too much.  apple’s sure to FOLLOW right along behind with concepts like this:

Posted by terrible article on May 20, 2004 at 10:36 AM (CDT)


By the way, for those following this thread, you can thank the Gaming Age forums for this influx of angry new posters. :-)

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz on May 20, 2004 at 10:36 AM (CDT)


Again your focusing on the “Walkman of the future ” way too literally. I’m not sure why you keep focusing on it like your worried people might get confused and think this is specifically an audio portable device aimed at the I-pod killer, it clearly isn’t and was never intended to be. The widescreen, analog control,wireless, 12 buttons on the machine if needed when used with the analog stick,the processing power wouldn’t be necessary then. Akio Morita the main founder of Sony before his passing used to say how he would like Sony to create other products like the Walkman, basically he was very proud of that product and foresaw Sony aspiring to products like that in terms or success and innovation.

Your figure for $250+ for 512meg memory sticks even the memory pro duo is at least $100 off check online prices today it’s been as low as $140 and by the time PSP is out much less. You can also get a 256mmeg stick for $55 now.

Posted by David on May 20, 2004 at 12:48 PM (CDT)


If you put up a Sony dual shock controller next to the PSP its not that much larger than it and is slightly larger than the original GBA. Considering the screen size d-pad,analog,buttons and power of the unit it is extremely compact. And Ken Kutaragi didn’t have a “bigger protoype” in his jacket pocket.

As I said I always been a Mac fan I have 4 Mac’s also have one PC but thats pretty common with most Apple users now. I use to hang out in the Macintosh IRC channells years ago when we would help newbies, talk about Marathon, a cool new Mac OS feature , Steve Jobs or some new technology. That’s why this article is so against what has always excited many mac fans “good new technology”. It was always a common excitment among macfans I knew on the net and macfans I knew personelly.

I have read those articles you mentioned rememeber a couple of things Sony was getting feeedback as any smart company would do when releasing a product they expect to last and sell, so they did add extra overall ram so not having finalized specs at that specific time isn’t that big a deal yet somehow I think you might know that. Also maybe you didn’t realise final specs and development kits have gone out to developers, some have commented with the extra ram the finals games may look even better than the demos shown. I have the original demos shown before release of PS1 and Ps2 guess what games have surpassed them in both cases. This isn’t like the CNN Mario walking through the streets demo shown before N64’s release that Nintendo and silicon graphics were showing off that was never close to the final product.

I shouldn’t even bother you obviously had an agenda and bias in that article.

Posted by David on May 20, 2004 at 12:54 PM (CDT)


According to as of about one minute ago, official Sony brand MS Duo Pro media run from $235-399 (notably no one under $249.95 actually has them in stock), Lexar brand runs from $229-321 (notably only a place at $249.95 has it in stock), and only one store claims to have Sandisk brand MS Duo Pro media in stock at a lower price - $169.98.

Assuming that the average person would actually go out and buy one of these Duo Pro cards for anything, his price at the typical retail store is going to be closer to $250 than $150 for one of these cards. No one needs to point out, of course, that 512MB Compact Flash cards are widely available for $70 today.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on May 20, 2004 at 2:05 PM (CDT)


The prices above were for 512mb Memory Stick Duo Pro cards, by the way.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on May 20, 2004 at 2:08 PM (CDT)


PCmall 512mb Memory Stick Duo Pro in stock $139

Came up as my 2nd link in Froogle serch. Fact is you were wrong in your article.  But whatever, if it was just forum posting but your the senior editor of the site. But thats your opinion fine. You won’t see me at this site anymore and I am sure you won’t care.

Posted by David on May 20, 2004 at 2:19 PM (CDT)


When you go to the PC Mall website, you’ll see that it’s not in stock, but rather “Please Call,” and there’s no update on when it ships.

Just for kicks, I called PC Mall to confirm the availability of these $139 Duo Pros, and was told: “For some reason, all these Duo Pros are having problems, so the manufacturer has called them back. We aren’t expecting them to be in stock again until at least June 15.” Feel free to call yourself (I think it was extension 4785) and ask.

It’s obvious that you just want to keep going back and forth on this to try to prove something, so I too will stop wasting my time. No one’s going to stop you from spending $340 (or more) on a gig of flash memory, so feel free.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz on May 20, 2004 at 4:24 PM (CDT)


Are we forgetting that Sony invented the Walkman?  The word “Walkman” is their trademark, so if it wants to call the PSP the Walkman of the Future, then they have every right to!!!  It’s their freakin’ word!  I just interpret it as their next big portable product and I think its focus has always been gaming.  E3 is a gaming conference after all.  Go Sony!

Posted by Wacky Jacky Buttman on May 20, 2004 at 4:52 PM (CDT)


Sony has quoted a “2 to 10 hour battery life”

Talk about vague.

