Results tagged “Sony” from kwc blog

Eye-Fi on the way and other camera bits


My Eye-Fi is on the way, prepare to see a spammage of low-quality point-and-shoot ELPH photos on my Flickr stream. I just read that the Nikon D60 automatically adjusts its power settings for the Eye-Fi --one of the annoyances the Eye-Fi setup tries to navigate you through is IDing your camera and then telling you how to adjust the settings so that your camera stays on long enough to transfer the photos. It's nice to see the product getting mainstream traction from camera makers.

I may have just complained about the Rebel XSi getting 12MP vs. the 40D's 10MP, though I realize that in practice 2MP at that size means jack squat. What would really set my heart aflutter is Sony's new 24.73MP, 6.3fps, full-frame sensor. Given my Sony boycott -- or rather my $8000+ worth of Canon equipment -- it won't be in anything I own, but I can always dream that a Canon 5D successor will have similar stats.

Pleo + Aibo


We finally have our Pleo at work, so naturally it met the Aibo. It looks like Pleo already knows the proper way to greet a robotic dog.

DRM (for music) is dead


Sony is finally dropping DRM from its music. Considering that Sony has been the worst offender for consumer DRM format lock-in -- ATRAC, MagicGATE memory sticks, UMD, Sony Connect music store, and infamous rootkits -- this is truly a historic occasion. It comes on the heels of Warner's announcement of DRM-free music, which means that 2008 may be the year for toppling the iTunes Music Store crown (physical sales plummeted 15% in 2007). The Amazon MP3 store already offers cheaper, DRM-free albums than iTunes: Radiohead's In Rainbows is $7.99 vs. $9.99 on iTunes. Now the selection can truly be competitive.

Even with the rise of the Amazon MP3 store, it doesn't look like the NIN/Saul Williams/Radiohead experiments will move forward. Radiohead has followed their "pay what you want" experiment with a CD release and official release on iTunes + Amazon. I imagine others feel a bit ripped off because I do -- the tracks are much higher higher quality (256KBps MP3) on Amazon than what Radiohead offered in the "pay what you want" model. For bit snobs like me, it means that Radiohead effectively gets to charge double because I went and bought the CD anyways. I guess this counts as a success for Radiohead, but I think people might be more wary in the future.

Meanwhile, Trent Reznor of NIN seems down on the success of Saul Williams' release, citing the fact that only 28,322 out of 154,449 downloaders chose to pay $5 for the album; the rest chose the free download. Only 33,897 people bought Williams' 2004 album, but Reznor is focused on the 71.7% that didn't pay. It seems the natural comparison he's drawing is to someone walking into a CD store and buying/taking your album. The comparison I would make is to the radio -- what percentage of people that hear your music on the radio, for free, actually end up purchasing it? I ended up buying it, partly because I couldn't resist the pirate cat on the cover.

Both Reznor and This American Life cited bandwidth costs -- the latter $152,000 -- as a detractor for the online model. They could have lowered their bandwidth costs by uploading to BitTorrent or asking fans to mirror the content. Instead, even though Reznor used BitTorrent for his free GarageBand tracks, he paid Musicane for 150,000 free downloads of Saul's album. Strangely we'd rather pay money to own the mechanism, even when giving something away. I'm sure this speaks something about human psychology, but I'm not sure what.

RIP, Connect, 2004-2007


sony.connectUpdate: not dead, but more of a neglected child.

I hated it when it first came out a little over 3 years ago, so it is with a little bit of happiness that I read that Sony Connect is being closed down. I have no desire to see iTunes Music Store as the only game in town, but Connect managed to be even more anti-consumer and added a terrible interface on top of it. RIP

Eye of Judgement


I was never fan of the PS2 EyeToy, so I barely blinked at the announcement of the new HD "Playstation Eye"... but I really started blinking when I saw the Eye of Judgement. Regular readers will recall my fascination with video games in Japan that allow you to interaction using playing cards -- one in particular allowed you to control the movement of your forces by moving your card for that force across the table. That technology, I'm assuming, was RFID-based.

