Apple Gets It…. But Sony Does Not

sony1b.jpgIts been a while since I wrote critically of Sony, but a piece  by Randall Stross in this weekend’s NY Times reminded me of a similar exercise that I did a few months back with Samsung and Nokia.  In his article, Stross compares experiences at both Apple and Sony’s Style stores and points out some of the reasons why Apple is so wildly successful and Sony is not.  Here are Stross’s key points with my commentary:

People vs Product:  Everyone knows the Apple story.  Over half of the store’s staff is dedicated to post-sale service;  Free, one-on-one consultation, with “Geniuses”.  This recognizes that your engagement with a brand is only starting at point of sale.  The real engagement is made or lost as you use the product.  Apple makes sure that you are going to get the most out of it.  As a side note, they also get the concept of Marketing as Storytelling as demonstrated by “The Geniuses”.  Sony, on the other hand, is all about the thing itself.  They have a much broader product line of electronics, which could give them an advantage over Apple if they focused on the value those things can bring to your life, but instead, the engagement exercise is all focused on the pre-sale marketing of the stuff. 

Function vs Fashion:  According to Dennis Syracuse, senior vice president for Sony Retail, the Sony Style stores are intended to be a “fashion boutique for women and children” that incidentally happens to carry electronics instead of clothing.  Wow, that seems a bit shallow.  How successful are you going to be targeting women who only want that red notebook because it coordinates so well with their outfit?

Engaged vs Disengaged:  Stross describes the experience of walking past a number of Sony employees who were “so engaged in a private, and apparently amusing, discussion that <his> imploring presence failed to draw anyone’s attention.”  He speculates that they have become so used to inactivity in the store that had “become accustomed to busying themselves with their own entertainments.”  At a nearby Apple store, the employees were always alert and attentive, despite being very busy.  I’ve been in a lot of Apple stores and this just seems to be part of the culture.  For Apple, some of this has to be due to the enthusiasm of the owners to the products themselves.  Engagement can be a circular thing.  Engaged customers tend to make employees more engaged and visa-versa.  Regardless of the source, the engagement is real and is a huge differentiator.

Stross closes the article suggesting that perhaps a key differentiator IS having some amazing piece of hardware (running Windows) which will bring in the people.  Once they are in the store, they might see the other products in a different light.  This is where I think Stross misses the point.  Sure Apple has great products that people are passionate about, but it’s not because of their technical specifications, its the experience delivered by the product, the store and the employee.

What do you think?  If you are a retailer, do you get it?

European PS3 Will Have Reduced Backwards Compatibility

real-ps3-front-2.jpgI was so hoping that we wouldn’t hear any more bad PS3 news from Sony, but just ahead of the European launch, they have once again outdone themselves.  It’s bad enough that Sony ruined Christmas for so many young European kids by delaying the launch, but now we hear that the European design would lack the chip used in the earlier models to support backwards compatibility for PS2 games. 

The function of the chip will be replaced by firmware.  They have a website that list the supported games, many of which are designated “Should play on PLAYSTATION®3 with noticeable issues”.  If your game is not listed, then it is “not yet supported”.  Over time, there will be new firmware releases that the customers will have to apply, but a spokesman said Sony “will not put much effort in making old PS2 titles available on PS3”. 

Translation:  Sorry Europe, your PS3 is not going to be all it was supposed to be, but we just don’t care!!  Now please fork over 599 Euros and be happy that we finally let you have it.

The move is designed to cust costs and speed up production.  Sony expected the consoles to lose money, but make it up on the backend through games and Blu-Ray content.  With sales in the toilet, Sony is forced to make some changes.  Unfortunately, it’s the customer who is paying the price and that will only cause bigger problems for Sony.   The PS3 gamble has been a disaster for Sony; a company that has continually forced proprietary standards on consumers.  They just don’t get it and deserve whatever happens to them.