Posted by Yosef on May 20, 2004 at 5:30 PM (CDT)


lol, very true Yosef

Posted by Nuke666 in Melbourne, Austalia on May 20, 2004 at 6:39 PM (CDT)


The PSP… what a crapshack.

Posted by MetalMike on May 20, 2004 at 9:19 PM (CDT)


The PSP is not designed to be an ipod killer. It is designed to be an overall entertainment unit, not just a music player and I think it looks promising.

As with the vaio pocket, Sony are just starting to enter the hard disk player market and let them shoot themselves in the foot with atrac. They will soon learn the errors in their ways if they want to compete with ipod, just like apple learned by making the ipod available to pc users.

Sony is a leader in their field and I think we should all get off our high house.

Posted by JA on May 20, 2004 at 10:47 PM (CDT)



Posted by JA on May 20, 2004 at 10:49 PM (CDT)


Since I work for Sony Japan in their VAIO Department as one of their designers. I thought you all might find it interesting to know many of us here use the IPOD and not one of Sony’s players.

Perhaps this is because the VAIO Pocket is not out yet, but even those of us who work at Sony do not like Sonic Stage or the ATRAC format. I know the guy working on the VAIO Pocket and for his sake, I hope the VAIO pocket sells well, but I have my doubts.

Posted by VAIO Designer on May 20, 2004 at 11:35 PM (CDT)


The people for Sony are just as biased as those for Apple.

I’m not saying anything about Apple and Sony, but I will have a lot to say about Sony.

As mentioned in the article, Sony is actually comprised of several subsidiaries. Your Sony TV or CD player probably works very well and has given you no problems at all, thanks to Sony Electronics. You’re favorite band might sound great, thanks to Sony Music. You might even think some movies are the best, thanks to Sony Pictures.

But when it comes to Sony Computer Entertainment…
The Playstation, upon launch and even long after, had MANY technicaly flaws, hence the 7 revisions the system went through. Also hence the thousands of consumers needing their systems repaired.

The Playstation 2, also upon launch and to this day, has many technical failures, hence its 9 (and counting) revisions. And while your PS2 may be working fine, consider the 250+ customers per month that bring their PS2s in to my store to get repaired. Compare that to the monthly averages of 25 XBOXes and 7 GameCubes. And before you say that it’s because Sony has sold more systems, think again. When Nintendo dropped to $100 bucks, they snuck in to first for a while. Then Microsoft did it when they dropped to $150.

Sony’s PSP will more than likely have the same problems, and if not, it still will not succeed against Nintendo. The PSP simply gives handheld gaming an upgrade while the Nintendo DS gives it innovation with it’s Dual Screens. Aside from 2 screens, the DS and the PSP are somewhat similar in features, though Nintendo is sticking to cratridge-like media while Sony is moving to disc-based. Not only that, the DS will have a second cartridge slot on it to, you guessed it, play GameBoy and GameBoy Advance games, meaning, the DS will have the largest library of any game system released to date.

Posted by Geoff on May 21, 2004 at 12:47 AM (CDT)


I think that you better rethink your statement about who has sold more units. Perhaps when Nitendo and XBOX dropped their prices, on a monthly basis at that time only, they were selling more, but no one even comes close to Sony in total units sold worldwide. Total XBOXs sold is just a fraction of the total number of Playstation and Playstation2s sold worldwide.

Posted by VAIO Designer on May 21, 2004 at 1:13 AM (CDT)


sony might not be on the right track with the products…

but this still reads like poorly-veiled propoganda.

Posted by hmm... on May 21, 2004 at 4:17 AM (CDT)


i have been coming to this site for a while now for reviews and news pertaining to the ipod. infact, this site was the one that actually pushed me to buy my first second hand 10 gig and subsequently the 40 i got last week because i love the ipod. but then i read this article about the PSP being heralded as some false prophet or heir to the walkman throne.

i was at E3 last week and i got to play with the PSP for a brief period. you say it’s big. so what? it feels perfectly fine in my hands. i own a gameboy SP and sometimes the tiny size of it starts to make my hands cramp. so suffice to say, is it always better to make something smaller or should you find balance with comfort as well? ok i am wandering off. i would call this article bias, but it’s been done already. i would state that facts were actually incorrect, but that’d be beating a dead horse. my point is this. who’s to judge something before it even comes out? there is no doubt in my mind that the PSP(as a gaming machine) will have an effect on nintendo’s market. but it will do very very little to get in the way of the enormous ipod market. as for the VAIO pocket, i am skeptical, but i am keeping an open mind about it. i know this is an ipod site. the name IPODlounge makes that abundantly clear. i just hope that future articles aren’t so one sided.

side note. the article was very well written. this is not an attack or anything of the sort towards jeremy.

Posted by user736176 on May 21, 2004 at 5:03 AM (CDT)


Sony’s marketing is sh*t!  I know the girl who is going to be in the ad’s for the hard disk player in the UK, basically she was walking thru london, when a Sony guy/gal came up to her asked to take her picture, then next day called and said want to be in a ad?

