Microsoft and Sony Do It Wrong With the Zune and PS3

Includes: MSFT, SNE
by: Davis Freeberg

Over the last year, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Sony (NYSE:SNE) have been in full hype mode for their upcoming slate of gadgets. While last year’s Xbox 360 was the buzz du jour, this year it’s all about Zune and it’s all about the PS3.

I never understood what was so appealing about the Zune to begin with, but I will admit to eyeing that PS3 and being at least a little curious as to the quality of gameplay. The problem with both of these products though, is that Microsoft and Sony are so uptight about controlling every single aspect of the device that they’ve turned interesting products into lame consumer electronic devices that don’t give any freedom to the end user.

In a great post, A1E1 goes after both Microsoft and Sony with both guns loaded and does a good job of identifying the weaknesses in both brands. On Sony’s side, it’s their insistence on incorporating the Blu-Ray technology into their PS3 boxes rather then letting consumers decide whether or not this is something they even need. Because of this there have been delays in getting the product to the market and it’s added to the already high cost of the PS3.

On Microsoft’s side of the business, they’ve created a product that supports wifi, but then they strip out all of the functionality that wifi could bring. Instead of ending up with an iPod killer, Microsoft has instead ended up with a music player that won’t even play their own music files. This is such a joke, that I can’t believe the company is hyping this as much as they have been.

Until Sony agrees to cross license their films to HD-DVD I will refuse to buy any product that uses Blu-Ray technology. There is no reason why consumers shouldn’t be able to get access to the same movies on HD-DVD as they can on Blu-Ray except the media companies are trying to create a monopoly around HDTV-DVDs. If either Blu-Ray or HD-DVD is successful in becoming the only format, I will guarantee that consumers will pay dearly for this mistake. Sony knows the stakes are big and so they’ve forced PS3 fans to adopt this technology if they want access to their video game platform because they know that consumers simply won’t buy stand alone Beta Blu-Ray players.

As for Microsoft, WiFi on an mp3 player is a great idea. Being able to share that music with your friends is a great idea, but bending to the pressures of the studios and implementing bad DRM is a terrible idea and despite the fact that they will let you play mp3s, their insistence on adding strings to the wifi capabilities makes absolutely no sense. Had Zune been a laptop instead of an mp3 player, there is no way that Microsoft would have put these restrictions in place. I understand the need to work with content owners, but when you abandon consumers so that you can cozy up to the studio fat cats, you are setting yourself up for failure.

A few years ago, Tom convinced me to buy an Audiovox SMT 5600 and while it does allow me to merge my music collection with my cell phone, only being allowed to play .wma files still makes me bitter. Microsoft may have opened up Zune in regards to mp3’s, but by building bad technology into the product, they’ve taken a potentially good idea and turned it into a terrible one.

Comment on this article