Sony lists games compatible with PS3 – Games –

How Nintendo Disrupted Sony

It’s been a while since I last discussed the recent videogame console war. It was long my belief that Nintendo’s Wii, with its focus on the player’s experience, would be the real winner. Although there is plenty of time for these two to battle it out, the early results are a clear indication that Nintendo’s approach has disrupted Sony. Michael Urlocker’s OnDisruption blog has a great post that lays out the case and offers six concepts about Disruption that are applicable to any business:

  • Nintendo’s market disruption is not about better technology;
  • Disruption is not about incremental improvements;
  • Disruption is about understanding where the customer experience is not good enough;
  • Disruption is about making a product more accessible;
  • Disruption is about changing the basis of competition;
  • Disruption is about a new business model.

Would You Buy a Game Console From These Guys??

real-ps3-front-2.jpgYou know that bad reputation that used car guys have.  They have it for a reason.  They don’t deliver on their promises and the customer usually feels taken for a ride.  So here comes Sony with their exploding batteries, proprietary formats and over-engineered & under-delivered PS3, making a claim that is truly hard to believe.  The same Sony that could not meet its launch target of 400,000 systems, is now reporting that all manufacturing issues have been overcome and the company is full on target to have a million systems shipped by the end of the year.  Really…. that’s straight from the mouth of Sony’s communications boss David Karraker…

While initial day-one launch shipment goals weren’t achievable due to early manufacturing issues, those problems have been resolved and we do remain focused on having one million PS3s in the pipeline by December 31, 2006.

Now, if you don’t read that carefully, you might get the impression that the availability is going to pick up by the end of the month.  “We do remain focused” means that this is our official position.  It may or may not be something they we actually accomplish.  “In the pipeline” may mean all the way back at the factory, waiting for blue diodes. 

So what what does that statement actually say.  Not much!!!  Sony may not be able to build great technology anymore, but they sure can spin.

 PS3 problems now resolved – Sony []


Here’s some gamer trivia….  November, 2006 was the first time all three new home systems would be available to consumers, along with three established portable game devices.  And which company wont the month hands down????  I’m not gloating, but you can’t say I didn’t say so….

The month belonged to……..wait for it…….Nintendo!!!

According to NPD, who keeps track of this kind of stuff, Nintendo sold 55 percent of all video game systems in November, led by the launch of the Wii(TM) home system and the incredible continuing success of the Nintendo DS(TM) portable.  While the Wii sold an average of 70,000 per day during the first 7 days,  the biggest sellers for the month were the Nintendo DS, at almost 920,000 units, and Game Boy® Advance, with nearly 642,000 portables sold.  With Wii and Nintendo GameCube(TM) totals included, Nintendo sold through more than 2.1 million of the 3.9 million systems purchased for the month.

The data also reveals that the Wii title The Legend of Zelda®: Twilight Princess achieved sales of 412,000, representing 87 percent of all Wii purchasers, the highest industry rate of sale for any launch title since introduction of Super Mario® 64 with the Nintendo® 64 a decade ago.

In addition, despite the inclusion of Wii Sports software with every system sale, Wii buyers also purchased an average of two additional games, compared to approximately one game per system for the installed bases of either competing new home system.

Now tell me again what’s so great about the PS3???

Source: Nintendo

Sony Delivers Even Less PS3’s Than Planned

Not good news for Sony (and lots of hungry young gamers with $600 in their pockets for that matter), but I doubt Nintendo or Microsoft is feeling bad.  Rumor has it, that Sony shipped less than the already reduced 400,000 PS3 consoles it said it would have in stores last week.  By now you’ve all seen or read about the craziness that surrounded the release of the PS3 last week…that craziness ranged from gun shots being fired at one store in Connecticut to near riot conditions in front of several Best Buys and Circuit City’s around the country.  In one word, pathetic.  On the other hand, the mainstream media and bloggers alike were quick to pick up on the “civility” of the Nintendo Wii release…no gunshots, no riots, just a chock full of courtesy and a side of friendliness.  It probably doesn’t hurt that Nintendo shipped about five to ten times the amount Wii’s compared to what Sony shipped for the PS3. Supply and demand at its finest.

<via GenDigital>

The Success of Wii

Seth Godin has a nice post on his blog about the Wii.

“Sony is losing hundreds of dollars on every one they sell, supply is limited and …people are getting shot in the frenzy to buy the game.”

“And yet Nintendo hums along, with great reviews, plenty of supply and a long-term hit on their hands.”