Posted by b on May 21, 2004 at 6:19 AM (CDT)


No music device that ONLY supports proprietary DRM-loaded music formats will EVER succeed in the open marketplace.

Until Sony learns this lesson, they will continue to be an “also-ran” in this electronic device category.

Imagine what a colossal flop the iPod would have been if it only supported AAC!!!

Those of you trying to redefine the “Walkman” name to include gaming are obvious too young to have actually owned a REAL Walkman! <grin>

Posted by IDSmoker on May 21, 2004 at 9:46 AM (CDT)


I’d typed a quite substantial response to some of the points made above, but the comments system tossed it out as too long. Sorry about that, but thanks to everyone for posting opinions and thoughts.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz on May 21, 2004 at 10:54 AM (CDT)


This is all very intersting. While this could be in fact a Gameboy Killer. It will all really boil down to price. I highly doubt that the PSP will be released for a $100. (ala Gameboy). It will be in a different higher class portable gaming catagory. So I wouldn’t exactly dub it a “Gameboy killer”, unless of course nintendo’s new Gameboy DS is priced at $200 or the original is bumped up in price. Which I don’t see happening. It will be interesting to see what sony has in store. I hope they don’t have the price too high, ala the $425 originally told. For that kind of money, it better be a hell-of-a game player and make my coffee too.

Posted by Blades on May 21, 2004 at 11:26 AM (CDT)


As an attempt to quickly retype my response:

We really do appreciate all of your comments/opinions/etc. regarding the editorial, and as mentioned a couple of times in the text of the piece, we knew in advance that our conclusions would be controversial and stir up some discussion.

The point of the editorial, as most people realized, was not to discuss the PSP’s potential as a game system. iPodlounge isn’t a gaming web site, and though we had a temporary infusion of commenters from a gaming web site’s forums (where the thread was misleadingly and agitatingly titled “iPodlounge says PSP sucks” or something similar), most of iPodlounge’s readers are here because of an interest in music, not games.

The comments have indicated some confusion over what we believe and don’t believe about the PSP. We never said it was too big, poorly made, or destined to fail as a product. We simply said that neither the PSP nor the VAIO Pocket will be replacing the Walkman, or iPod for that matter, any time soon. It’s patently obvious at this point that Grandma isn’t going to go jogging with a PSP strapped to her belt. The iPod’s another story.

A few people took issue with our comment that the PSP wasn’t guaranteed to supplant the Game Boy. We stand by our original statement. History has not been kind to any of Nintendo’s competitors in the portable market, even when they’ve had better screens, more horsepower, better features, and sizeable game libraries. (Anyone remember NEC’s TurboExpress? Sega’s Nomad? Atari’s Lynx? If not, take a look at how then-consumer electronics giant NEC released a beautiful $299 console that lost to the Game Boy, how then-video game giant Sega released TWO color portables that lost to the B&W Game Boy, and how Atari had an early 3-D color competitor to the Game Boy that went nowhere.) Price, momentum, an “everyone from 8-80 can play these games” software library, and size have been absolutely critical factors in the portable market, and Nintendo isn’t going to just roll over and die because of the PSP.

That said, having spent a considerable amount of time with both the PSP and DS at E3, I know which one I would pick for gaming purposes if money was no object and both devices were launched at the same time. But I wouldn’t pick either to replace my iPod.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz on May 21, 2004 at 12:44 PM (CDT)


well said jeremy. another thing that i think people should understand is that an editorial is not like a news article. editorials have more room for personal opinions. so in that respect, the things you say are not wrong, they are just your views. after re-reading the article, i don’t see what all the hoopla was about. you’re merely talking about the music playing aspect of the PSP, not the PSP as a whole. and i will agree that the PSP will not be the next walkman nor ipod killer. infact, i think the only reason it will play music is because the sony UMD is not writable so they had to use a memory card ala playstation and playstation 2. the memory stick duo is tiny and can hold a substantial amount of info so might as well toss in a music player to take advantage of that medium. that’s just speculation though. good job jeremy. i respect what you’re doing. and to the people coming here from a videogame website to debate it. read the article first. jeremy does not say the PSP sucks. he just says it won’t be the next walkman in terms of music.

Posted by user736176 on May 21, 2004 at 2:17 PM (CDT)


Many angry gamers here misinterpreted the point of this article. This article focused on disproving Sony’s claim on being the “Walkman of the future”, because of many factors. They did not say the PSP will suck for gamers, nor did they say the PSP will suck for movies. They mainly said it will not be a hit against the iPod due to it’s proprietary ATRAC format and expensive memory sticks.

