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Friday, 31 August 2007 07:55

Connect music store and ATRAC format to die

Written by David Stellmack

Image

Two more failures for Sony


Sony seems
to be admitting defeat with the announcement that they will be closing the Connect music service as of March 2008 and killing off Sony’s proprietary DRM-oriented ATRAC format.

Sony seems to have struggled to be a leader in the digital music world. The company that took portable music to new heights with the introduction of the Walkman has continued to be more concerned about music piracy and content protection, rather than listing to the consumers who had already adopted the MP3 format as their format of choice.

Sony has tried several different methods to capture more of what has become a lucrative market space, but has failed to do so with the introduction of many different types of players and technology, but it seems that success has eluded this market segment for Sony. This has opened the market up to a variety of new competitors, and the market is currently dominated primarily by Apple with the iPod family and the iTunes music store.

Recently, Sony has attempted to get their program back on track with support for MP3s and more stylish players, but while these new moves received praise by some in the media, consumers continued to be unimpressed; and sales have been sluggish.

The ATRAC format was Sony’s DRM oriented format of choice when they launched the MiniDisc (MD) player several years ago. Sony was so confident in the compression format and the DRM offered by the ATRAC format that Sony adopted it as the standard format for Sony’s Connect music store, which was designed to compete with other online music services that offer music downloads.

The closing of the Connect music store means that users who downloaded songs in the ATRAC format will be locked to that computer and player with the closing of Connect. Going forward, Sony says that new players will be supporting Windows Media, MP3, and ACC formats, but not ATRAC. Sony is telling customers that they might want to burn their ATRAC protected songs to CD so that they have access to a DRM-free version of the music that they purchased prior to Connect shutting down for the change over in March ‘08.

Sony has sent out a detailed Email describing the situation. What all of this means to users of Connect that have songs in the ATRAC format is that they will continue to be able to move files between a compatible computer and existing players, but users will NOT be able to transfer music to a new computer after March. Also any user who has outstanding credits, promotional codes or gift certificates might want to use them very soon.

The entire situation has to sting Sony, as they were supposed to be a leader in the portable music revolution; instead, they have been demoted to “also ran” status. The announcement that Sony is moving more toward the center with mainstream compatibility with the MP3 and Windows media format could allow Sony to bounce back from the disappointment of its past.

The only problem is that discontinuing of the ATRAC format and closing of the Connect music store will likely embitter those who were already supporting Sony. It is difficult to see Sony being able to break away from the pack and becoming a leader in this market space again without some sort of a new breakthrough product.

Last modified on Friday, 31 August 2007 10:38

David Stellmack

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