why it won’t work

January 9th, 2008

Sony pulls another Sony

In their recent PS3 sales success and blu-ray coup I had totally forgotten how thick Sony can be.

format peace

January 8th, 2008

post format war

It is hard to imagine that HD DVD would come back from the blow that Warners BluRay decision delivered. The internet was busy speculating about half a billion dollars in bribes that supposedly that came down rolling Barham Blvd. I think that the sales performance of DVD makes the Studios very nervous. All too quickly they got used to the huge volume of DVD revenue and a steady increase for that matter. The average american bought DVDs for $53, rented them for $25 in 2007. And he/she paid $32 at the Cinema Box office. For both HD formats combined a single dollar left peoples purses in the last year.

In total billions these numbers look like:

16 DVD sales
7.5 DVD rentals
0.3 nextgen DVD formats (both)
9.6 Box office

The troubling point for the studios seems to be that DVD sales are declining. Already in 2005 DVD set top box sales had gone done for the first time in history. Back then it probably was the fanfare about the ‘next thing’. People don’t like to buy yesterdays gadget. The studios felt they needed to get HD via DVD going. And Sony did the better show and number exercises.

Both formats encoding technology, bandwidth and other core parameters are pretty similar. As Mike Curis eludes to, the scripting technology in HD DVD seems to be more open, developer friendly and thefor hugely favorable over the bloated Java based BluRay implementation. But what’s to expect from Sony.

Flat panel displays sales have taken off, and about a year analog TV will be turned off. With the format war being over the Bluray sales should surge. And, I think, they will. Initially. Many bluray players will be PS3s. After correcting the outrageous price Sony’s next gen box had finally some sales worth mentioning. How many people bought the black box because they could not get the cute white one is a different story.

I wouldn’t be surprised if DVD+BluRay Sales volumes would come out flat in 2008 and from there on further decline. There are three reasons for this future disappointment:

* It’s the internet stupid.
Not only the net alone. Technology progresses everywhere. Hell, my toaster wants more attention than it’s great grandfather did 20 years ago. Media is omnipresent. VHS had to compete with, well, Books and TV. Maybe radio, cinema and newspapers. That’s about it. Bluray faces a vastly different world. None of the existing media emanations will just fade away. And new ones get created with an increasing pace. There is simply not enough time to watch all those movies.

* we don’t care since you don’t care
The Studios have failed to understand their own product. There is a history to this. And others failed similarly: The music industry would be in much better shape, would they have not confused the means of peddling circular things with the end of enabling people to enjoy music. Both HD formats allow for better visible quality compared to DVD. Better bandwidth and modern codecs could make for a great experience. Despite this potential most early Discs that were available have been widely criticized for their poor transfers. Some people felt that they would be better off with a decent upscale of a good quality DVD. People love movies. A considerable slice of the population, and almost certainly the majority of early (media) tech adopters care for a good experience. The Studios should have put the utmost emphasis on quality. And that starts with the film transfer. Even though the studios are not keen to involve creative people more than absolutely necessary, they should have gotten them on board for the launch of the new media. Imagine Steven Spielberg approving a 5 movie disk set claiming “this is how I want my movies to be seen”. People would spend allot of money for this. They would get players, lay cable. The whole thing. Maybe the studios should have gotten together with the ACE and directors guild to develop a approval system. Pay directors and DPs to sign off on a DVD transfer. I would pay happily knowing that the creative vision was intact. OK, in some cases I would simply paying for the drug habit of that one hit wonder boy. But I do that anyway, one way or another.

* it’s complicated
HDMI 1.3 is really exciting, since it not only features greater than bitdepths but also could carry the extended xvYCC color space. While being true, not many people know what this means. And neither should they. DVD succeeded because it was ‘as simple as CD’. No more rewind. That made Hollywood billions. Simple is key. The HD formats are not exactly known for simplicity. And the studios are not helping. Neither do the hardware makers. I find my way around these matters. But it’s my job to understand all this. And if it wouldn’t, then I would really watch another movie than to worry about downsampled movies that were escaping DRM through the analog otherwise. Having two formats was of course a big problem. But even with BluRay remaining it’s not as easy as it should be. Different disc sizes. Flat panel resolutions. Frame rates.
Image processing. And an interface written in Java simply scares me: There are just too many ways developers mess up. Hardware makers and studios alike fall in love with features that have nothing to do with their product. Multi Angle was one of these technical possibilities that DVD had. Studios were all excited about it. Since they didn’t understand what their product is: A movie is one view. One perspective. Everything else is a cute vaudeville attraction or plain and simple porn that desperately tries to stand out (no pun intended).

DVD hardware sales

Variety on DVD sales numbers
2007 Box office

ten percent market share

March 17th, 2007

If these numbers are acurate then PS3 is holding 10% of the next generation gaming market.

Sony responds to the iMac

January 8th, 2007

It’s here: SONY’s response to the iMac. The Lamp like iMac G4 that is. Released exactly 5 years and one day ago.

ps3 and Wii at Ebay.

December 21st, 2006

When the PS3 came out there was allot of media frenzy about the huge ebay prices.