For those saying “Who cares if they’re saying it’s the walkman of the future, it’s their name?!” Well, the name Walkman was originally introduced by Sony on their portable Cassette and CD players, and has been integrated into culture so people now call any CD player a “Walkman” even if it is not Sony brand. By Sony emphasizing the movies and music playing features of the PSP more than the game playing aspects, and then calling it the “Walkman of the future”, it’s a message that it’s out to take over the audio business as well. Thats what this article attempted to disprove.

I have no doubts about the PSPs gaming ability as a portable, and look forward to see real-time game performance closer to it’s launch, but in my opinion, Sony should’ve just stuck to making a portable gaming machine, without the music playing feature. If anything, it’s just a perk.

Posted by DarkJC on May 21, 2004 at 2:59 PM (CDT)


My god.. such bias.

I really had to force myself to continue reading, about halfway through the article. What a shame: iPodLounge, you have lost my respect.

Posted by Jasper on May 21, 2004 at 3:18 PM (CDT)


I didn’t retype my previous comments on the issue of supposed “bias,” and doubt that those levying the accusation would care, but here are just a few quotes from our previous editorial, Heir to Walkman’s Throne:

“Confronted with the PSP’s specifications, even Nintendo has shied away from direct competition with the device, preferring instead to focus only on gaming hardware. And while smaller companies have developed PDAs with gaming and audio abilities, none touches the PSP’s robust feature set.” ...

Sounds pretty biased against Sony, right? How about these quotes regarding our presumptive sacred cow, Apple:

“Apple’s not immune to myopia: it once had the graphical user interface operating system market all to itself. True, the iPod’s sold well to date, but it’s not yet approaching the 150 million Walkmen Sony sold in the first 16 years of that device’s lifespan. While Apple has momentum on its side, its lead at this point is hardly insurmountable, and if a competing technology has a strong chance of success, Apple risks irrelevance by falling too far behind the curve.”

And how about this one directly comparing Sony and Apple’s alternatives:

“Value-conscious consumers will ask which device or devices have the best features and pricing, and at the moment, Apple may not be on the better end of either measure. With a low price and lots of features, Sony in particular might have a compelling iPod alternative for younger buyers.”

And how about this, on Apple’s future?

“Publicly, Apple has remained coy about its plans, and despite Microsoft and Sony’s looming threats has apparently focused most of its efforts on developing bigger music and personal computer sales. It’s hard to know what Apple’s planning, but if its competitors act quickly enough, perhaps mainstream customers won’t want to wait to find out.”

Again, I’m not expecting people to actually _read_ what we’ve previously said on the subject, but that would be a nice first step before tossing out accusations of bias.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz on May 21, 2004 at 5:53 PM (CDT)


I choose to stick with Nintendos DS. In case u havnt herd it is Nintendos new handheld game system with two screens hence the name DS(dual screen). one is also a touce screen. this is made to be a game playing device. nintendo is sticking to one thing unlike sony so they r not screwing them selves up. plus nintendo has been the handheld master for how long?

Posted by iPodwhat in Rancho Cucamonga, CA on May 21, 2004 at 8:38 PM (CDT)


if i wanted a game machine, i would get a PS2 and a TV… seriously who walks down the street playing games? Sad really… Sure th iPod has games, but they are just simple ones you can play when waiting for a tram, bus or train. When you’re down the street, you generally only look at your iPod or whatever you have when changing songs… otherwise it’s quite comfortable in your pocket. Why even bother going down the street if all you do it look at your PSP’s videos and other useless things?

Posted by Davie in Melbourne on May 22, 2004 at 2:31 AM (CDT)


I disagree with one part of the article. I think that Sony businesses do communicate with each other but to negative effect.

Sony has a hardware business, a music business and a film business. The devices that have followed the Walkman have shown Sony’s other businesses to be paranoid about users copying music. With a Walkman you had the cassette which allowed you to copy LPs to cassette and listen to them. Everything from proprietry formats, conversion software, all the way through to regional encoding makes me believe that the hardware designers are being slowed down by Sony trying to make it difficult to copy music and movies.

The result is that Sony products are usually more difficult and more awkward to use than competing products.

Until they resolve this fundamental conflict between parts of the Sony empire it is little wonder that new products are fatally (and deliberately) flawed.

Posted by Steve on May 22, 2004 at 9:59 AM (CDT)


Ok. The PSP is going to suck balls, just like all of the other playstation products. The Playstation was lame. The Playstation 2 was alright until the xBox came out. And the PSP is going to blow hardcore because it is made by Sony. The only Sony products I ever buy are their camcorders (they did do great things with miniDV), and maybe a stereo.

All I can say to TripMachine is that the Nintendo DS will stomp the PSP. The PSP will probably not be very user friendly, and will be more expensive. Price is the key here. With a market demographic that spends most of their money on weed, you can’t afford to market a gaming device above $200. I’ll personally come give you a dollar if the PSP sells for under $200.

