Backstage: Sony’s music confusion officially tiresome | iLounge Backstage


Backstage: Sony’s music confusion officially tiresome

I’ve been busy with other things, but Sony can always catch my attention by firing its key executives, seriously demoting PlayStation and PlayStation Portable “father” Ken Kutaragi, or announcing yet more supposed iPod competitors. The first two are rare enough, but it seems like three months can’t pass these days without a couple of new iPod missives from Sony.

So at this point, rather than just saying “Sony, STFU already, you don’t get it,” some helpful pointers might be in order. If you’re an analyst, investor, or Sony product planner, you might want to consider these few concepts before you suspect Apple will have anything to worry about from any product with the Walkman name.

Didn’t You Hear? Price Matters. When the market leader is selling a 512MB device for $99, a fourth- or fifth-placed player can’t enter the market with a $140 512MB player (the NW-E105) and expect people to care unless the new product is dramatically better.

“Better?” What’s That? Let’s see - the NW-E105 specs say you need to supply your own batteries, carry a USB cable if you want to plug it in to a computer, and - oh wait - there’s no FM tuner, and you need to use Sony’s software. I won’t even get into the whole “no one wants Sony’s music downloads” issue. Not only isn’t this thing better than the iPod shuffle in any really important way (don’t even quote that BS battery life number) - it’s actually worse. And for the record, I’m not a big fan of the shuffle. But I know why it sells so well. Do you?

What About The Cool One With The OLED Screen (NW-E405)? Yeah, iPod killer number four hundred and five is indeed cool. And it’s also $170 at today’s exchange rates for a 512MB version. Apple makes an iPod for about the same price - you might have heard about it; it’s called the iPod mini. And its screen has more than 3 useless lines. The day I spend $170 for a 512MB Sony MP3 player is the day it’s a PlayStation Portable with a memory card, and doesn’t just play MP3s.

Are any of you guys and gals tired of hearing about these ersatz iPod competitors yet? Should we keep posting the news stories just so you can vent on them, or skip the “new competitor” stuff altogether unless something really important happens?

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I took the bigger view and offered some overall strategic tips for Sony’s new CEO Sir Howard Stringer. Have a look:

You can see that iPods, Apples and music are all intertwined (as is a commentary about Kutaragi-san too).

Posted by Dave Taylor in Boulder, CO on March 9, 2005 at 6:35 AM (CST)


Of course you are right in what you say. Apart from the fact that I much prefer gadgets to go on regular batteries so I can bring a couple along or buy a new one anywhere when I forget to charge.

On the other hand… I think the iPod is a lousy product. It’s very good looking and it probably was great when it first came out, but now in its 4th generation, I think it lacks SO many features. Then iTunes is one of the programs it’s possible to hate as much as you hate MS Word. So, I am always on the lookout for a better player and so am very interested in hearing about new players. One day, a better one WILL come along.

Posted by Olf in Singapore on March 9, 2005 at 6:37 AM (CST)


Let’s just stick to the real iPod news. A weak competitor such as Sony isn’t worth the upload to your servers. If they reinvent the wheel, let’s hear about it, but right now you just get the sense that all Sony can do is limp along on a “gretest hits” mentality. “You liked us once…”

Posted by jonyem in Port Angeles, Washington on March 9, 2005 at 7:18 AM (CST)


I’d just like to see a moratorium on the phrase “iPod Killer”. :)

Posted by Your Mac Life in Nashville, TN on March 9, 2005 at 7:31 AM (CST)


Dave, if the iPod is such a lousy product, and you dislike iTunes so much, why on earth did you take the time out of your day to register your name on a web site called iPodLounge?

Sure, a better player might come around some day…but until the other manufacturers understand that just adding features does not improve the user experience, I don’t think Apple has anything to worry about.

Posted by Lee Gibson on March 9, 2005 at 8:34 AM (CST)


If you’re going to cover iPod competitors, cover them well. Let’s see reviews and get some real comparisons going. I’m pretty sure that the iPod mini is better than the Zen Micro, but I’d like to know for sure from someone who knows both products well.

Posted by mattwardfh in Texas on March 9, 2005 at 8:39 AM (CST)


Lee, You’re giving Dave heat he didn’t deserve, it’s me you should be jumping on. :-)

OK, I may have used the word “lousy” a little too easy there. The iPod is, of course, an average mp3-player. It looks good, the click-wheel is fantastic and there are lots of fun accessories. But then, a lot of other players have better sound-quality and longer-lasting batteries and are easier to manage.

I don’t think that the perfect player exists yet and the iPod is an average player, which I happen to already own. And as I said it’s a love/hate-relationship. I sure wouldn’t buy an iPod if I was to buy today, now that I’ve tried it. When I bought it I thought I was buying a top-of-the-line product, but I didnät take the time to check first. My mistake, but I might as well make the best of it until I can afford to upgrade. I registered with and follow iPodLounge in hope that software updates and accessories will make my iPod a little better.

