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Friday, May 12, 2006

Sony's Semantic Problem

Imagine you have a cat and you wanted to buy another cat ... because they'll be more fun to play with if you have two around. You go into the same exact pet store, now several years later, and ask for a cat. The pet store tells you they can sell you a cat, but it's going to be more than twice as much as your last one. Why? Because this cat is unlike any other cat in any other pet store. Damn thing is practically a tiger.

The question is ... do you actually believe him and pay twice as much for a new cat? Or you do you just get one of those cheap rubber balls that Fluffy always finds damn hilarious? What feature is this new cat going to have to convince you of its tigerishness.

Sony justifies it's $600 price tag by insisting they aren't really selling a game console per se but a home entertainment machine unlike any other. Sure, it's still called a Playstation and it's primary function will likely be games ... but well ... just buy it and find out?

How do they see this possibly working? What really makes it "unlike" any other home entertainment machine? Great graphics? No, that's virtually every launch in console history. Cutting edge media player? Sorry, PS2 was already there. Home media server? Xbox. Xbox 360. Online integration and networking? Again, Xbox. Xbox 360.

What Sony means, really, is Blu-Ray. But it's really just the same trick as the PS2 in a new Sunday dress. Sure, there's plenty of possibilities with the emergence of digital media ... but that's also true of every Xbox, PC and Mac on the market right now. Maybe if the PSP had become the new iPod or maybe if the next gen format wars wouldn't be so contested or maybe if the PS3 really had some hidden feature nobody had done before.

None of this means Sony is doomed. Far from it. Actually, if anything, we're seeing a far more divided console market in the new generation. While I can't imagine any of this is going to cause major shakeups, it's certainly more interesting than three consoles of almost identical price and feature.

But still, I'll stick with the cat I have for now.

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Andy said...

Found you via Acid in the Blood. Like the blog v.much. Consider yourself blogrolled. :)


Ugh, media features are the bain of my life. I'm still trying to get my head around the HD standards, I don't really care about them much either.

And of course the problem with using the PS3 for your media, buying music, movies etc, which is what they want is that it's completely crap for the user. First you've got DRM which will no doubt be designed to simply secure Sony's technological legacy. Just as it is for every other DRM, iTunes/iPod included. So what do you do when Sony bring out the PS4. You'll have to transfer all that music across. Or you might be able transfer the HD across but is that really sufficient? And since the PS3 uses an ATA interface that'll become outmoded. We already have SATA etc in PC's after all.

Bottom line, for the media user the PS3 is a trap, plain and simple.

Josh said...

I'm a big iTunes fan ... but even Apple's DRM annoys me to no end. And it's somewhat circumventable by a nod and a wink.

Sony has never, ever, been able to balance consumer versatility with their own desire to own the format and everything that touches it. Mini-Discs, the PSP UMD drive, etc. Plus as Wifi gets more adopted and storage space getting cheaper ... I just don't see the media player being such an odd thing.

When we move, the Mac Mini (or a Mini) might make it's way to the living room. I'll have access to all my media over a wifi net ... whether it's another Mac or a PDA or what. Microsoft has moved in this direction as well. If Sony doesn't follow suit, they're missing the boat.

Andy said...

Which if course makes the lack of WiFi in the 'basic' model all the more stupid. If they want the PS3 to be a media centre then it needs that functionality. And seriously, how much money will they save by not putting in WiFi? Surely it can't be THAT much?

I'm getting quite annoyed with this whole multi-SKU approach. I didn't like how Microsoft did it and Sony seem to be doing it even worse.

Josh said...

Not to mention the card reader, which is also how I move MP3s from my phone to my PDA to my Mac right now.

If they were going to make a cheaper unit and say "Now this one ... it's just a game console" ... clearly they'd have to be able to either meet the 360's price point or forget it.

Between the Cell and BD drive, it just wasn't going to happen.

If Blu-Ray does well in the format war, the PS3 will be just fine. It's easier to justify the cost. But it's also wildly dependent on it.