As for the Vaio. That thing just screams SUCK. It isn’t smaller than the iPod. It isn’t more intuitive than the iPod. It isn’t cheaper than the iPod. The iPod comes in many different flavors (4g mini in different colors, 15gb,20gb,and 40gb). It is waayyy overpriced. And what is the point of having a color screen if you can’t watch movies on it? It also uses ATRAC. I had a minidisc player for about a month, an realised how much it sucked that you had to convert everything to ATRAC. I sold it to a friend, and went and bought a 2nd gen 10gb iPod.

Sony blows. They should have stopped at the PS2.

Posted by Giefer on May 22, 2004 at 7:29 PM (CDT)


I cant see anything beating the ipod. Unless they make/use an OS that lets you make programs for it, and double the battery life. Oh, and keep the size the same, and add all the ipods non-music features like notes and calender

Posted by Techni on May 22, 2004 at 10:18 PM (CDT)


“I cant see anything beating the ipod. Unless they make/use an OS that lets you make programs for it, and double the battery life. Oh, and keep the size the same, and add all the ipods non-music features like notes and calender”

The 3-year-old Archos has an OS that lets you make programs and games for it, can run for 15+ hours on a charge, and has notes, todo lists, plugin architecture, games, and even voice menu prompts and video playback.

Eventually even the iPod will have a similar open-source OS available for it and then you can have all these things on an the iPod as well.

Posted by Not So Difficult on May 23, 2004 at 12:37 AM (CDT)


Sony invented the walkman, TRUE. And with that mind, Sony invented the walkman as a portable music device. The only walkmans it’s produced have been portable music devices, exclusively. Where’s the interpretation? Walkman = portable music device. Or maybe that was just true in the past, but now we can call more things walkmans, even if they do more than play music. But the point is that Sony themselves, the people who invented the walkman, called the PSP “the walkman of the future!” As if to say, this is the new successor to the old portable music player standard that WE invtented.

So maybe the argument would have been better if jermey had just said “Heir to the Walkman’s Throne? More like Heir to the Gameboy’s Throne. Why Sony mislabeled their own product.”

I do think that a lot of what jeremy said isn’t as important or relevant as other parts. But in particular: style and HD type.

The iPod is popular for a lot of reasons, but one of the biggest is because it’s a beautiful piece of machinery. But you would assume that most companies would want to make a beautiful product anyway—not always true. Many are more concerned with functionality than form, where form has been sacrificed in the name of functionality (that includes size). No one’s going to try to make an ugly piece of hardware, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder so the point isn’t as strong as it could be, but it’s a valid one when you look at this new PSP compared to Sony’s other products in production now and in the past, and also at how it’s being marketed.

Yes every music player of this size (GB) needs to have a hard drive. But Sony didn’t have to make a media player with that big a hard drive. They didn’t have to make a player at all. But all media players do not serve the same purpose and are not all meant to serve the same people. Just as a honda civic is not meant to compete with a cadilac escalade. All cars have engines, as all media players have batteries. But all media players do NOT have hard drives, or ones of this size. SO, if we can agree that sony is making the claim that this is the walkman of the future, than it would be competing with the ipod. So you’re helping to prove jeremy’s point by saying of course it has a hard drive—of course it does, because it’s trying to compete with an iPod.

Posted by Perspective on May 23, 2004 at 1:54 AM (CDT)


It’s really not that important what you personally think this PSP is good for. It doesn’t matter what’s “obvious.” Jeremy is trying to make the point that SONY is making claims that probably aren’t true or won’t hold true in the future. If they had literally claimed the PSP to be the next gameboy then the artcile may have been completely different. For one, it wouldn’t have even been in iPodlounge forums because it wouldnt be marketed as an iPod competitor, being that it wouldn’t be marketed as a portable music device.

I do think Jeremy made his allegiances clear, but that doesn’t change the facts. I thought it was a great article. All you video game nerds need to take off your skirts and get the sand out of your vaginas. Go buy a PSP—i’ll buy it from you for cheap off ebay when you realize it’s not the “walkman of the future” as sony claimed it to be.

Posted by Perspective on May 23, 2004 at 1:55 AM (CDT)


I dont know who sony think they are, their product has no real base. Making something that can do everything isnt what the maket wants.
I am from new zealand and saved for ages to buy my Ipod when they first came out, everyone who is anyone has a an ipod

Posted by Bridget on May 23, 2004 at 2:06 AM (CDT)


Geez, “Perspective”—talk about circular logic! You sound like George W. Go read your posts again SLOWLY, and try to find the main points. God knows I couldn’t. An outline would help.

I am on your side as far as the article is concerned. I think the article succeeds in pointing out some of the recent incomprehensible moves by Sony. No digital music player will succeed unless it supports MP3.

