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View Full Version : Sony's relentless assault



OziMac
15th August 2004, 07:47 PM
I've just visited a couple of Dick Smith Powerhouses today. At both of them, as usual, I took a fleeting glance at the iPod section to see what they've got in stock.

Both times I was harangued by women wearing these fugly grey sony tshirts asking me if they could interest me in a Hi-MD player? At the first store I flat out said no, but was approached by her again a bit later. I was a little curious, so I indulged her a bit and asked about the specs and capabilities. She said it can hold over 100 hours of music and could store data etc etc. I mentioned I used to own an MD ages ago, and she suggested that now was a good time to upgrade. Then I told her I had an iPod, and that shut her up pretty quickly and she went off to hassle another poor sod.

At the second store, again there were women wearing the grey tshirts, and there was a VAIO set up by the music counter and people huddled around it. I noticed this time that all of the staff throughout the store were wearing these red strings around their necks with the words 'ATRAC Song Hi-MD Netwalkman' on them. The iPod display was merely a pile of opened black iPod inner boxes, with one old 3g display model that was not even hooked up to any speakers, and no one looking at it. In contrast, people were crowding around the Sony station because this woman was showing them how to use Sony's crappy software and wandering around the store actually showing the MD unit to people.

Sony has obviously taken its reentry into the portable music player business in Australia very seriously. By putting these people into Dick Smith, they are virtually nullifying the pop culture impact of the iPod, which looks pretty downtrodden by comparison and receives little to no promotion at all. I would love to say (and it rings true for me and you guys probably at least) that the iPod needs no promotion. But for people coming in with little to no technical knowledge who simply want a cool portable music player, the MD and the sales pitch given to it by the people in the stores is pretty strong. I work with someone who I had been taking around to iPod shops earlier this year, who was really keen to get one, but didn't have a computer at home to load the songs on to. Lo and behold, I discover that she now has a NetMD because she doesn't need a computer for it. I'm sure this isn't an isolated incident.

So it looks like the war is really on now, and where Apple uses its insidious infiltration into pop culture and a few rarely screened, abstract ads and dwindling stocks, Sony has come out all guns blazing with a direct marketing and sales campaign aimed straight at consumers at the point of sale. Up until now I thought the iPod was untouchable - however, this really seems to be a fork in the road - in one direction, the iPod beats off the pretenders (as it has done with the technically superior, but more difficult to use iRiver et al); and in the other, the iPod becomes the Mac, the wonderfully user friendly, sometimes cool, but ultimately neglected cousin to the mainstream brand personal music players.

I know which I want to occur, but it will sure as hell be interesting to see how it develops.

Disko
15th August 2004, 09:26 PM
This sounds quite interesting. I'd like to hear official word from Sony about this, and also will apple add their own reps to reseller's stores to compete with the salespitch?

btw: sony say they can equal the iPod's song capacity at a lower price - which is a technical truth. They compress the hell out of the songs to get that result, whereas apple don't in their "1000 songs in your pocket" claims.

Phillip
15th August 2004, 10:22 PM
what can i say? sony are a sore losers

Currawong
16th August 2004, 08:38 AM
The Mini-disk compression is considerably lower quality than what you'd get out of AAC now. Since Sony's headphones are crap though, noone notices.

OziMac
16th August 2004, 08:50 AM
Sure, we all agree on that. However, Sony does claim (and I find it dubious in the extreme) that ATRAC is so superior an encoding format that at 48kbps the sound quality is CD quality. You can't really differentiate that in principle from Apple's claim that 128kbps AAC is CD quality. Neither of them are. It's just a matter of degree of stretching the facts.

But the point is that none of this matters. Most people don't care about compression and degrees of sound quality and all that. They will tend to buy what's in their face when they're out to buy and given a good sales pitch. I read on another thread that some sales staff at Myer diss the iPod, and say that its overpriced and no good in comparison to the crappy flash players. On the other hand, Sony places people in retailers' stores to talk them up. I know Apple have a few wandering, slightly knowledgeable sales people in the major Myer stores that sell Macs themselves, but the staff in their stores across the board don't all tend to be as receptive.

Sony's angle seems to be to get in consumers' faces at the point of sale and sell hard - a very clever move. As much as I really want to see them crash and burn, they are simply not going to go down without a fight and have the capability to pull a rabbit out of a hat and win this. Scary thought.

jobe
16th August 2004, 09:00 AM
I hate (and I really mean hate... I'm quite resentful) sony for their stupid sonic-stage software which I absolutly HAD to install and use to be able to copy music to my mzn10. Not only was this software bloated, crap to use, full of spyware* but it constantly re-organise my music and re-encoded everything into atrac. The final straw was when I got my ibook which I'm using right now to type this hate filled message, wouldn't you believe it but there is no mac equivelant for sonic stage. I searched the net and could find no way of copying music from my mac to my MD player.