“What’s up?”

While Sony postures itself like an aging rockstar, promoting it’s overpriced, proprietary scheme for dominating your living room, Nintendo continues to focus on the gamer’s experience.  In the end, it’s the experience, not the technology that will win the devotion (and dollars) of gamers.

Microsoft to offer movies, TV shows on game service |

Looks like the predictionfrom fellow WordPress blogger Shsibae was right on the mark as Microsoft announced today that it would rent movies and sell television shows through Internet downloads to its Xbox Live video game service.  

“Microsoft will begin on Nov. 22 to offer standard and high-definition films such as Warner Bros.’  “Superman Returns” and “Jackass: The Movie” from Paramount Pictures through its Xbox Live Marketplace.   Television shows will include Viacom Inc’s  “South Park” and “CSI: NY” from CBS Corp.  Viewers will need the current-generation Xbox 360 console with a hard drive to take advantage of the service.”

Under the rental model, which is reminiscent of the now defunct DivX Disk technology launched by Circuit City Stores back in 1997,  Microsoft customers have a two week window from when they download a movie to watch it, but once they begin watching it they have only 24 hours to keep it. 

With Netflix planning a download service,  Apple’s upcoming iTV,  Amazon’s movie store, On Demand services from cable providers, and Sony’s PS3 video download function (I’ll believe it when I see it), the customer really has a lot of choices.  Which models will survive this tech war?  What will this mean to businesses who sell or rent DVDs?  I can’t say, but it will be fun to watch.

Here are the specifics:

  • Microsoft has not yet disclosed pricing for downloads, but it will be in Microsoft points.
  • Movies will be “rental” only, TV for “purchase” only.
  • At launch there will be over 800 hours of SDTV, and 200 hours of HDTV.
  • Neither TV nor movies are streamed; they are only downloaded, although you can stream short preview clips from the Live interface.
  • You can only download content to your Xbox 360 drive — not to an external drive.
  • Your “purchased” TV programs can be downloaded an infinite amount of times to an infinite amount of consoles; you may also play them back on friends’ 360s with your removable drive.
  • Deleted TV shows can be re-downloaded later; HDTV shows can be re-downloaded in either HDTV or SD.
  • Movies can be watched an unlimited number of times the first 24 hours. Plays after that period will cost the same as the initial download, although the movie data isn’t necessarily deleted. You can keep the movie data on your drive up to 14 days without re-downloading it.
  • Downloads are in VC-1 (aka WMVHD) at 720p, 6.8Mbps video with 5.1 surround.
    An average HD movie download should be between 4-5GB, and a two hour SD movie would be 1.6GB.
  • An average 1 hour (44 min) HDTV download should be about 2.2GB, and an average 1/2 hour (22 min) HDTV download should be about 1GB. A 1 hour SDTV download should be about 600MB, and a 1/2 hour SDTV download should be about 300MB.
  • This service will not be available for MSN TV users, Vongo subscribers, or any other Microsoft partners. It is Xbox Live only.
  • You cannot download programs through the Xbox Live web interface — they can only be transported to your 360’s removable drive.
  • There aren’t any drive announcements being made, but there is a rumor of a 80GB drive coming.  Of course, Microsoft rumors are never true, right?

Launch titles

Aqua Teen Hunger Force
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Batman Forever
Breaking Bonaduce
Chappelle’s Show
Hogan Knows Best
Jackass: The Movie
The Matrix
Nacho Libre
Nicktoons Network Animation Festival
Pimp My Ride
Race Rewind (NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races)
Raising the Roofs
The Real World
Robot Chicken
South Park
SpongeBob SquarePants
Star Trek (original)
Superman Returns
50 fights from Ultimate Fighting Championship, and some episodes from The Ultimate Fighter
Microsoft to offer movies, TV shows on game service |

EA predicts PS3 shortages for North America

Well, you can’t say I didn’t warn you.  Wearing his Master of the Obvious hat, Electronic Arts CFO Warren Jenson warned on Friday, that PlayStation 3 units will be hard to get hold of in the US this Christmas following the console’s launch on November 17.  Jenson’s reasoning is what’s worth  reporting

In a conference call Jenson said, “We’re thinking that with PlayStation 3 in North America, the [shipment] range is probably 500,000 to 800,000.”  Sony has previously stated it plans to ship 2 million consoles to the US and Japan by the end of the year, but that number had recently been downgraded to 1-1.2 million.

