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Sony apologizes: A little late?

Ten days after a hack attack on the PlayStation Network, Sony executive Kaz Hirai attends a press conference and publicly apologizes. Why was the word "sorry" withheld for so long?

Many a relationship is held together by apologies. Somehow, acknowledging your own frailty, your own humanity makes you just a little more lovable.

Which is why it is strange that Sony, after a calamitous breach of its security systems, took 10 days before standing before its public and saying: "We're sorry."

According to Venture Beat, Sony executive Kaz Hirai attended a press event Sunday and immediately apologized. The personal details of around 10 million gamers have been stolen and there are already reports of credit cards having been illegitimately used.

Yet if one looks back to the company's first reaction on its blog, the words seem to have left gaps in what might have been expected.

The tone of the original posts was very much one of vilification of the hackers. This is understandable. But any security snafu is also the responsibility of the company involved.

Would a large "We're Sorry" have really hurt? Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Yes, hackers can be venal and, as Hirai reportedly put it at the press event, "highly sophisticated," but what that might mean is that Sony's defenses might have been both soft and relatively unsophisticated.

The original Sony post used phrases such as "we appreciate your patience and feedback" and "we regret any inconvenience." But these are the sorts of phrases you hear from a machine when you've been waiting 20 minutes to talk to a real human being about, say, your power outage.

Hirai continued to talk about the crimes committed against the company and its users.

He reportedly added: "These illegal attacks obviously highlight the widespread problem with cybersecurity. We take the security of our consumers' information very seriously and are committed to helping our consumers protect their personal data. In addition, the organization has worked around the clock to bring these services back online, and are doing so only after we had verified increased levels of security across our networks."

But this had all been said already. What hadn't been said was a clear, public and human apology.

Yet, as I look at the PlayStation blog's U.S. home page, I still don't see that word. I see headlines about a partial restoration of services this week. I see Q&As, which are no doubt full of useful information. I see a little movie called "Clarifying a few PSP points." It feels as if it's a relatively normal day at the office. But it isn't.

I wonder just how many gamers--who now wonder every day whether their credit cards will be used to buy PSP players--might just wish they could see a big headline that says "We're sorry."

An admission of weakness is surely better than what some might see as blame being tossed elsewhere. When Amazon's cloud services disappeared in a wisp of cumulus, the company was again perhaps a little slow to apologize, but it went further in admitting that its own customer service had not been very good.

Yet Sony seems to have taken a little long to do the obvious, human, and least expensive thing possible--just say sorry.

If and when the PlayStation Network returns, the hurt party--the gamers--will be wary, just as in any relationship. But a subconscious part of their wariness would surely be appeased not merely by welcome back offers (which Sony apparently is readying), but Hirai's words of contrition.

Perhaps, though, they could have come a little sooner and be a little more prominent on the PlayStation blog.