Sony's Five Biggest (Recent) Mistakes

It is, I admit, sometimes hard not to feel sorry for Sony.

The electronics giant, who own some of the most recognizable brands in the industry, is, to put it mildly, no longer the industry leader it once was.

To be sure, they have gotten themselves out the rut they have been in for years. They’re embracing widely used formats like ePub or DivX; the PS3 is finally appealing; and their launch of Google TV is a sign of a company looking to change.

But for at least a decade now, Sony has been hamstrung by a series of mistakes that have cost it its leadership position. Whether their disastrous early attempts at digital music or their slow reaction to the networked world, Sony have been stymied by the contemporary tech world, often getting by on brand recognition and their engineering expertise alone.

But unfortunately, Sony are still making mistakes. And you don’t even have to go back that far to find them. Here are Sony’s five most recent egregious decisions:

 

PSP Go… Nowhere

The PSP Go may have been one of the most blatantly misguided product launches in recent tech memory.

At $249, the all-digital-download handheld gaming machine was $80 more expensive than the old PSP that used discs… that also did everything that the Go did. People with a collection of physical games had no way to transfer their games to the device. Selection on the online store was spotty and random, and for around the same price as a Go, you could get an iPod Touch.

Sales were and remain an utter disaster – largely because there’s just no compelling reason to buy one other than size. All in all, the PSP Go was an ill-considered, unmitigated failure, and instead of extending the life of the PSP, it may have shortened it.

 

Xperia X10: Awesome A Year Ago?

The Xperia X10 promised to be an actual competitor in the smartphone world. And sure, in Europe and Japan, it’s sold well.

But with the recently announced delay to the upgrade to Android 2.1, the Xperia X10 – which runs Android 1.6 – looks a bit lame next to the competition, many of which are now running Android 2.2 (an upgrade the X10 is likely never to get).

What’s more, though there are many impressive aspects to the phone, it’s plagued by buggy performance and a touchscreen that is markedly less accurate and reliable than the competition.

What’s causing the delay is almost certainly Sony Ericsson’s own tweaks to Android. SE should have never tried to build out their own UI if they couldn’t keep up with developments in Android. Who now will feel safe buying a Sony Ericsson phone in the future, knowing they’ll likely be left behind?

The phone had potential. The software, touchscreen and update schedule, however, were serious mistakes.

 

Qriocity? Yes, That's One Thing We Feel

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Qriocity – pronounced ‘curiosity’ – was supposed to be Sony’s vision of a huge online service where you download and stream movies and music from anywhere, available across a variety of hardware.

Yeah, not so much.

What Qriocity has ended up being so far is just another logo on the boxes of internet-enabled Sony TVs. Rather than the incredible service one might want, you have another mediocre movie streaming doodad. Sure, a cloud-based music service is on the way – but almost a decade after iTunes launched, it pushes the very definition of ‘too little, too late’.

Worse, Qriocity simply replicates the function of the Playstation Movie Store. Instead of either simply merging the two or putting a Qriocity app on PS3’s and PSPs, you have a ‘centralized movie service’ not on, oh, about a 100 million Sony Playstation products. It’s baffling.

Until Sony can make the service compelling and widely available on a variety of platforms – including the Playstation 3 – Qriocity will remain a curious mistake.

 

Five Hundred and Ninety-Nine Regrets

Oh, speaking of the PS3…. Right now, for $299, the PS3 is pretty amazing. It has a great game library and also does tons of other things like Blu-Ray, Netflix, Hulu Plus and DivX .

But when it launched a scant four years ago… wow. At $599, the PS3 may have been ‘good value’ – Blu-Ray was new and, technically speaking, the Cell processor was extremely powerful – but it was waaaay too expensive for a video game console. What’s more, Sony invested $2 billion into the creation of the PS3’s processor alone. Given how long the gaming division has been bleeding money, it’s unlikely Sony will ever recoup their investment.

