Sony to unplug Connect digital music service
Tacit admission of defeat
IFA 07 Sony will next year kill off its Connect digital music download service, Register Hardware has learned. Its Walkman products will instead use Windows Media technology, the consumer electronics giant told its customers today.
Sony's decision is a tacit admission that the company has failed to match the success enjoyed by Apple's iTunes Music Store, and marks the Japanese giant's second major climbdown in the digital music player business.
Just over three years ago, in June 2004, Sony caved in to consumer demand and began equipping its digital music players with MP3 support, having favoured only its own, ATRAC audio format up to that point. Connect, however, continued to offer songs for download using the proprietary Sony music encoding technology.
Not for much longer, though. The North American and European Connect online stores close their virtual doors sometime after March 2008, Sony said. March is the final month of the company's current financial year, and it probably wants to get that out of the way before knocking Connect on the head. Beyond that, it didn't say when exactly each region's service will close.
Connect - once described as an "embarrasment" by the Washington Post - was launched in the US in May 2004, a year after Apple opened the iTunes Music Store.
Today it warned Connect customers to use up any of the service's money-off vouchers by that date.
No specific reason was given for the move, stating only "the decision to embrace a more open platform will enable us to provide [users] with a better music enjoyment experience". Customers will be pointed to the "very wide range of third-party services" operating today.
ATRAC no more???
This is yet more bad news from Sony. I have one of the gorgeous A805 Walkman and the sound quality is just great. Everyone complains about SonicStage but to be honest I've never had any issues with it. Atrac just sounds so much better than Mp3...today i went to one of the 'third party' music providers and downloaded a few Mp3 tracks which I then imported into SonicStage. Transferred them to my player and they dont sound a patch on the same Atrac files I downloaded from Connect. I cant understand how Sony can just decide to dump Atrac after all these years of development! WMA is just TERRIBLE! :(
So , to be fair for all those Sony Fan Boys with a big library of ATRAC format files , a responsible organization would do the following.
A/ a permanent unlock key to enable a lossy to lossy conversion , or enable a replacement CD or equivalent mp3 file on a one for one basis for those purchased tracks.
B/ as it is now a lame duck format , for future generations make the source code open source.
Be that as it may it is unlikely that SONY will do either , and merely says thanks for your money , now the door is permanently closed !
What about Minidiscs?
Now how am I going to get stuff on / off my Minidisc player?
Sony are bloody amazing: they invent one of the best-sounding digital players ever (Minidisc), one of the best compression systems (ATRAC), THE best battery life hands-down (1xNiMH AA cell gives me 40 HOURS of play time. It's replaceable too. Hello? Apple? My iPod battery has died after 1 year...) and they cripple the gorgeous little things with DRM - for a long time only the pricey jounro-aimed MDs would allow full digital rips off the disc. I'm still going to need Connect to get the MD to, well, connect to my PC.