Just Because It’s New…

As an owner of ‘stuff’ and a general gadget fan, I’ve been following the ‘Tale of PSP’ with some interest and now a little confusion. My PSP – a big fat black one – does what I expected it to do when I bought it second hand. There are some issues which may at one point have prompted me to purchase a later model (output to TV for one) but I could never really justify the cost. So I have a collection of re-formatted DVDs which I have on various pieces of Sony proprietary format storage and that I use in cases of dire emergency on flights with nothing decent to watch.

But I’m still interested in new developments and since the original concept form, the next generation PSP has been of interest to me. At least it was until now. Today I decided that Sony have actually lost the plot and have, in what seems to be a creeping malignancy throughout that behemoth, placed the astheics of their product over its function.

My first , truly horrifying, experience of this effect was with one of the recent generations of Sony Walkman. At the time I was resisting the pull of the iPod, I owned and loved a Creative Xen HDD MP3 player at 30GB and carried it pretty much everywhere and I wanted to get a ‘nice’ MP3 player for my girlfriend. I shopped around and chose a Sony Walkman NW-A3000. It was beautiful. Silver and purple and a screen with buttons showing through an otherwise flawless exterior. It sat well in the hand, fitted snugly in the pocket or purse and was – I believed – a true consumer item.

The Walkman - beautiful but lost in translation
The Walkman – beautiful but lost in translation

Then the horrors started to emerge. I was used to plugging my Xen into my PC and clicking the sync button in Windows Media Player to update my pocket-o-tunes and was expecting the same for the new shininess. Not so, I was obliged to install and use one of the most hideous pieces of software it’s ever been my displeasure to use. Music from CDs was put into Sony’s “excellent” but almost totally unsupported ATRACK format and everything was just awful. The device itself worked well but that’s really only half of the usability.

Sony had put its muscle into the look and feel of the product and seemingly forgotten that people would actually want to use it in their own way.

The new PSPGo seems to have fallen victim to a similar affliction. It looks nice, it fits into a pocket, it has a slider form-factor (because everyone knows they’re cool!) but it seems that this product went from the minds of the designers straight to the production line without anyone asking the simple question – would I be happy paying £200 for this, given I probably already have a PSP or iPod Touch/iPhone or Zune HD or DS?

The PSPGo. Go-ing anywhere in particular?
The PSPGo. Go-ing anywhere in particular?

Or are the Big Black so wrapped up in their own brand that they truly believe we will buy it ‘because it’s Sony’?

Now look, I’m not just brand bashing here. I am one of those who associate a logo with quality and, as those close to me will attest, I’ll pretty much buy anything with a certain piece of fruit on the front of it! I also own and use a PSP, I’ve mentioned that I really like the PS3 now I’ve found a game I enjoy playing on it so this isn’t totally anti-Sony – some of their stuff is very, very good! It’s just that every now and again they do something stupid which costs them their premium position. It’s that precious brand alignment which Hoover achieved “I’m hovering the floor” not Bosching the floor or Dysoning the floor – Hoovering. People don’t get a walkman anymore they get an iPod, regardless of what the actual hardware is, Sony have lost this position through the assumption that it would last forever.

The PSP never reached this height of association but they’re certainly never going to if they believe that a next generation product is okay having the same technology inside as the previous and actually minus the cool stuff people want like touch-screen navigation.

The Walkman experience has put me off buying any product like it from Sony at any point ever, and I know I’m not alone in this. Is the PSPGo going to invoke the same reaction? We’ll no probably not, but I’m honestly struggling to find a reason to buy one in preference to the other devices out there with the same form factor because if all I want to do is play games on the go, I’ll take my DS.







15 responses to “Just Because It’s New…”

  1. arc14716 avatar

    If I owned a PSP, I wouldn’t go with the PSP Go. It’s nice and slick and all and more portable thanks to the small size. The big turnoff, though, is that because the PSP Go doesn’t have a UMD drive, I would have to buy those same games from the PSP Store and download them for use on the PSP Go–games that I already own! I’m paying Sony twice. Once when I originally bought the games and again if I want to play them on the Go. Also, I would have to buy a new batch of accessories for the Go because the ones on my PSP don’t work thanks to some new type of jack that the Go has. So, no to the Go for me.

  2. van-fu avatar

    Oh my goodness. Don’t talk to me about Sony and proprietary software. I never had a problem with SonicStage. It helps that it was my first music management program. I had used Realplay and just imported all the music into Sonicstage. But after having about 400MP3’s and about 1,800 ATRAC3 songs, it was a kick in the teeth when Sony decided to not support their own codec anymore.

    And clearly, no other manufacturer is going to support a codec that its own parent company does not support anymore.

    That is how I became an iPhone fanboy. And one of the many reasons I don’t buy Sony anymore.

  3. John avatar

    So it seems I’m not alone in wondering just what it take to be a decision-maker at Sony. We know that it’s not always a balance sheet issue, especially when there’s a market to by, but it doens’t seem to be a user support issue either.. it makes me wonder!!