It’s hard to say what Sony could have done differently. What’s clear, however, is that despite their brave face, Sony must be feeling an enormous amount of regret for this mistake.

 

Failing to 'Read' the Future

In yet another sign of Sony’s frustrating relationship with the new, their line of Reader ebook devices were among the very first to use the new e-Ink technology.

Alas, Sony’s headstart was completely negated by their attempts to simply recreate a paper reading experience, instead of doing what Amazon did with the Kindle: reshape how people bought and consumed books.

Sure, the Sony Readers are nice machines. The new ones look great. But by continuing Sony’s emphasis on devices rather than ecosystems, Sony got lost in the shuffle again.

 

A Hopeful Future?

With the PS3 firing on all cylinders and the arrival of Google TV, is Sony ready to make a comeback? Their embrace of open, the cloud and the web seem like good signs.

But there’s also a change they will remain the has-been of the tech world: constantly playing catch-up while innovators like Google, Apple and Amazon steal their thunder.

Which do you think it will be?

Written by Navneet Alang

Navneet Alang is a technology-culture writer based in Toronto. You can find him on Twitter at @navalang
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Comments
  • http://ctrl.lv Jaunzems

    Betamax?
    Not so technologic as financial failure.

  • http://www.yours4freenow.co.uk Free iPhone

    I think Sony can make a come back, although I have never liked their stuff much

  • http://www.sonyinsider.com Christopher

    I think that Qriocity and its intention to be the hub of Sony’s bundled services (not just movies) and all that will take a year or two more to be realized. I think they eventually plan to merge it with PSN. I would give it a little more time..Rome wasn’t built in a day, right? :)

  • http://bit.ly/NaRaDa Narada Thomas

    Apparently you are an Anti-Sony. I accept that Xperia 10 is a failure from beginning to yet. Their another mistake is Sony Alpha Pro series and Cyber-shot cameras without Manual Modes. But still Sony make some different style like Sony NEX (they made some IU mistakes at first, but corrected and improved via firmware upgrades) and Sony A55 cameras (yet, have to say that it has some heating issues, but at least better than those issues in Canon 70D).

    Their another mistake is Walkman series, it should use a better platform.

    BUT

    Still they make good products. If you call PSP Go is a failure, how you came buying MP3s from online, download/rent movie from internet, and etc.? Still old PSP users can enjoy their console as long as PSP games still support those. Remember Gameboy, eh?

  • http://hypertransitory.com/ John Garrett

    I have to agree with this. I’ve never seen a company that is so incredibly STUBBORN that they simply refuse to act to save themselves. The PS3 launch was a disaster, and here’s the thing, I love my PS3, but I couldn’t pay that type of price then, and wouldn’t pay it now. And you’ve got Ken Kutaragi saying things like “people will be willing to work more to afford the PS3″ (paraphrased). Holy Crap.

    Then they go on removing features every year. Wow, what a great bargain Sony!

    And that’s just the one product. As you mentioned, the PSP Go is another dismal failure. I think they’re an old, slow-moving corporation that doesn’t have what it takes to be nimble in these times where innovation is a necessity.

    I really don’t know it they have what it takes to reposition themselves in the forefront where the used to be. I don’t think the brand has the mindshare they used to, and I don’t think they can get that back.

  • betazed

    I have to say the PS3 is even less appealing now than it was before. They go to great lengths to keep hackers from modifying hardware they own. I for one wanted a PS3 when it replaced the need for most of a home theater system + a PC. Now, it doesn’t even play the old PS2 games reliably. I wanted it because I wanted the backward compatibility (the same reason I wanted the PS2). They have since removed OtherOS, and the ability to play movies and games is now tied to a forced upgrade (I have been led to understand that the system LOCKS DOWN in the event of an upgrade until it is completed). That is a travesty, THAT is a mistake. The PS3 should have had “trim levels” with various features at various price levels because there were people, like myself, who wanted the PS3 to literally do everything.

  • e

    did qriocity ever go up for download