Doing anything in sonic stage took ages, it was slow, poorly organised and just fscking annoying as all hell. So that is what turned me off sony's latest and most expensive offfering in the portable music market. Now... i and the extreemly proud owner of an IPOD. I love not having to convert my music files to un-supported formats, I love not having to kill quality for quantity, I love not being forced into using a crappy, bloated software, I love my ipod (oh... and my music :P)

*my firewall constantly logged connections to sony.com and other sony domains while the bloatware was runnning.

OziMac
16th August 2004, 09:05 AM
Congratulations Jobe, you've made a fine choice. (But why did you get an MD in the first place, if you have an iBook?)

We can only hope that there are more wise people like you out there :)

Atomic
16th August 2004, 10:59 AM
First I must commend Sony on their persistence with the MD format after so many years. Anybody in their right mind would not look twice at the MD format these days yet they continue to push it like its Gods gift to the human race.

Second - SONY, you are MORONS! How could you still attempt to market a product that does not comply with any standards 99% of the worlds population uses in some form or another - MP3. There is one and only one reason for this. Sony don't care about selling MD players. They own a big chunk of the worlds record labels and will not succumb to MP3. It is in their best interest not to and yet they still push ATRAC so they can have their cake and eat it. Sony, the people have spoken, Apple have listened and you guys can't take it - simple.

Apple on the other hand couldn't give a shit about the labels (deep down that is, although on the surface they are kissing the music labels ass for iTMS store deals and even then its the big 5 labels - the independants are now kissing Apples ass. God only knows what sort of contracts the poor independants are subjected to.) Apple made the smartest move imaginable by porting iTunes over to windows. Apple didn't care where your music came from (initially) but is pushing legal music as well so they look like the good guys. Meanwhile, every man, woman and child wants or will get an iPod in the near future while Apple is laughing all the way to the bank.

Apple have not seen this sort of hype since the first Apple products rolled off the production line 25 years ago. They are not going to make the same mistake twice. This time they have covered all bases and are continually embedding themselves into every corner of the market. Third party devices are everywhere, automotive (BMW, Alpine), mobile (Motorola), competitions offering iPods are everywhere - and this is still just the beginning.

The fact that people are carrying around 20Gb-40Gb in their pocket is the beginning of a revolution. Why the hell would I want to carry around Minidiscs? I admit the iPod is not perfect but its pretty damn close.

SONY - get off your high horse and use your billions to make something worthwhile. Don't try and palm off 10 year old technology that makes it impossible to integrate with.

/end rant :D

OziMac
16th August 2004, 11:17 AM
Nice rant, Atomic.

I agree with you on all counts, save for the 'Apple couldn't give a shit about the labels' bit - I'm afraid they could, and do, partly because Steve Jobs is also head of Pixar, another content producer, and has some of the label's concerns at heart. Hence FairPlay, the non-licensed beast that it is. And as much as we'd like to think not, Apple is fully capable of making the same mistake twice.

The fact is, WE all think the iPod is the bees knees. But as someone wise once said 'bees knees are hard to live with'. We're a bunch of self-confessed Apple tragics (come on, admit it! :)) - and far from everyone agrees with us. Not everyone takes performance (eg iRiver), the facts, or even trends into consideration when they purchase. Two major factors are price and marketing. If Sony offers a competitive price and has this sustained sales pitch at the consumers' faces at the point of sale, they have the potential to increase their sales dramatically, and take sales away from the iPod. Even if their product is so much shitter (as we all well know).

I wonder what Apple is going to do about it, if anything. Competitions giving away iPods and tie-ins with very expensive car and mobile phone manufacturers are not necessarily going to move more iPods. And arrogantly doing nothing to respond to Sony's sales pitch is also not neccessarily going to be the best thing for them.

Anyway, interesting stuff :)

Ozi
16th August 2004, 12:49 PM
/agrees with above two posts

Apple DOES care about the artists. FairPlay, as other Ozi said, and the fact that their 12,405 lawyers get all excited and litigious when someone makes anything that can get around iTunes anti-pirating software. This protects the artist.

Also, iTunes music store gives more of the profit back to the recording artist, and less to the big rich record labels. Again, they are looking after the musicians.