I do have some minor disagreements: first, minidisc as a format has not been a bust. It is big in Europe and Asia. It seems that every Brit I have known has a minidisc player. Unfortunately for Sony, the UK really seems to have embraced the iPod. Second, it is too early to say that the iPod’s supremacy has been “cemented.” JH’s argument is that Sony’s failure’s seems to be the result of a fundamentaly screwed-up corporate structure. OK, but the same argument has been made of Microsoft again and again.

It seems to me that iPod’s competitors could learn something from Microsoft: the way to displace the iPod is to rip off the iPod. Microsoft again and again rips off the Mac OS without any compunctions. Dell tried with the DJ, but it did such a piss-poor job that it couldn’t be taken seriously. Future efforts will come closer, and will be cheaper. When that day comes, Apple must follow and take the hit in profits to keep the iPod competitive. 

BTW, why the f—are the airport products STILL so damned expensive? They weren’t overpriced when they came out, but they definitely are now. This is a repeated pattern.

Posted by Questioner on May 23, 2004 at 3:07 AM (CDT)


The assumption that Sony wants to build a music-based ipod killer could be flawed one. The pure-music-based-handheld market seems crowded that might compell people like Sony to leapfrog just music by something else ... its like Apple dominates radio .... Sony might be looking for TV !!

Posted by bum on May 23, 2004 at 3:14 AM (CDT)



Posted by Q on May 23, 2004 at 3:17 AM (CDT)


FFS, you guys are unbelivable. Did you have one positive word to say about Sony? Your just fucking ipod loving pricks in IMHO

Posted by Terry on May 23, 2004 at 4:28 AM (CDT)


Note that Apple is going after Sony personally in the Japanese market:
Fun stuff!

Posted by Durf on May 24, 2004 at 2:18 AM (CDT)


People who argue in online forums are like competitors in the special olympics. No matter who wins, they’re all still retarded :-P

Yay Sony! Yay Apple! Yay to UFOs and rectal examinations!

Posted by WackyAzad on May 24, 2004 at 8:33 AM (CDT)


Yosef, the quoted time refers to different hours for playing music, games and movies. Please do some research be for comment on anything.

Posted by Stupid on May 24, 2004 at 12:38 PM (CDT)


First of all, let me say that I believe the Sony PSP could very well be popular as a video game system.  However, I believe it will fail miserably as a music/video player.  Here are the reasons why…

1) No hard drive for music storage
2) The UMD discs are read-only which means people won’t be able to copy their currently owned music or video to a disc
3) Video for the PSP will only be available on separately purchased UMD discs.  Who will do this as opposed to buying a DVD?  The cost will be the same, but you won’t be able to view the movie anywhere but your PSP.  And even if there is a connection for your PSP to connect to your TV, the quality will be lower than DVD due to the 1.8GB storage limit.

Sony’s big mistake was not allowing the UMD to be re-writable and allowing the PSP to read standard music and video formats off of the UMD.  Their decision is understandable given that they are a large content producer, but ultimately it will doom the PSP as anything other than a game machine.

Posted by druze on May 24, 2004 at 1:27 PM (CDT)


I agree with the article… but will the PSP need to be sent back 4 times? will it crash frequently (mini ipod)? will the battery die after 18 months?  will their tech support be as incompitent?

ehh, I don’t care.  As buggy as the ipod was, it’s improving, (apple’s still weak on the pc side and has their flaws) and no support for MP3, might as well shoot themselves now. And pricing a product above apple… that takes guts :D.

Posted by esr on May 24, 2004 at 3:47 PM (CDT)


So many things to comment on, where to begin?

First of all, I think the

Posted by turt on May 24, 2004 at 4:36 PM (CDT)


cont’d sorry for long post :-P

Now I doubt Jeremy wrote the editorial with the intent of bashing Sony and it

Posted by turt on May 24, 2004 at 4:37 PM (CDT)


How does attempting to be stylish, a square column of buttons, and an internal hard drive equal a “desperate attempt to clone the iPod”?

Posted by steve on May 24, 2004 at 4:53 PM (CDT)


Wow, talk about a disgustingly biased and overall uninformed article. Well, it got a good laugh out of me so good job.

Posted by MacMahon on May 24, 2004 at 5:56 PM (CDT)


” How does attempting to be stylish, a square column of buttons, and an internal hard drive equal a “desperate attempt to clone the iPod”? “

maybe when it’s two years late, comes on the tail of many failed sony disc and overpriced flash memory players, and has weird controls that look very unlike sony (no jog dial?) but suspiciously similar to the ipod…

you’d have to be blind not to see the resemblance.

Posted by hajime on May 24, 2004 at 6:22 PM (CDT)


Actually, Sony already have an “iPod/Future Walkman” in their lineup already. It’s called the Clie.

Let me explain.

It plays video, it plays MP3, it plays games plus a whole lot more that I don’t need to get into.

All it needs now is one of those 1.5Gb or 4Gb microdrives. Great if they can squeeze in a 20Gb.