  4. Gene avatar

    The PSP Go should be renamed the PSP Splurge, because that’s basically what you’re doing when you buy a smaller system with outdated tech for 2.5x as much cash as a regular used PSP, AND have to buy all the games over again at full price in Sony’s store. Apparently a lot of people have money to burn, or just don’t realize how limited it actually is. And that’s not even considering the piracy factor, because even used UMD games cost a lot less.

  5. John avatar

    There’s maybe another post here for another day, but it still amazes me that Sony missed a HUGE opportunity with UMD. If they’d done the reasonable thing and release the rights for prodution to the wider world rather then maintaining ‘ownership’ I’m sure we’d be looking at a much different storage landscape right now… just one more lost good idea.

  6. Simes avatar

    If they didn’t learn anything from MiniDisc I don’t really expect them to have an epiphany now…

  7. Lorna avatar

    I have owned both a mini disk and that exact purple Sony walkman in John’s article and the software is so enragingly awful that I basically listen to the same three albums over and over because I can’t bear to boot up the software and attempt to struggle with it.

  8. Ramsden avatar

    I have that Walkman’s predecessor, the NW-HD1, Sony’s first attempt at an MP3 Walkman… and I was floored when I realised that despite having “MP3 Walkman” written on the frigging box it only supported ATRAC and ATRAC Plus formatted music. And if you think SonicStage was rubbish for your NW-A3000, which was the sixth generation digital Walkman, imagine how much worse it was to use with their first effort. Your one was supposedly six times better than mine… yeah. It was buggy as hell, frequently crashed my entire PC system, and corrupted a lot of my tracks in conversion so that I’d get half way through listening to an album on the Walkman and suddenly the track would dissolve into loud static or slow down like vinyl on half speed. After it had taken me an hour to put that album on the thing in the first place. In fact, it flat out refused to play tracks converted from variable bitrate MP3s at all, with nothing but silence coming through the headphones when it said it was playing them. Still, I persevered with it, because it was extremely expensive and the device itself was pretty good if you managed to get any correctly formatted music into it. When it worked, it worked better than iPods of the day did, with superior battery life (twice as long), and the fact that ATRAC Plus did actually mean 190kbps MP3 quality in a 44kbps file size, allowing me to fit into the 20GB harddrive what takes 100GB on a PC or MP3 player. I only replaced it earlier this year after eight years because the harddrive finally died, and I caved in and got an iPod. Unfortunately, my old laptop with my music collection in MP3 had died last year, and now I only had it all in ATRAC Plus format which my iPod doesn’t support, so I’m having to slowly rip all of my CDs over again, and re-buy all my downloaded music, which is ridiculously expensive as it turns out because of how much of it there is. All in all, Sony’s obsession with retarded proprietary formats has cost me a lot of time and money.

    The utter contempt they showed gamers with the constant lies about the PS3 in the build-up to its release means I refuse to get one. They promised total PS2 backwards compatibility, but bottled on that before releasing the console in Europe, which they did long after Asia and America (the constant delays being something else they kept blowing smoke out of their arses to European gamers about), and then, despite giving us the newer, crippled and cheaper to manufacture version charged us a hefty premium over the price of the consoles that were sold abroad with the backwards compatibility. They scrapped force feedback, only to bring it back in an optional controller that isn’t bundled with the console and costs far too much.

    Sony just don’t seem to give a crap. Mini disk, ATRAC, Betamax, all made life unnecessarily difficult. Even when they gave in and adopted VHS, any TV programs recorded on a Sony VCR didn’t play back properly on other brand VCRs because Sony’s offered an “improved picture” recording technology. They lied about the PS3 and released it unfinished for far too high a price. And the PSP is a long litany of flaws too. I went through three of the original version before getting thoroughly disgusted and refusing to have anything to do with it anymore. My DS is still the original release model, and works fine. I went through five PS2 Slimlines in a year with laser issues refusing to read disks, before finally getting an old fat PS2 on eBay that has managed to last, simply because by that point I had 40 games and was pretty much committed. Never had a problem with my Gamecube or Dreamcast.

    I wasn’t always a Sony hater either. I have an original Playstation, a PS2, an old CRT Sony Trinitron television and home cinema, and another Sony DVD player upstairs. I still have an old vintage cassette tape Walkman that works hidden in a drawer. My rage is purely the result of being treated like an idiot by Sony and their contempt for their loyal customers for years now and finally having had enough of it.When they get it right, it’s great and nothing else rivals the build quality. But they’re just not reliable. It annoys me no end that Blu-ray won the HD film competition, because all it means is that Sony will feel justified in all of their stupid attempts to force their formats on people and keep on doing it.

  9. Lorna avatar

    *appluads* That was a blog in itself Ramsden and a good read. I agree and I also mourn the winning of the HD format war by Sony. Personally I refuse to buy Blu Ray, they can shove it, I’m still purchasing DVDs and feverently hoping that like Laserdisc, Blu Ray will be the technology that gets pretty much leapfrogged by the mainstream to the next thing on as with DVDs.