The Eye of Judgement, if I'm interpreting the screenshots correctly, recognizes your playing cards using the EyeToy and then superimposes 3D animations on top of them. It's like Battle Chess for the 21st century. I still won't buy a PS3, but I might marvel at what I'm missing.


New Sony Bravia Ad


The new Sony Bravia ad delivers, after much anticipation from this clip, but now I want them to do it with Diet Coke and Mentos

Oh so close to breaking Sony boycott


I've long followed the slow path to release for the Sony eBook Reader (aka PRS-500). Every time I move (about once a year) I seem to need yet another bookshelf. I have resorted to selling off a bunch of books to Book Buyers, but still no room. eBooks have long seemed like a great idea -- I can 'keep' my books but make room on my bookshelves -- but without any good execution, i.e. low resolution. The Sony PRS-500 is a huge leap across the gap: the electronic ink display is 160 DPI and can display everything from book text to manga. Just imagine those bulky, throwaway weekly Jump Comics collections condensed into the palm of your hand. * Hot: display that looks more like paper than a computer screen * Hot: can play mp3s, for those of us that like music with our books. Just imagine the possibilities for something like my Japanese language podcasts -- you could have an entire new breed of 'audiobooks'. * Not: you have to use the craptacular Sony Connect store * Reviews: Engadget Hands On, Gizmodo Hands On

Boycott note: I've been on a 'soft' boycott of Sony products, which I technically broke by buying a used PSP and memory stick. Although it was for a charity auction, I will say that I mostly regret the PSP purchase, as I believe the PSP fell far below its potential due to Sony's predictable mismanagement of that system. Fool me once...

Time Machine Desktops


One of the cool new features Apple is announcing right now is "Time Machine", which attacks one of my pet peeves: the amount of labor involved in creating backups. It will automatically backup your files in a time-indexed way -- even to a server -- and the flashiest feature is that you can even move your Finder backwards in time to find a file.

Even reading a brief summary from the live WWDC coverage I know it's cool because I've seen it before; I'm fairly sure Apple copied this idea from Jun Rekimoto of Sony (Time-Machine Computing). Funny how both before and after the announcement of "Time Machine", Jobs made fun of Microsoft for copying Apple and Google -- I guess it's okay to copy Sony?

Update: as far as I can tell, much of what was announced is copied in some way or another, though Apple did a very slick job -- in many cases better -- of implementing it all. Outlook has had notes and todos for several years, Spaces appears to be an Expose-ish virtual desktop manager, and Spotlight has been updated to be a little more like Quicksilver. I wouldn't point this out if it weren't for the fact that Apple seems quite obsessed with calling Microsoft a copycat, when in fact Apple is just a faster, and better copycat.

Farewell Mr. Sony



comparison pic 2

Three years ago, all of the remotes on my coffee table were Sony: TV, TiVo, PlayStation 2 and VCR. Now all that remains is that ancient device, the VCR. The PS2 remote has been surplanted by a Panasonic DVD remote, the Sony TiVo is out on loan, and now the TV will end up on Craigslist.

By the way, a lesson to all of you trying to get HDTV from Comcast, you don't need to pay the $5 for the set-top box or get a CableCARD or switch to digital cable or do any other nonsense. If your HDTV has a builtin tuner, then you should be able to get any broadcast HD channel by plugging in the cable to the back of the TV. You'll get HD ABC, Fox, etc... You won't get ESPN HD, Discovery HD, or any of the other pay channels, but you won't pay extra either.

PSP: Partial Results


I've had more time to play with the PSP now that I got a 1GB memory stick for it. I succesfully downloaded some episodes of Battlestar Galactica that I had missed and re-encoded them for my PSP. Most of the setup was painless, but there is a lot of waiting between steps. At least I have several episodes now so that should hold me for awhile.

I had a much worse time trying to get TiVo programs onto my PSP. It appears that either you're lucky and it works or you're unlucky and you have to add some extra time-consuming steps and software. I'm an unlucky one so I'll have to re-experiment with my other options to see how they work out. I'd rather it not take 10 minutes for me to load 45 minutes worth of programming to watch on the train; at that point I'll just go back to reading books.