Plus, with WiFi and Bluetooth already built-in, it can theoretically connect to Sony Connect and download stuff.

The TH55 has a brilliant 320x480 touchscreen. Overlay an iPod like interface. Who needs G-sense?

Sony have released game controllers before for their Clies, so the PDA buttons don’t really hamper gameplay.

Plus, its got a great audio engine. Movies play 30fps (TH55) and the battery lasts.

Yes, Sony is indeed confused. Ultimately, it reeks of corporate fiefdom and that is what is killing Sony. Either that or Idei believes in corporate Darwinism. I agree with the writer’s conclusion.

Their answer to Apple or Microsoft is right there under their nose but they can’t see it. They must be still dreaming - being the ultimate Digital Dream Kids.

Posted by zipmail on May 24, 2004 at 8:14 PM (CDT)


How can it (PSP) be an overall entertainment unit if you can’t load your own content on it?
Flash just ain’t gonna cut it, sorry.

Posted by north7 on May 24, 2004 at 8:50 PM (CDT)


Part of the problem with the VAIO pocket is that it is a late comer to the MP3 player market and has to some how differenciate itself.

Personally, I think that they could have done a better job, but as the story goes, they didn’t want to make it anything too much like the iPOD or other products out there. Otherwise they will be labeled as copying Apple. The problem with this design approach is that you can often end up sacrificing useability for differenciation. The whole reason so many other mfgs have certain types of controls, buttons, etc. is because they make sense and are easy to use. Sometimes the ID guys at Sony completely forget about usability and worry more about differenciation and asthetics.

Trying to somehow differenciate is also the reason for the color screen. However, unnessecary in a device that will spend most of its time in your pocket or bag.  The extra battery life was also added in, a great benefit, but at what costs, if it makes it bigger and heavier is it an absolute must?

As we all know though. The thing that will kill this device is its non-support for MP3. This is where Sony owning its own music business actually hurts its electronic businesses. Its because of their Music business that they are not free to add in direct MP3 support. A typical BETA story all over again.

Posted by VAIO Designer on May 24, 2004 at 9:51 PM (CDT)


the psp is designed to play games, playing music is a secondary function and overall i’m happy with it

and i dont see the ipod doing very well in Japan, they prefer japanse products over US products

Posted by jey16 on May 24, 2004 at 9:58 PM (CDT)


Since I live in Japan, I would like to comment on how the iPOD is doing in Japan.

Simply put. Its kicking butt all over anything else on the market. Everyday I ride a crowded train full of iPod carrying Japanese. And that is just the regular iPod. As soon as Apple can catch up to the demand for the iPod mini, Japanese will be all over it. Japanese love things that are small and the iPod mini fits into that category perfectly. Add to it mutiple colors, which they also like, and you have a hit.

As a side note. Japanese like things that have asthetic appeal and a simple, sleak design. Apple has always done well in Japan for this reason. Its one of the few places on the planet that Apple still has a large following. The iPod is no exception either.

The reason most Japanese do not like US designed products is because for the most part their design is unattractive and it is typically targeted at the US market only.

Posted by VAIO Designer on May 24, 2004 at 10:12 PM (CDT)


Sony’s PSP creator says “The place I’m imagining for use of the system is the home. People don’t play games while walking around.”

iPodlounge was ahead of its time. Sony is out of its mind.

Posted by hajime on May 24, 2004 at 10:17 PM (CDT)


To add to that. One of my VAIO designer coworkers went as far as asking her relative who lives in the US to buy and have an iPod mini shipped to Japan just to get one sooner.

Prior to that, she couldn’t stop talking about the iPod mini.

The other day I met the Manager for an accessories distributor for Apple products and she said that store owners are buying prepaid Itunes cards in the US and selling them in Japan at a huge profit just because users here want to be able to buy music from the iTunes store.

Posted by VAIO Designer on May 24, 2004 at 10:18 PM (CDT)


Well gang I can’t wait till someone makes a emulator for the PSP so I can play the games on my iBook…hehe Sony woke up only to have amnesia of their Betamax past.

Posted by trailingedge on May 24, 2004 at 10:38 PM (CDT)


Maybe the Vaio Pocket has a flaw or two, and the iPod still rocks, but stop bashing the PSP, because it

Posted by GT-Richard on May 25, 2004 at 1:58 AM (CDT)


David….....I think I smell some humble pie in the oven mate. Time to eat!
Seriously though, the point is that Sony flash memory is too expensive compared to hard drive memory. You can argue over a few dollars but that is the fact of the matter, and nobody I know will be happy with a 512MB of memory in a shitty music format for a music player. They will buy a PSP for games and still use their iPod for portable music. What sync with the vaio pocket? What software would be used for that, Sony connect?