    I have a variety of Sony products which have ranged from the good to the damned awful. Camcorder and Sony Cybershot compact camera were fantastic…I love my Cybershot and will be sad to see it go. However, Mini Disc was awful because Sonic Stage was a system ruining, obtuse piece of software. The purple walkman I now have is like a gorgeous colourful pebble, smooth and handsome, but I can’t put a damn thing on it because of Sonic Stage again. The Sony Vaio lappy is fine, but far more expensive than it needed to be and next time I would certainly go for a Tosh again or a Sammy.

  10. John avatar

    Wow.. this one certainly opened a can o’ worms! I’m both heartened and also saddened that the feelings I have towards certain sections of Sony are shared. The fact that they seem now to be suffering may make them turn around an pay attention to their user-base.. but I somehow doubt it.
    However, Mr Sony (If you get to read this) Ready-Up and it’s readership will happily set you back on the right track – and at a reasonable fee too!

  11. Ramsden avatar

    Thanks Lorna… seconds after hitting “submit comment” and calming down again, and out of Hulk mode, it occurred to me that my little rant might make me look like one of those nutters that wander onto sites babbling about how the major corporations are against them. I’m glad though that you liked it. I just regret that I didn’t write something like that when you guys were looking for regular contributors a while back instead of the incredibly lame email I sent saying something like “I’d love to write something regularly for you, you be awesome, gush, durr…” Ah well.

    I too refuse to get Blu-ray. For one thing, I only have a little 23″ HD telly in my bedroom, and standard DVDs upscaled through my 360 look fine on it to me. Considering I mostly watch classic Star Trek on there anyway, I don’t especially want to see the join where Shatner’s wig is glued on in precise detail. As for laptops, I don’t think I’d ever go farther than a Toshiba Satellite Pro. Vaios always seemed overpriced and flimsier.

    It’d be great if one of the jackasses in charge at Sony would see this. Any time they want a consultant willing to beat someone over the head with a Betamax cassette until they learn some customer satisfaction methods for free, they only need to ask.

  12. Lorna avatar

    A man after my own heart! I *loved* my Tosh Sat Pro. The HK speakers were still the best sound I have ever got out of a lappy and the performace and battery life were divine. The Vaio was an ex demo airport purchase for the purposes of typing up my writing while travelling to and fro from Scotland, so naturally not long after, I stopped travelling and it’s use plummeted. Now I eye up all the gorgeous looking Samsung notebooks in Dixons and sigh but i can’t justify them wiht the Vaio sat there. A good portable DVD player htough for taking on holiday and accessing the net for saddos like me who can’t leave it alone when they holiday.

    Still, the Vaio, though miniscule, still gives more for the mile than my Alienware, but then so would an ocogenarian granny. Hideiously overpriced, sutterly shameful battery life, and runs scorchingly hot – aside from the looks, which I later discovered were snap on lids for imported units made by a completely different company, they are a waste of money.

  13. Ramsden avatar

    The thing to remember with Alienware is that it’s just a fancy Dell that was assembled in Ireland. You would expect an entirely different kind of little green man to be involved going by the brand name, but I suppose that Leprechaunware is a little too much of a mouthful. Dell’s quality has diminished in my eyes gradually over the last five or so years, which is a shame because they used to be pretty solid budget systems.

    I feel a little guilty that you’re left lusting unrequited after your fantasy laptop when I just ordered a new Tosh Sat A500-15N. I fortunately could justify it to myself with the argument that typing on my current Asus EEE netbook for extended periods is a form of cruel and unusual torture. It’s a nice idea, and I was really looking forwards to getting this thing, but alas I find I like my laptops to have a little more meat to them, and greater areas to glide my fingers over.

  14. Lorna avatar

    Thing is the Alienware wasn’t actually made in Ireland, but my further away, which makes the whole thing evenmore of a sham, especially when you consider that we managed to track down the company who makes them and find another retailler that they supply…who then sold my partner a bigger plain brand laptop which was the same item as he had lusted after on the Alienware site, but at a fraction of the cost.

    I find the Vaio hard to tolerate over time too, especally as I have to beef the font size up in Word to see what I am actually writing.

  15. Ramsden avatar

    Increasingly shrinking screen sizes seems to be the latest fad in laptop design, but it doesn’t account for the myopic tendency amongst a large proportion of the nerd community, myself included.

    Rebranding isn’t exactly a new idea, especially for Dell and is a part of my growing detachment to them, but it still seems outrageous considering the massive price tags attached to Alienware’s systems. I was looking at Alienware before deciding to stick with Toshiba, and I’m glad I did based on your experiences.

    In case anyone from Dell or Alienware sees this, my earlier offer to Sony is adaptable to fit your business model, and requires simply the replacing of the Betamax cassette with a snap-on case lid.

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