I dream of the process as simple as iPod + iTunes, though we as consumers have much less control over our video as we do our music. If Sony were consumer-friendly, they would have released a program for the PSP that would let me transfer my DVDs onto it painlessly. Instead, they want me to pay $21 for a UMD version of Kill Bill even though the DVD version is only $15. Go figure. The only comparison that comes to mind would be if Apple had released the iPod and told it's customers that it would only play $20 albums from the iTunes Music Store.

Giving in


A kinda sorta, but not really, broke my Sony boycott by getting a Sony PSP. But I don't think I actually technically broke the boycott as I got it at a charity auction, which means none of my dollars ended up in Sony's pocket. However, as I am now obligated to buy things for the PSP, like more memory with which to store episodes of the Daily Show and Battlestar Galactica, it all goes to show that I really have no backbone when it comes to gadget issues.

Steve Jobs can diss handheld video all he wants -- I watched Spiderman 2 on Sunday and I found it liberating to be able to walk around the house and do my chores (cooking, typing, photo retouching) while being entertained by a movie I love. The video quality is as good as a TV and is beautiful any which way you look at it. The true test, though, will be how easy I find it to load new videos onto it, which I will test out as soon as my larger memory card arrives.

Boycotting Sony


I've already thought ahead for a New Year's Resolution and have chosen one that will be easy to keep: I'm boycotting Sony (just their devices, not ready to give up Spiderman movies just yet). Just a few years back this would have been unthinkable, as every remote I owned was a Sony remote (TV, VCR, PS2, TiVo), and I even had a Sony VAIO laptop. This comic would have captured me perfectly. Now, however, the TiVo has been replaced with a brandless Series 2, the laptop has permanently died (replaced by a Dell), the Gamecube grabs more of my attention, the VCR is an archaic device, and my TV emits a high-pitched noise that calls for its eventual replacement.

This symbolic exit of Sony devices of yesterday is matched by a general lack of interest in the Sony devices of today and tomorrow. I visited the Sony Style store last night in search of X-mas gifts and tried out both of their hard drive music players, the one with the weird grid buttons, and the one that's as small as a iPod mini. Both were awkward and ungraceful to use -- neither could tempt me away from my broken iPod.

Add on top of all of this poor PSP battery life and load times, stupid legal pressure and belated mp3 support, and my boycott is no longer New Year's resolution but, rather, a smart consumer choice.

Hot laptop



Dang Sony's got a hot laptop in the X505 (I know it's been out for awhile, but I just saw it at Fry's yesterday). I loved my old Z505, and at the time it was a leader in compact design, but it's been quite awhile since I've seen a laptop that's stunned me with it's design.

You have to be the type of person who appreciates a small portable laptop, as the screen is 10.4" (1024x768), but the base is barely thicker than a PC card and all total it's less than an inch thick. A composition notebook feels more bulky than this laptop. The keyboard response suffers a bit as a result, but I would sacrifice for that level of portability.

If only I had $3k to splurge...

New Sony "mp3" player

Wired is calling it a "credible competitor," and while it is sexy, svelte, and all the other physical adjectives you might want in a portable music player, it still sucks in every way that I have ranted that Sony's current generation of music players sucks, and I even have a new word for it: muda.

I learned this Japanese word yesterday at our all hands meeting, and it means waste, inefficient, unnecessary, an activity without value. Businesses use it to describe the processes that need to be streamlined or eliminated. I think it describes the Sony experience perfectly.

It's not an mp3 player as you still have to do the slow/stupid/inefficient/wasteful ATRAC conversion. It also still relies on the screen-wasting Sony Connect music player software for your computer that can't seem to do anything right.

If Sony focused on removing the muda from the user experience, they could have a great product, but they insist on continuing to focus on features that have negative value to the consumer and software that is bloated in every possible way except for functionality.

