What is really pretty extraordinary about this story is the sea shift change that has digital content has caused, the impact on the Japanese consumer electronics companies, and the realization that it was the advent of the CD in the 1980’s and it”s complete lack of DRM that has enabled all of it.
There was a time when Sony’s Walkman was the “Kleenex” brand in portable music, today it’s a footnote and I’d bet that if you surveyed a good segment of the under-30 crowd there would be a large percentage that didn’t even know what a Walkman is. Sony’s insistence on proprietary formats (think MiniDisc) ultimately became an albatross around their neck, as was their strategy of acquiring content libraries in music and film in the belief that owning the content would drive their future success. Both strategies proved wrong, the first because customers didn’t want it and the latter because digital favors connectedness over verticalization.
In no small part everything that has happened is a result of the inventors of digital consumer formats (the CD for the most part) not having the foresight to see that the rapidly evolving personal computer industry would be able to consume digital content. With the advent of the public Internet, and with it the ability to share digital content, in the early 1990’s it was too late because hundreds of millions of CD devices had been sold and any DRM introduced then would have made them obsolete. Ironic huh?
In the end, this announcement by Sony will have little effect on their portable media ambitions because their devices and services largely suck and don’t feature the simplicity that the iPod brings with it. Even the venerable Playstation has been unable to move beyond simply being a game console when in fact it has legitimate claim to being a digital media hub. In that area I would bet on Xbox360 and of course Apple should they decide to launch the product they are rumored to be working in.
UPDATE: Maybe ATRAC hasn’t taken off is that it sounds too much like “8 track”.
The behemoth Japanese conglomerate, which once controlled the portable music market, announced Tuesday that the company’s data compression technology would be compatible with a number of rival formats, including Apple’s format of choice, AAC.