April 30, 2007 4:00 AM PDT

Can Sony click with download store?

Can Sony click with download store?
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Planes, trains and automobiles are where digital video wants to do some boredom busting.

Scores of companies are betting there's gold in helping go-go commuters and road warriors catch the latest episodes of 24 and Grey's Antatomy. Apple downloads movies to iPods. Cell phone carriers stream TV shows to handsets. Sling Media's Slingbox connects users to their home TVs from any Web-enabled handheld.

But a company uniquely positioned just a few years ago to be among the front-runners in the nascent mobile-video category is conspicuously missing, said James McQuivey, a Forrester Research analyst. Sounding a little like Marlon Brando, McQuivey argues that Sony, with the PlayStation Portable (PSP), should have been a contender. He notes that Apple's iTunes has sold 50 million TV shows, seized a huge market lead and proven people will watch video on small screens.

"This problem of Sony's goes back to the Betamax. They don't just want to make the device that everybody wants. They want to own the entire the format."
--James McQuivey
Forrester Research analyst

"The thing is, Sony could have been all this," McQuivey said. "The Sony PSP is one of the best portable entertainment media devices that anyone has come up with in years. It has a relatively big screen, plays video beautifully, has good storage and audio. It could have been the first big mobile carrier for TV shows and movies."

Instead, the mobile-video play of one of the world's largest electronics companies is straggling behind Apple, has shaken the confidence of supporters--especially in Hollywood--and added to the woes of CEO Howard Stringer.

The PSP is a handheld device that plays video games, music and videos, and also displays photos. As of March, Sony has sold 7.2 million of the devices in the U.S., according to NPD Group. The PSP was supposed to be a total-entertainment media device, yet two years after launching the PSP in North America, Sony by some accounts is retrofitting its video plans.

The Financial Times, for instance, reported last December that Sony planned to launch a PSP download store early this year. But as April heads into May, still no store. A Sony spokesman declined to discuss the issue.

To some observers, a PSP video store is an admission by Sony that the company's Universal Media Discs (UMDs), the mini DVDs that play only on PSPs, are a bust.

The media began kicking dirt over UMD a year ago when consumers largely ignored the format. From the Calgary Sun came the subtle headline "Bombs away; UMD sales are zilch with consumers." The Hollywood Reporter published a story in March 2006 about Universal Studios and Paramount Pictures ending production of movies for the PSP. Variety chronicled the handheld's sagging sales in July with a story headlined "PSP loses support; Wal-Mart, studios pull back."

Format envy
The source of the problem is easy to pinpoint, say critics: Sony's UMD was another attempt by the company to force a proprietary format down consumers' throats.

"Sony hasn't won a format war ever," McQuivey said. "Sony can't get over the idea of controlling the media format. This problem of Sony's goes back to the Betamax. They don't just want to make the device that everybody wants. They want to own the entire the format."

Some observers said that by offering a disc that would play only on a Sony device, the company was thwarting piracy. Others accused Sony of creating the UMD to force PSP users to pay twice for films. Since the company offered no way to connect the handheld to a television--the same way iPods link to TVs--a UMD movie can't be enjoyed on a larger screen.

CONTINUED: Hollywood to blame?…
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Sony PSP, Sony Betamax, Sony Corp., electronics company, handheld

15 comments

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They ignore the obvious.
Sony could very easily add a normal onscreen keyboard for the psp, they don't. Insteaad they have this arcane input method. Its been 2 years. The beauty of Apple is that they do the obvious, while others do not. IT s that simple.
Posted by tell_ron (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Just occurred to me...
I never even considered buying a PSP, because I have ZERO interest
in gaming (I don't even want something that has the option of
playing games on it, but my iPod wasn't originally designed for
them)... and the kids that I know who own a PSP, they seem to have
ZERO interest in sitting down with it and watching a movie.
Posted by GGGlen (491 comments )
Reply Link Flag
haha
That was pretty funny...funny but true.

It's a testament to how poorly researched and marketed the PSP
was.
Posted by jelloburn (252 comments )
Link Flag
Sony Will Never Get It
I bought a PSP last November and I have absolutely no interest in gaming. The PSP has one of the most beautiful displays available for a small device. I love to carry around my pictures and home videos to show people. I would never purchase a UMD movie. Too expensive to just watch on a little device when I can rip it from a DVD and put it one the device by myself.

Sony has the perfect chance to turn this little device into a mini computer, if only they would allow applications like a calendar, address book and a few other pda type apps...Unfortunately unless you have an older device without the old firmware you are out of luck in trying to run "homebrew" which essentially exploits the wonderful functionality of this device.