<via GameIndustryBiz>

Japan PS3 Quantity Slashed Again…. Is the US Next?

Looks like Sony can’t get a PS3 shortage break. The Nikkei Keizai Shimbun paper reports today that due to component shortages, Sony will only have 80,000 PS3 units ready for Japanese launch instead of the originally planned 100,000 units. That’s a 20% cut. First the European launch gets delayed because of production issues, now the Japanese launch availability is crippled even more than it previously was.

No word yet if the shortage will effect North American units but, if proportional, they could be cut by 380,000 systems.  The PS2 sold out of almost a million units when launched back in March of 2000.

Meanwhile, a new report coming out of the financial services company UBS (available at—paid subscription required) analyzes the number of Wii consoles that have been manufactured prior to launch and pegs the figure at 2 million. In addition, the report states that at least 7 million and potentially as many as 9 million consoles are in the production pipeline and will be ready by year-end. This represents an increase from Nintendo’s publicly-announced target of 6 million Wii consoles by the end of the year.

So let’s review what this means for the holiday shopper:

  • PS3 – production problems, really expensive, FUGETABOUDIT! Your not gonna get one.
  • Wii – Pretty good inventory, cool interface make it more of an experience, reasonable price tag.

Nintendo looks like the clear winner to me.

Battery Recalls Cost Sony More Than Money


Sony’s PS3 isn’t launched yet, but it has already cost the company $366 million. That was expected and not uncommon when launching a new hardware platform. What Sony didn’t foreseen, however, was the massive battery recall that ended up costing them a whopping $429 million and sent their bottom line screaming into the basement. Practically every laptop maker in the world has recalled Sony’s lithium-ion batteries due to their unfortunate (though rare) habit of overheating and bursting into flames.

While Sony’s decision to reduce the number of PSPs shipped in fiscal 2006 makes a certain amount of sense in light of this financial news, its decision to lower the cost of the PS3 in Japan by 20% is curious. Such a slash will reduce what little profit the company was going to make on the hardware that would have almost certainly sold out at the full asking price.
The cost to Sony’s profits is obvious, but the more subtle damage was done to the company’s image as a mainstay of consumer technology.

Sony recalls 340,000 batteries in second wave

AAARRRGGGHHH!  Seems like bad news is the only thing Sony can produce on schedule. 

<reblogged from Engadget>

Sorry to kick y’all laptop owners when you’re down, but Sony announced that it’s initiating another recall of 340,000 batteries, this time adding Gateway to the list of the affected, in addition to already-affected Fujitsu, Toshiba, and its own batteries. (It’s not immediately apparent if this also includes the 300,000 batteries of their own that they recalled earlier this month.) There are a ton of models being recalled for each company, so we’d ask you visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission for full details; also, if you haven’t already checked your battery, please note the following companies are now initiating recalls:

Kind of scary, but at this rate it’s probably just safest to assume that no matter what your notebook, your battery is or will be recalled — so be wary, and keep an eye out for battery recall pages.

Hollywood Insiders Second Guessing Blu-ray Support

A recent Variety article new window entitled “Pandora’s black box” examines Sony’s PS3/Blu-ray strategy and how, with their seemingly never-ending setback, the movie studios that signed up for the Blu-ray format are feeling a little uneasy.

Despite its many uses, industryites agree that the PS3 will sell primarily on its core vidgaming capabilities.

“PS3 is first and foremost about games,” states Kaz Hirai, head of Sony’s U.S. vidgame division. “That really is the entry point for the majority of people. Oh, and by the way, they’ll get a great Blu-ray player. It’s an excellent by-product.”

That “Trojan horse” strategy is what persuaded many studios to jump aboard Blu-ray, figuring that PS3 sales would put Blu-ray in tens of millions of homes where someone loves to play vidgames.

