Could an open Sony beat Apple?
The CEO of Sony thinks the company could have beaten Apple with open technology. How about creating a better user experience?
In an interview with Nikkei Electronics Asia, Sony CEO Howard Stringer pledged that the company would use more open standards in the future, saying "If we had gone with open technology from the start, I think we probably would have beaten Apple" in the music market.
Sure, and if Sony had created a music store, a desktop application, and a great device, it could have won that way too. But it didn't. Certainly, open technology would have helped to create some kind of ecosystem, but it wouldn't have solved the strategic problem of creating a holistic consumer experience. Nor would it have made a difference in the fact that Sony owns a huge library of music that Apple monetized far more efficiently while Sony fought for CDs to outlive MP3s.
Sony had many, many chances to use open standards and technologies for a wide variety of products and opted against in most cases. The company also gave up its massive lead in music players as Apple leaped ahead by creating a seamless user experience while Sony focused on that blue alien.
Sony is however leaning toward openness in the PlayStation Network (PSN) where the digital rights management is based on Marlin, an open scheme (yes, open DRM is an oxymoron) developed by consumer electronics companies and other companies that will allow other systems to participate in the PSN.
"What does all this mean?" he added. "Very simply, it means that Sony has begun the transition from a closed system to an open one.
Hindsight is 20/20 and I am sure Stringer believes his statement to be true. But open is a relative term. Just because other companies will be able to interact with the PSN it doesn't mean that the rest of the world's developers will be able to participate in developing games or applications or creating a cottage industry as Apple has done for the iPhone.
Being open doesn't guarantee that a community or ecosystem will sprout up around a product. A company with Sony's coffers could do a lot more to make its devices and content accessible to a broad range of developers who would seed the market and make it more money.
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