- Another photo of Sony's NW-HD1 Network Walkman
- Sony Japan Press Release

Sony loses


If my reviews of Sony Connect and the VAIO pocket weren't negative enough, you can read this combined Sony PSP, VAIO Pocket, and Sony Connect review:
How Sony Cemented iPod's Supremacy

Sony bloggin'


After blasting Sony in my review of the Connect service, it's only fair that I list some of their cooler announcements that have hit the Net today.

VAIO PocketSony has finally launched a real iPod competitor. The VAIO pocket appears to be slightly larger than an iPod and features a color screen, ability to sync with digital cameras via USB, 20GB of storage, video playback (where does this video come from?), and weird G-Sense touchpad that you have to watch the flash animation to even begin to grok (instead of a dial, it's a 2-D raised grid that you move your thumb across). It's only in Japan, and it also costs over $500, so Apple probably isn't going to worry just yet. It also doesn't appear that it will win any beauty competitions.

In typical Sony fashion, it comes with an uber remote with LCD display. Also, in typical Sony fashion, they've stubbornly insist on converting all of the music into ATRAC format when transferred. I've already discussed how annoying this is. To me, this one annoying feature ruins the whole deal. Another deal-breaker for me is the fact that you have to use Sony's SonicStage player, which I also already discuss my annoyances with, as have others (Note: apparently Sony has already announced that there will be an update to SonicStage by summer's end to address the rampant criticism).

sony u70Another bit of news, and my reaction on this isn't as mixed, is that Sony has released a not-quite tablet PC, that IMHO is pretty innovative. It's very small as computers (click on the photo for more images), and I think it would be a good device to have around the house for channelling your media. In that regard, it may be difficult to find a niche: the screen is too small to make it usable as a day-to-day laptop, and despite the remote and earbuds it's not really a portable music player, so it all comes down to how many people have an extra $2K to spend on a computer that's easy to tote around the house as well as read e-books on (a market that still as yet has not materialized). I withhold judgement for now as to whether or not it would be useful for watching movies on airplanes, as I can't tell whether or not it has a built-in DVD drive.

Finally, Sony has finally released a widescreen laptop.



New music stores are becoming as commonplace as new social networking sites, and Sony, inventor of the Walkman, has finally launched their effort. I wanted to write a fair review, rather than read the press releases and viscerally react at their stupidity, so I've taken the time to download the software for the new music store and I've poked around, all so that I can have a more informed visceral reaction.

I have two ways to summarize my basic reaction. One is, "This is your response to beat Apple?" The other is, "MINIDISC IS DEAD! GET OVER IT!"*

If you're interested in a slightly more detailed explanation of these reactions, you can read the extended entry, where I try to examine in more detail what Sony is trying to do, and why I think it's doomed.

* Caveat: This will probably play well in Japan where MiniDiscs have managed to survive, but it's mind-boggling to me that Sony is letting itself have it's ass handed to it on a platter in the American consumer electronics industry.

Back to the future


photophotoThe old Mac Classic had a handle which turned it into an awkward, but portable desktop computer. The iMacs are also arguably portable, but Sony has come out with a successor to their Vaio W line that is a computer made for lan partying. A large handle is built into the design of the monitor, and the computer folds up like a briefcase for moving. Only available in Japan right now.
I4U News - New Sony portable Desktop Computer VAIO P PCV-P101
(via Gizmodo : The gadgets weblog) The Pride That Killed Sony

Personal complaints: their DVD players are boring (Gateway sells a more interesting player), their laptops haven't improved since they used to be bleeding edge, Toshiba makes a cooler TiVo (w/ DVD recorder), the PS3 and PSP are way off, even Apple has a cheaper price point, their MP3 player line is stagnant and user-disfriendly, memory stick is almost as fragmented as all of the other flash memory types combined (Memory Stick, MagicGate, Duo, PRO), their wireless technology is absurdly overpriced...

Sony restructuring


Sony expected to cut upto a tenth of its global workforce

Here's a hint: layoff the music execs. Even Rio has better music players than you.

Gateway becoming Sony?