Come on, don’t tell me you guys like iTunes and think that “Shuffle on the main menu” are great stuff! Give me an empty page and I’ll fill it with things we all hate about the iPod. But it is good looking, and that click wheel is really smooth…

Posted by Olf in Singapore on March 9, 2005 at 10:55 AM (CST)


Olf, my bad.  I thought the header was the footer and the footer was the header and I was corn-fuzed.  Good thing I didn’t let loose a really good flame.  : )  Sorry Dave!

I’m really curious about this better sound quality thing.  How do you measure that objectively?  Are you comparing the iPod with stock earbuds (which are useless for me, they don’t fit my ears, along wiht every other earbud on the planet), or with a decent set of cans?  (I happen to use Apple’s canal phones, because they fit me nicely and sound great). 

Battery life?  Eh.  I suppose.  I’ve never had a problem.  I get 8 hours out of my 4G without trying too hard, and if I’m going to be away longer than that I bring a cable.  Certainly the iPod is not tops in this department, but does it really cramp your style THAT much?

I have no idea what you mean by implying the iPod is difficult to manage.  I see the hoops my coworker jumps through to get her iRiver to do what she wants it to do.

*shudder*  Not for me.

You don’t like your iPod…OK.  Good thing they’re popular:  The resale value is pretty kick ass.

iTunes?  I freakin’ LOVE iTunes.  iTunes is the reason to buy an iPod.  The database-driven playlist generation is THE a-1 killer feature of the iPod, and there’s nothing else on the market that’s within shouting distance.

Shuffle on the main menu is a useless mis-feature.  They did it wrong.

I don’t care about what it looks like, I care about how it WORKS, and in that department the iPod is peerless.  I don’t care about FM tuners or voice recording or whatever other gew-gaws you can get in other players.  For me, it’s all about the user interface, and Apple’s is unparalleled.

Posted by Lee Gibson on March 9, 2005 at 9:36 PM (CST)


Lee, you have a way of punching holes in my arguing. :-) I like that.

On the sound quality: No, I don’t use the the stock earbuds. I got myself a pair of Sony earphones as soon as I could. But, no, I haven’t been that scientific in my comparisons, it’s just that there’s been a lot of times that I’ve tried other players and been really wowed at how good they sound.

The batterylife DOES bother me. I’ve had my 4G almost half a year and last month I went to Hong Kong over a weekend. I charged my iPod before I left. Om my flight on friday, I listened for two hours. Then I just let i be, but come monday when I was flying home, the battery was all dead. I really don’t like it that it consumes that much power when it’s not doing anything.

I really would like an FM-tuner on my iPod, and I would use a mic every now and then. But I agree it’s not the most important thing.

Although I DO care a little what my gadgets look like, I agree with you in that it’s how they work that matters. That’s why I bought an iPod without hesitation. Apple is sort of known for making things useable. But boy was I let down:

* I work abroad and have only brought a laptop, which doesn’t have a gigantic HD. Therefore I’d like it if I didn’t have to keep copies of the songs on my iPod on my computer, but since it’s not allowed to copy them back, I feel I must.

* To make things even more complicated, my girlfriend was given a mini. So if I want to transfer songs from my iPod to hers, this is what I do: I use a 3rd party prg to extract songs from my iPod, I add them to iTunes, transfer them to her mini, then deletes them from iTunes and then again from my HD.

* Beeing away from home without my computer, how am I supposed to add songs to my iPod? With another player, if I bought a CD I could walk into any internetcafe, rip it and transfer it. Not with iPod.

* Or if I’m at a friends place and he wants to get some mp3s from my iPod. Not possible. Why? Because Apple thinks all their customers are immoral, so they don’t allow it.

Posted by Olf in Singapore on March 10, 2005 at 12:15 AM (CST)


* As I said, I keep some songs on my iPod and some on my computer, so when I’m working I would like iTunes to give me a database of all the song I’ve got whether on my iPod or HD. No can do.

* So I transfer some new songs albums to my girlfriends mini. How is she to know which songs are new? She can’t. I could make a playlist, but what if she’d like to see what new albums there are and then choose to play one of them?

* It happens to me quite often that I try to play an album on my iPod, but it doesn’t work all of a sudden. So I do this. I use a 3rd party prg to extract the album, go into iTunes, delete it from my iPod, add it to iTunes, transfer it back to iPod, delete it from iTunes and delete it from my HD.

* So I’m halfway through the last song in an album, and I want to decide what’s coming up next. Not possible. What I have to do is this. Find the song I’m listening to, add it to a playlist-on-the-go, restart the song from this playlist and then go back to the song I wanted to hear after it and add it to the playlist. This is SO stupid. I should be able to just add a new song to a general playlist like in winamp or any othe mediaplayer except iTunes.

* About shuffle, which I think could be a great feature: Why is it only possible to shuffle everything? I’d like to choose a genre, an artist, an album or a playlist and shuffle the songs there. This would be really easy to add.