Posted by Roger Ramjet on May 25, 2004 at 2:24 AM (CDT)


Sony never said or claimed any of its products to be an “iPod Killer”; you did. Sony invented the term “Walkman”, and it’s a general term than can be interpreted in several ways. They are free to re-interpret it however they want. PSP is a game machine, VAIO is a PC peripheral (look at the brand-name - major clue!). Sure, Connect may be lame, and you may not like proprietary formats (software or media storage), but the reality is that millions of people already use ATRAC. If you already own ATRAC hardware, what’s the big deal? I’m not crying about Apple’s proprietary FairPlay format because I have an iPod, so chill out, Mr. Horowitz!

Posted by Bogus on May 25, 2004 at 4:45 AM (CDT)


Uh, hu. PSP, a great machine. Any system said to be launched in less than a year that dosn’t have any final hardware spec, no true game demos, and can’t even show a true working prototype at E3 is in trouble. The Nintendo DS has working games, working models, and isn’t a huge machine.

The PSP is ONLY a game/music/movie machine. It dosn’t have any games so far, the music has about half the battery life of an iPod, and the movies are still out.

Posted by JosephM on May 25, 2004 at 9:49 AM (CDT)


i think the psp is supposed to be a multi-format device, but people will only buy it for the games. who would buy a playstation to play music? i defintly wouldnt, im happy wit my iPod, but il still b gettin a PSP 2 play games on

Posted by brummie boy on May 25, 2004 at 11:45 AM (CDT)


Well, my lil comment is this.  I am a sony man…I have a sony digital camera, sony camcorder, had 2 sony minidiscs, 4 MS pros.  I HAD two mini discs players but took one back because I got TIRED of changing discs while listening to it 8+ hrs at work.  I ended up getting a 40gig iPod.  MSs?  NOW sony has started introducing the duos and products that only work with the duos, dsc T1?  P800 & P900?  I spent all that loot on crap that now is becoming obsolete!  I bought the freakin 256 MS pros LAST year in May when I got married along with my camera.  Ok technology changes but DAM!  The lil mmc cards STILL work with the older AND newer devices as WELL as new celly fones!  Major selling point of the iPod to me was the ability to play mp3s.  THe blasted minidiscs dont, and has the guy defending Sony USED the SonicStage software?  My GOD that program is HORRIBLE!  It locked up my pc more times in 3 months of use in the one year we had our NEW Dell pc than anything on my pc let alone crappy XP.  PSP was SUPPOSED to be a video gaming device aimed at the GBA SP.  I saw like four different shows on Tech Tv last week from Xplay to G4 and ALL said the same thing Jeremy said, that it was the walkman of the future?  The PSP will never topple the GBA and this coming from a sony devote (skrew their crappy pcs) who had 2 PS1s, I have a PS2, all the sony stuff I mentioned, about 20 minidiscs collecting dust and 25 or so PS2 games and at least 30 PS1 games.  Sony is just arse backwards right now.  The PSP should do what its supposed to do, play portable games.  I use and like the ipod for what I bought it for, to play music (still got a crappy battery).  Sony is killin itself, and you wanna know WHAT really is CRAZY?  No one said anything about their new Hi capacity 1Gig mini discs that are coming….How is that for competing with itself?  Ok, just my views and I luv sony but man they have some rocks making decisions for them.

Posted by CoolerPod on May 25, 2004 at 4:09 PM (CDT)



“...Vaio Pocket—a device described by Sony as the ‘iPod killer.’ ” See Kyoko Fujimoto, “Sony makes over Vaio line,”, May 11, 2004.

And my guess is that you’d care more about Fairplay if the iPod required all of its music to be encoded with AAC/Fairplay standards rather than playing MP3s.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz on May 25, 2004 at 4:14 PM (CDT)


Great Article / editorial. Blunt but very true. A lot of people here have NOT realised that this is not a comparison but an assessment of how or what Sony intended to do and where it actually is in the race (read ‘not anywhere close’).
I own a humble Archos 20GB recorder.  I like iPod but its too expensive for me but that does not in any way take the credit away from iPod for forcing other manufacturers to be on their toes.
Overall, Sony got it wrong. They need to just accept that, call this betamax2 or DOA or whatever, pool in more resources and come up with something that feels like a SONY. I upgraded from a supercool Sony walkman (yes, cassettes!!)  to an Archos. I also think that a LOT of people wouldnt want to use multiple CDs or discs or cards or whaterver that media is.. if they can use a HDD.. which is basically everythign at ONE place! but then there are advantages of separating content from presentation ;-) (joke of a code-monkey) lol.
Nothing more. Well written article. Jeremy, you dont need to justify it. If people dont get it, let them BUY this new Sony Pocket and download using Sony connect, THEN they will understand!  lol.

Dont mean to start flame wars… people, be considerate. If you disagree, its ok. I agree, that is ok too!  The pie is big for everyone.

*damn, i DID have a long work day!!*

Posted by piper on May 25, 2004 at 4:17 PM (CDT)

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