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 – MSNBC.com

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 [GamesIndustry.biz]

Wii-markable!!!

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.