Boxing in customers is rarely a good idea, and Sony CEO Howard Stringer says he’s come around to that reasoning.
In an interview with Nikkei Electronics Asia, Stringer spoke of how his company didn’t take open technology very seriously in the past, pointing to the failed Sony Connect music store as an example. The site’s tunes came in the proprietary ATRAC format, which only worked with Sony’s music hardware and obviously displeased freedom-seeking customers. Connect was phased out beginning in 2007.
Stringer blames the store’s failure on a type of proprietary digital rights management. “At the time, we thought we would make more money that way than with open technology, because we could manage the customers and their downloads,” he said. “This approach, however, created a problem: customers couldn’t download music from any Websites except those that contracted with Sony. If we had gone with open technology from the start, I think we probably would have beaten Apple Inc of the US.”
The interview, published this month, seems slightly dated, as Stringer talks about Apple’s use of FairPlay DRM and how Sony can maybe exploit that weakness. Of course, Apple removed DRM from iTunes last month.
Beyond Stringer’s “open vs. closed” epiphanies, the interview’s other main takeaways deal with the Playstation Network. He drops some hints about an expansion of the network “to hardware other than the PS3” and speaks of “evolving the PS3 into a platform for Web services,” but doesn’t elaborate in specifics.
With the exception of Bravia TVs and maybe the revamped Walkman X-Series, I don’t see much room for expansion. Owners of a Playstation 3 and PSP can already transfer movies and TV shows between the two, and the PS3 is the only home console that can access Hulu, albeit through the machine’s Web browser. That’s not to say those two pieces of hardware wouldn’t benefit from an online media store.
And besides, Hulu and video downloads are relatively recent developments anyway, taking hold in the second half of last year. Perhaps Stringer’s shift in thinking began a while ago.