And yeah, I have 2 friends who won iPods with the pepsi competition, and they RAVE in favour of the iPod. So that is smart marketing. :) But we do need to combat the Sony thing. MD is shit, totally crappy technology, more backwards than using a casette player. <_< ok well not that bad, but they dont hold anywhere near as much data, and are poo. But with clever maketing, hot sales people in grey tshirts, and people out on the prowl for a music player, they look like they can take a big swing at iPod sales. In my experience, the people who usually are put in charge of selling the iPod to customers have no idea what the poo they are poing. Either through ignorance or apathy, the sales pitch they give is very bad. It is scary knowing more about iPods than the person whos job it is to sell them.

So Apple really needs to get up of their overly content butts and keep pushing for complete market dominance. This war will never be over, but we have to keep winning the battles.

~ozi

Jimbo
17th August 2004, 11:06 PM
being involved in radio, it&#39;s really difficult to bring your material in on an ipod and connect it to the studio, due to its les than consumer connections, if there was some sort of exchangeable medium in it it would be fantastic, its really good t record my sweeps, promos/voice overs at home using my minidisc unit and tkaae it into work and put in in the player there and Bang, work done, dollar paid. the ipdo does hav the consumer market covered but when will they release pro audio devices... I think apple have the funds and the resources to continue Emagic&#39;s audio hardware department. But anyway, the market is now virtually owned by avid, so there really wouldn&#39;t be much point, sorry for ramblin...


Jim

yinyang
17th August 2004, 11:55 PM
as much as it smacks of desparation, sony are obviously counting on the general public&#39;s perception of the brand name, and as good as apple is, to joe public sony is one hell of a brand. joe public, especially if they&#39;re in a dick smith environment (as well as target and myer) are not usually very well informed and i&#39;m sure these sony hit squads have been trained well and are on huge commissions. all of a sudden the urge to getting an &#39;mp3&#39; player leads to a sony purchase (&#39;surely buying a sony is cool&#39;, dad says to the kids...who groan cos they wanted an iPod&#33;&#33;)

if this is an isolated &#39;australian&#39; issue i&#39;m not sure if we&#39;ll see any kind of response from apple, but apple aus need to be a bit more pro-active about reaching joe public - they should have given the whole australian contingent in athens an iPod : )

how cool would it have been to see thorpey chillin&#39; with his iPod etc..&#33;

Splintered_Mind
18th August 2004, 01:34 AM
My brother had a MD a few years back, wasn&#39;t too bad except you get locked into sony proprietry codec Heaven :P

On the subject of the iriver, I don&#39;t really think they are that flash compared to the iPod. The only person I know that uses one is a die hard wintel monkey that refuses to look at anything Apple makes :rolleyes:

decryption
18th August 2004, 11:33 AM
Sony is probably shitting themselves with the new Apple stores in Japan. The iPod would be eating away at the MD market in Japan (the only place is really succeeded), espically with the fashion concious Japanese.

But then again, it&#39;s just a bloody music player :P

emac_man
19th August 2004, 09:58 AM
As much a spushy salespeople piss me off, Sony would still get my bucks over Apple for a music box, because Hi-MD records at CD and better quality, iPod, even with a Belkin adapter, only records at telephone quality (8k sample rate, divide by 2, equals 4k bandwidth, effectively phone quality.), so I can plug a small, portable mixer into a minidisk machine, plug in a mic or two and record high quality audio for playback (it seems NOBODY wants to let me transfer via USB, I might be pirating vinyl&#33; shock horror&#33;) into my mac when I get home.

Until iPod comes with a true record option, Apple will never sell me one.

Disko
19th August 2004, 10:02 AM
I&#39;ve already got a Minidisc player. I haven&#39;t touched it for about a year now - because the software pisses me off, and it wont work on mac. Not even through virtual PC. I&#39;m seriously looking into getting an ipod now - i don&#39;t need the recording capabilities of my MD, we&#39;ve got an 8-track for that.

OziMac
19th August 2004, 06:35 PM
Disko - you don&#39;t have an iPod??? For shame&#33;&#33;&#33; :)

I TOLD you to give yourself one for posting the 10,000th post&#33;

Ozi
19th August 2004, 10:32 PM
:lol: yes... he could give himself the prize. :D Minidisks suck: dont support apples well, and hold poo all compared to an iPod.

Disko, I think you should talk a sponsor (Norwood Apple store perhaps) into giving you a free "promotional" ipod, or perhaps one for you to "test" permanently. LMAO Just say you admin the premier Australian Apple forum, that should help. :P

Disko
19th August 2004, 10:37 PM
Heh. It&#39;s a nice dream, but really our kind sponsors already do so much for this site. That in itself is enough to make me greatful. :)