* The “Compilations”-feature of iTunes is fantastic. Why is it not on my iPod? instead I’ve got an infinite list of artists with only one or two songs. Sure, I can manage my ID3-tags so that artist is “Various” and song name is “Artist - Song”. But not with iTunes. I must use a 3rd party thing. And then the song name has to scroll on the iPod.

Posted by Olf in Singapore on March 10, 2005 at 12:15 AM (CST)


* Why can’t the iPod play a new file immediately after another? I listen to a lot of mix-albums and hip-hop-albums where the tunes segue into one another. On the iPod I get a annoying pause for half a second between each track.

* Other mediaplayers are able to extract more than one artist from an ID3-tag like “U2 feat. Pavarotti”. Of course I’d like that track to show up both under U2 and Pavarotti, and not under a unique entry in the artist-list with only one song. The same would be nice for genres and so on.

* If I DO keep songs both on my comp and my iPod and I make a small change to the ID3-tags on my computer, say I change the genre, then if I accidentally transfer this song to the iPod again (in a playlist or just because I’m not stoopid), I get duplicates.

Well, these are a few of the things that I really miss or am annoyed with in my iPod and in iTunes. It could be twice or thrice as long, but I’ll stop here cause I’ve got to work.

Still, I’m keeping my iPod a little longer. I agree that the UI on the iRiver is awful. If it wasn’t for the clickwheel, I would switch to Zen micro today. I don’t think it has all the features I’m talking about, but at least it allows me to copy tracks back and forth.

I guess what makes me REALLY frustrated is that most of the stuff in my list could be fixed in just a couple of days if the people at Apple really wanted, but I get the feeling that they are among the more arrogant companies around who don’t give a **** about their customers once we’ve bought their product. (I just can’t help but mention “shuffle on the main menu” here again. :-) That’s not what I expected from my first encounter with Apple.

Posted by Olf in Singapore on March 10, 2005 at 12:16 AM (CST)


Do I sound angry? Well, I guess I am a little angry. I know that it’s a tough world and what matters is selling, selling, selling and being fast to market,  and I don’t think a lot of the other companies are much better. I kind of hoped that as the iPod has been around for so long it would have gotten further. But I’m sure that soon there will be a better product out, and then I’ll switch. OR buy the iPod 7G which finally is a little easer to use. ;-)

Posted by Olf in Singapore on March 10, 2005 at 12:19 AM (CST)


Olf, most of your problems can be solved without replacing your iPod. To Start, get a bigger external hard-drive. ITunes works a lot better if you sync you playlists automatically.  Also learn about smart playlists.  That way the mini could have a list of all the newest songs, that updates automatically.

Or better yet, get the iriver.  If I had it to do over again, I’d have gotten the 40gb iriver.  But like you, I got the iPod without looking around much.

Posted by __redruM in Gaithersburg, MD on March 10, 2005 at 9:56 AM (CST)


Olf, if you want to shuffle anything, just go to settings on your iPod, and choose to shuffle songs (or albums if you prefer).  Then go to a certain playlist, or artist, or album, or whatever and start playing.  It will shuffle just that playlist, artist, or album.  It’s very simple - and I’m amazed how many people don’t know about it. 

The “Shuffle songs” in the main menu is virtually useless, especially if you have iTrip stations or other random non-music audio you don’t want to get shuffled up.

Posted by crunkmaster on March 10, 2005 at 8:20 PM (CST)


__redruM, yeah a new disk would be great, but as I have more than 20Gb of music, autosyncing wouldn’t be an option, right? Cause it wants to sync it all, doesn’t it?

Hey! Smartlists! I was 100% sure that these could not be on the iPod! I thought you had to do them on the computer and then transfer them. This is great!

...and crunkmaster, same here. I was SO sure that this did only dictate how the “shuffle songs” on the main menu worked. I’m so glad!

Thanks a lot you both! I’m beginning to like my iPod more. ;-)

Posted by Olf in Singapore on March 11, 2005 at 8:15 AM (CST)


Autoupdate still works if your collection is bigger than your ipod, just not a cleanly. Smart playlists work great for this as well.

Posted by __redruM in Gaithersburg, MD on March 11, 2005 at 10:49 AM (CST)


mattwardfh :

I started by buying a Creative Zen Touch, because it was a little cheaper, and I thought I should give it a try.

I had it for 1 month because I was waiting for the iPods to be in stock at the same store, so I could trade the creative for one!... Now I have a 20GB 4G, and Je-sus… it’s so superior I wouldn’t even know where to start. Creative products are pathetic. Now when someone refers the Creative MP3 players, I just smile in pity.

Posted by Bry Wakeland in Portugal on April 2, 2005 at 2:09 AM (CST)


yeah that olf guy probably works for sony- sorry u have issues with ipod but part of its appeal is simplicity, that is what sony and so many other companies dont understand. This is not a gps, a phone or an advanced dj device- come on get a clue, go buy a sony and try to convince everyone at their blog how much better it is than an IPOD and in the mean time I will be loading songs on my ipod and going for a walk-later

Posted by markflorida in florida on April 2, 2005 at 9:56 AM (CST)

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