December 18, 2004

Why Sony don't get it in so many ways

I’m a little late on this one but, hey, I’ve been offline in India. It’s always sad to see a big corporation like Sony completely misunderstand its own marketing hype and the emotional connection consumers have with products.

So not only are they pointlessly flexing their corporate muscle trying to sue Jason Kottke for posting a transcript of Ken Jennings losing a fortune on Jeopardy (there’s a good account of this all from Anil Dash) but also forced RetroPod to stop selling their iPod cased made from recycled Sony Sports Walkman cases.

Copyright law is there to stop others exploiting ideas that aren’t their own and prevent damage to a name or loss of earnings. Let’s face it, neither of these cases really warrant its invocation. In the RetroPod case, Sony’s worry that people will “be misled into thinking that Sony is backward in its design of products and is going away from miniaturization, as the size of the tape player housing is quite large by today’s standards” is both absurd and misses the point.

The iPod has become the new Walkman and Sony missed out and messed up. Sony’s user interface, mainly due to miniaturisation, is awful on most of their products and their product design varies wildly. I have a MiniDisc (I have an iPod too) that has a battery case that looks like someone from Sony’s blind designers department designed it.

Secondly, they’re shitting on their own doorstep because people love retro technology. My friend Nic Roope’s Pokia handsets for mobiles are a classic example. The Walkman is the product that brought Sony to the masses and stole their hearts. As soon as they start messing with that a fragile, fickle emotional relationship breaks down. Can you imagine Apple clamping down on the modding scene? No, I thought not.

Incidentally, here in Australia it’s illegal to rip CDs that you have bought to your iPod. So that would mean you could only play MP3’s that were legally downloaded and nothing else. Copyright is way behind the times.

Check out the Open Letter to Howard Stringer, CEO Sony Corporation America, by The Head Lemur for more.

Thanks toHugh ‘Gaping Void’ Macleod for many of the links.