While some of those studios are taking a wait-and-see approach on the impact of PS3, others are already starting to feel burned by the delays and pricing concerns. “PS3 was a huge deal in our coming aboard Blu-ray,” confirms one top home entertainment exec. “I’m not sure we would have signed on if we had known then what we know now.

No matter how many stand-alone HD DVD or Blu-ray players are sold within the next 12 months, its likely (barring any other unforeseen delays) those sales will be dwarfed by the PS3, so from a pure numbers perspective I can see the allure. Unfortunately for the studios, this may prove completely irrelevant within a few short months. Embedding a Blu-ray player in the PS3 does not mean PS3 owners will be Blu-ray movie buyers.

The HD DVD camp is not sitting still either. Toshiba is moving on to it’s second generation HD DVD player after selling through 70k units of its original line. Add to this unannounced HD DVD players from other manufacturers and the up-coming Xbox 360 HD DVD player and it becomes apparent that dedicated, stand-alone HD DVD playback devices may very well eclipse the insert-number-here of PS3 owners who purchase Blu-ray movies. That insert-number-here figure really is the big unknown and will likely remain so for several months after the PS3’s launch.

The big question is, when do we get back to the business of authoring titles and selling HD disc players in one format and one format only? This is what’s needed to assure the consumer at large their not about to buy into the wrong format. Enter Nielsen’s Video Scan.

On October 12th Nielsen’s VideoScan numbers for the month of August new window alone, revealed that HD DVD movies outsold all other high definition formats by a factor of nearly three to one. This is where the proverbial rubber meets the road folks, VideoScan numbers don’t lie, those numbers are sales not shipments and will factor heavily in future studio support decisions.

So will we see a reversal of this 3:1 margin in favor of Blu-ray, in the months following the PS3’s launch on November 17th? That’s hard to say in all honesty, in a vacuum yes 500K+ players would obviously create an up-surge in Blu-ray sales but of course the format war doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

The new Toshiba players, along with the Xbox add-on will put HD DVD into insert-number-here additional homes and from there who knows where this will go. Two things are certain: HD DVD has established a “beachhead” and the format war will keep most consumers on the sideline for the foreseeable future.

Sony’s Blu-ray Player Delayed Yet Again

Sony’s BDP-S1 has been delayed, again, three times to be exact. (at least that’s my count) Originally scheduled for release on August 15th the player was then bumped back to October 25th and now states new window “Targeted Availability: On or about December 4, 2006”.What is it about this player that’s causing the delays? Could it be the blue laser diode shortages caused by Sony gobbling up every blue laser diode they can get their hands on for the PS3? Well according to Andy Parsons new window of Pioneer “player manufacturers are unlikely to be affected by a blue diode shortage because they are manufacturing far fewer units compared to the millions of PS3s Sony is producing.”

So that must not be it… or maybe it is, as Pioneer’s oft delayed BDP-HD1 Blu-ray player is rumored to have been postponed until January, although select dealers are expecting demo units to arrive shortly. This would seem to indicate the player is complete but a shortage of some key-part is holding up mass production.

So it looks like Samsung’s BD-P1000 and Panasonic’s DMP-BD10 ($1299) may very well remain the only stand-alone Blu-ray players available throughout the holiday season 2006. Philips and Sharp announced players for the “third quarter of 2006” and “fourth quarter 2006” respectively, but we’ve yet to see any firm launch dates for either of those players.

<via HomeTheater Blog>

Man, are these guys in trouble….

I think I have already used this intro on a previous Sony post, but….

Just when you think you have heard all the bad news, here comes trouble.  Sony has already had enough problems this year to sink a less established company.  First the exploding batteries, and now it looks like that could turn into a cascading problem.  They can get enough Blu-Ray components to build the player/recorders, which leads to the ongoing saga of the PS3, the one product that they have bet the farm on.

Sources at Kotaku point us to a quote where Sony Computer Entertainment America co-chairman Jack Tretton backpedaled on the ship date of the PlayStation 3, saying that the game console’s widely-reported rollout on November 17 is not set in stone:

“The honest answer is it’s more of a target. Clearly we’ve had production issues.”

This can’t be good.  With the company bleeding cash, is the PS3 destined for the back burner for a while, and if so, how will that impact Sony’s overall health and credibility?