By Richard Menta 9/1/07
Back in1999 Sony introduced its first DAP, the Sony Music Clip. Yes Virginia, Sony beat Apple to this space by a couple of years - and they failed, even without the iPod as a competitior. That's because Sony's players did not play the MP3 format, only Sony's proprietary ATRAC format.
ATRAC was a more modern and thus superior codec than MP3, but those digitally plugged in before the new millenium already assembled their budding collections with MP3. Those who bought the Music Clip found out the hard way that they would have to transcode all those MP3s to ATRAC to play them. Users instead returned the $300 player and bought something else. Sales were so bad Sony dropped out of the DAP market for a couple of years. When they returned after the success of the iPod, the company again sold ATRAC players, but they now played the MP3 format too. Owners used MP3.
That's why Sony's latest portables, the NWZ-A810 and NWZ-S610 series players, have dropped ATRAC altogether. The new players will use WMA as their DRM-capable codec, ironically jumping to the PlaysForSure codec that format's creator Microsoft dumped for Zune. The AAC codec is also supported.
The NWZ-A810 sports a 2" QVGA display while the NWZ-S61 has a 1.8" version of the same screen. The S61 add an FM tuner. Both units play MPEG-4 video files. Both units max out at 8GB of flash, interesting now that Creative has shipped the first 16GB flash units and Apple is expected to do the same come its Sept 5th event to show off its new players. Prices for A810 series players are:
A815: 2GB - $140
For the S610 portables:
S615F: 2GB - $120
In related news Sony is closing the Connect service, the latest failure in that company's attempt to unseat iTunes and also the death of the only store that sold ATRAC music files. It looks like ATRAC is indeed dead, though Sony putting its investment in another fading DRM scheme, PlaysForSure, just illustrates how tough the future will continue to be for them. As Paul Resnikoff said in a recent commentary of Digital Music News "Connect had its takers. But the loyal Connect customer was punished throughout - punished on interoperability, and punished by the company itself. Sony is ditching its own protected format on its latest player releases, and embracing Microsoft instead. Anyone placing loyalty within the Sony Connect and Network Walkman ecosystem has been subjected to narrow usage parameters, shifting rules and hostile consumerism".
Other MP3 stories:
Record Industry Woes Aggravated by Years of Bad PR
The Archos 605 Wi-Fi portable DVR is available on Amazon