I thought I'd post this because I grew up buying Gateway computers, and I think it's really cool that they're finally heading in this direction (after some lukewarm attempts with the Destination PC). Gateway is now selling a "Connected" DVD player, which includes an 802.11b connection and can stream content from your PC. They also have the Media Center PC, which comes with a 42" plasma screen (yum - though TiVo would be much nicer than Media Center). This interview on CNet with Ted Waitt indicates that they are probably going to lauch more products in the consumer electronic space.

These aren't the most ground-breaking products, but I'm optimistic, especially b/c they don't have a music group tying down their innovation (Sony "Home of the Walkman" still doesn't have a competitor to the iPod). Also, unlike Apple, you won't have to earn $100K/year to outfit your home with their products.

Portable WiFi Server


Sony has a portable 802.11b file server available in Japan. In addition to supporting most major file protocols (CIFS/SMB, NFS), it can also act as an ethernet bridge. You can also install any other Linux software you can get your hands on. Joi Ito's got one and claims it has about 9 minutes of battery life. The specs seem very similar to OpenBrick. If you're in Japan you can order one here.

Looks like Sony beat Intel/Roy Want to market with personal portable servers, but I hope Intel hurries up with one that runs for more than 9 minute sans power adapter.

Sony Exec Interviews


I read an interesting interview with the Chairman of Sony, Nobuyuki Idei. The interview is three months old, but sound bites are interesting. March 2003 interview with Idei (Sony Chairman). Among the more interesting points: * The Sony-Ericcson joint venture: "They don't care about the mobile phone business, they care about the base-station business," and also "Sony made the joint venture with Ericsson because we want to be covered by their IP patent umbrella" * Frustration at the Sony Music division * Platform strategy: (1) continue promotion of Microsoft's long-term PC roadmap, and (2) Common Linux-based platform for PlayStation, home server, and TV (joint venture with Panasonic and Philips) * On Apple: "Although [Steve Jobs] is a genius, he doesn't share everything with you. This is a difficult person to work with if you are a big company. We started working with them, but it is a nightmare. We have the exact type of guy like Steve within Sony. His name is Ken Kutaragi"

Also I found a two-month-old post on Joi Ito's blog where there were some brief notes on a discussion with Ando. Joi posted an interesting quote from Steve Levy:

He startled everyone by speculating that in the long term, given the nature of Internet copying, record labels may not have a future. "When you have a problem like this," he says, sighing, "I really wish we were a simple hardware company.

Paper: Time Machine Computing


Time-Machine Computing: A Time-centric Approach for the Information Environment
Jun Rekimoto
Sony CSL

This paper is motivated by observations that many users prefer to use the desktop as a spatial organizational area (Malone), instead of using folders and the like. This leads to the inevitable problem of limited desktop space, which in Malone's research was partially solved with the idea of "piles." Freeman et. al have argued that time-oriented approaches (e.g. e-mail) are superior to pure spatial approaches and proposed a one-dimensional timeline system. Rekimoto expands upon both of these observations by trying to create a two-dimensional timeline system that allows for time-based and spatial cues.

Paper: InfoStick


InfoStick: an interaction device for Inter-Appliance Computing
Naohiko Kohtake, Jun Rekimoto, and Yuichiro Anzai
Keio University
Sony CSL Interaction Labs

Wired: Sony Civil War


This is an interesting Wired article on why my favorite electronics company is forced to make terrible mp3 players: full text.

It's slightly dated, but especially relevant given Apple's new music store and Sony's failures with Pressplay. Apple has it a lot easier, though, because nearly everyone who buys an Apple:
- uses iTunes
- if given the choice of mp3 player would buy an iPod
- is used to Apple controlling their entire digital life

Sony, on the other hand, makes PCs, and OpenMG is a terrible music player when compared to the best-of-breed PC applications. Thus, being forced to switch over to OpenMG or RealOne just so I can buy music online and transfer tunes to my Network Walkman isn't a great user experience for me (as I own a Sony mp3 player, I speak from experience: it's sloooow to transfer songs with the unnecessary mp3->ATRAC re-encoding).