Some Companies Go Out of Their Way to Step on Themselves

The title of the post says it all, it seems that some companies, like Apple, seem to catch every break and when they do make mistakes they largely glide right over them. Other companies, it would seem, never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, and here Sony definitely comes to mind.

Sony’s PSP is a remarkable portable device in every respect. Not only does is it a great game machine with an awesome display, built in wifi, and expandable storage, but it also can be used as a web browser, portable music/video player, and much more. In fact, a substantial hacker community (maybe “prosumers” would be a less threatening term) has developed around this device.

However, despite the enthusiasm in the market for this device, Sony seems to go out of their way to identify creative and innovative hacks being developed for the device and then update the firmware to disable them. Because the firmware is updated over-the-wire, Sony enjoys a high degree of control over what goes into the devices.

What I really have to question is the wisdom of exerting such a high degree of control over what should be a general purpose device and in the process alienate themselves from the very community that is their most significant advocate. Sony has on their hands a portable computing device that is a blockbuster, and with the steep engineering curve behind it the device is reasonably defensible from competitors new and current. Despite all those assets, Sony is once again stuck in their old ways and believes that controlling all aspects of the device will result in greater success than building a bubbly ecosystem around it.

If I were the CEO of Sony I would be calling the head of the PSP group in for a meeting and ask the following questions:

1) Why is someone posting a firmware downgrader for the PSP that strips the latest firmware out of the device and downgrades it to one of the earliest releases? Why are such a significant number of our customers willing to forego bug fixes and updates in the current firmware for the capabilities that the original generation of firmware gives them?

1a) Why is there so much support for aforementioned downgrader that over 1,100 comments ride on the posting?

2) What is the lost opportunity we are experiencing by not embracing the ecosystem that is developing around non-current PSPs?

3) Why are we not including PC/Mac-to-PSP video conversion capabilities to individuals and websites? How come I can’t download my YouTube videos onto my PSP?

4) At what point do we downplay the gaming capabilities and focus on the PSP’s media center capabilities, such as this and this?

5) Who thought that not having a keyboard accessory for the PSP would be a good idea?

6) Why is the official PSP website so lame?

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