Sony seems doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past, anyone remember Beta tapes?
Posted by Tiger1964 (28 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not exactly a mistake.
Beta wasn't a mistake. But is should serve as a lesson to companies now so they don't repeat the past, which would be a mistake.
We have the historic examples to show that format wars don't help anyone. Beta is a good example. A worse example is UMD, for which there is simply no rationale excuse.
Posted by skeptik (590 comments )
Link Flag
You are coming to a sad realization. Cancel or Allow?
Just like Microsoft, Sony exects at the top do not get it, don't want to get it, and won't listen if someone tells them. :-(

Apple is not a God. They, just like Google, took a look at the market, at what people wanted and then did their best to give them that product.

Things that just work. Its a complex world today and I don't have time to be a geek for every new thing that comes out. Make it "Just work".

Nuff said. :-)

en
Posted by eldernorm (220 comments )
Link Flag
ignoring the obvious II
"Some observers said that by offering a disc that would play only on a Sony device, the company was thwarting piracy. Others accused Sony of creating the UMD to force PSP users to pay twice for films. Since the company offered no way to connect the handheld to a television--the same way iPods link to TVs--a UMD movie is prevented from being enjoyed on a larger screen."

Dear Sony/Industry:
Isn't it obvious? We're not really ever going to adopt a "buy twice" strategy. Oh sure, you'll get a few buy anything early adopters - but never a real market segment.
Equally obvious to anyone who tries it: Playing small screen content on a large screen - eh not so good. Sell us the HD disc and let us downscale to our portable devices. Or throwaway the idea that we'll buy anything for our portable devices at all. Manipulating content we paid for doesn't make us pirates, it makes us enthusiastic users. Guess who buys the most product? Enthusiastic users.

Oh and the proprietary format thing? Why would we? Do you really think we're that stupid? Or brand loyal? NOT.
Posted by skeptik (590 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Unfortunately...
UMD sales have jumped 35% recently, which is a little baffling to me.

There was mention of Blu-Ray discs coming with a PSP formatted video, but so far, it's been conjecture on forums.
Posted by navsimpson (68 comments )
Link Flag
Sony Is Satanic
A freshly decapitated goat. Eating raw flesh. Digging your hands into a bloody carcass. Throwing knives, live snake handling. Topless women cavorting around. If this isn't Satanic I don't what is. Sony is seriously offtrack.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=451414&#38;in_page_id=1770&#38;ICO=NEWS&#38;ICL=TOPART" target="_newWindow">http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=451414&#38;in_page_id=1770&#38;ICO=NEWS&#38;ICL=TOPART</a>
Slaughter: Horror at Sony's depraved promotion stunt with decapitated goat

"Electronics giant Sony has sparked a major row over animal cruelty and the ethics of the computer industry by using a freshly slaughtered goat to promote a violent video game. The corpse of the decapitated animal was the centrepiece of a party to celebrate the launch of the God Of War II game for the company?s PlayStation 2 console. Guests at the event were even invited to reach inside the goat?s still-warm carcass to eat offal from its stomach."
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Blam! Blam!
That's the sound of Sony shooting itself in the foot ... again!

Wow. I guess their goal was to offend women, animal lovers, and Christians all at the same time.

I thought this might be a strange joke until I googled it. Nope, it's pretty much accurate. Supposely, Sony has responded with this attempt at an explanation:



The photograph shown in the Playstation Magazine was one of many supplied to the magazine to provide a balanced view of the event. Unfortunately, the article was sensationalised and focused on a picture that was unrepresentative of the wider event.
The event was a theatrical dramatisation with a Greek mythological theme and, as part of the set dressing, a dead goat was sourced by the production company from a local butcher. Following the mainstream popularity of shows such as 'I'm a Celebrity, Get me out of here' a series of challenges were set for the journalists. The 'warm entrails' referred to in the invitation and in the Mail on Sunday article was actually a meat soup, made to a traditional Greek recipe and served to attendees in china bowls direct from the caterers. There was never any question of journalists being able to touch the goat, or indeed eat the soup direct from the body of the goat, as one report has alleged. The goat was returned to the butcher at the end of the event.

We recognise that the use of a dead goat was in poor taste and fell below the high standards of conduct we set ourselves. We are conducting an enquiry to establish the circumstances behind the event in order to ensure this does not happen again. We also apologise to anyone offended by the article in the OPSM (subscription copies were sent out ahead of street date).

Nick Sharples
Director of Corporate Communications
Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Posted by open-mind (1027 comments )
Link Flag
CNet's Coverage
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://news.cbsi.com/8301-10784_3-9714156-7.html" target="_newWindow">http://news.cbsi.com/8301-10784_3-9714156-7.html</a>
Posted by open-mind (1027 comments )
Link Flag
Goats found it offensive as well.
Did Sony get your goat?

Sorry, Baaaaad joke.
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
Link Flag
Yeah, Sales are Up
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://kotaku.com/gaming/feature/feature-the-year-of-the-psp-250775.php" target="_newWindow">http://kotaku.com/gaming/feature/feature-the-year-of-the-psp-250775.php</a>
Posted by navsimpson (68 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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