Three days before christmas neither Wii nor PS3 are possible ot find in stores. But @ eBay you can buy them. Just watched a PS3/20GB go for 530 US$ and a Wii for 450US$. The problem for Sony is that the actual retail prices compare differently: 80% markup for the Wii and 6% for the Ps3. Looks like people don’t want the PS3 that bad. Which is really bad: At a whopping 500/600 pricetag and with a considerable install base of the Xbox 360 Sony needs to build some momentum. Sofar they fail to accomplish that. It might become a negative chicken/egg thing: with a not so promising install base game developer might avoid to take the risk of a PS3 development that would use the power of the Cell chip. Innovative ideas might be aimed and tested at the PS2. A known development environment and huge install base. Maybe somebody will make a wii like add on to create similar controllers for it. PS3 has not much going for it, except it’s looks and the fact that it’s the most affordable Bluray player.

ps2 outsells everybody

December 12th, 2006

In November the best selling game console was (drumroll) the Playstation. Playstation-2 that is: 664,000 of the units that debuted in the beginning of century found new owners. With prices as affordable as 99 dollars and the biggest game library there is it makes for a pretty nice product. Next one in the sales charts is Microsofts Xbox 360 with 511,000 units. Pushing its install base into substance after being out for one year. Nintendo’s Wii was able to get 476,000 out to i’ts users in a few days. Quiet a start. Trailing the pack is the Playstation 3, the console that was supposed to revolutionize everything. Much has been written about Sony’s ambition with this machine, it’s supply issues, the craze for the first units. Not much was said about the pretty pictures that the unit is able to create. Which is not good news. After all a ps3 is five to six times more expensive than a ps2. HD alone is not enough I am afraid.

sony: you are toast

December 9th, 2006

Just saw an unoppened PS3 go for 560 US$. It was the 20GB model that retails for 499 US$. Sixty one dollars for having spend the night in front of a video game store? Not so good in my book. The prices @ ebay for PS3 have been coming down over the last weeks. Which is not a good sign for Sony. If hardcore games would want this machine badly, the prices would be higher. Now if the geeks don’t want it that bad, how about the general public? The plan was that the PS3 would push bluray ahead of HD-DVD. Now it looks as if Bluray has to save the face of the PS3. It’s a cheap player compared to other next gen DVD options. But compared to standard def players it still is expensive: 230 US dollars get you a decent player that will make all you existing movies look really good.

Speaking of: I started buying DVDs. Opportunistically: There are so many movies I have not seen, might want to see again. If the DVD is cheap enough then I just pick it up. After a few weeks of this strategy I ended up with lots of DVDs sitting in my room. IF there is time to watch something there is something to look at. And I like it, that I know I can easily go back to what I have seen. The quality could be better here or there. But it is not worth the money to go back and spend all that money: I get a ps3 from ebay, then a screen that is worth using and I have spent 1500 US$. Then I buy all the movies there are and have 30 mediocre to ok movies for 2,000 US$. When I buy DVDs cheaply and watch them on my laptop I could have 250 movies to watch for the same amount of money. HD is not NOT worth ten times the money. Not even twice. With the Oppo player you actually get an amazing picture out of a standard DVD. Out of most of them. It’s impossible to beat. People will realize this, sooner or later.

ps3

December 1st, 2006

For the longest time I wrote that the PS3 would be doomed. Then, apparently unimpressed, it shipped anyway. There they were the stories about long lines at the stores. People getting thousands of dollars for the console on eBay. Just this very moment a PS3 sold for 820 + 55 shipping on ebay. Unoppened. Of course. Retail is 599. EA hints that 200K PS3s have been shipped. Ebay is pretty brutal. Demand and supply. EA also claimed that around 20,000 PS3 have gone through the eBay mill. Nintendo managed to make and sell 600,000 Wii consoles in the first eight days of availability. They are aiming at 4 Million by the end of the year. That’s what Sony aimed for. Years ago. Now they settle for an eight of that.
These are the people saying that ‘next gen’ would not start before they said so.

In other words: The Wii won. It outsold the PS3 3 to 1 by now. It gets good reviews. People like it. The PS3 had allot of hype. Now and it exists, and way to many people shrug their shoulders. Having 45% markup on a product that have 200,000 of and wanted to sell twenty times more? Not realistic. If there would be 4,000,000 eager PS3 buyers (for 600 US$) then the ebay price would be way higher than it is now.

ps3: it does exist

November 11th, 2006

somebody in Japan opening a PS3

I thought this day would be much further away, and I was wrong. Sony ships the PS3. In small quantities, but they apparently got the thing to work. And it looks shiny, is supposed to very silent as well. Object of desire this christmas. The eBay prices will probably be crazy. More demand as supply.

I still don’t think that PS3 can repeat the success that PS2 had:

  1. PCs are bound to become the premium gaming environment. Their technology gets upgraded constantly. A gaming console is locked inn its feature parameters for a couple of years
  2. PS3 has to compete with PS2 as well as with Wii and Xbox 360
  3. Even though the hardware could be the perfect living room hub it is unlikely to happen: Sony showed with the PSP how they are able to strangle a great hardware concept by plain stupid software implementations
  4. HD DVD formats have a tough time getting the traction that their technology might deserve

Here the manual for PS3.

bravia

October 17th, 2006

Conceptually it was a well intended follow up: Sony’s Bravia commercial using exploding paint instead of many balls.

Execution wise there certainly are amazing explosions. There are few good camera angles. But most of them are, well, uninspired. The idea of using an abandoned housing project is interesting. Somewhat. I have just seen to many of them being blown up. Somehow you expect them to sink together once they become the object of the camera. But it was not this non delivering on the expectation that broke the spot. It was the unispired music choice together with that I call dismal editing. I can only write this, since I have not looked up yet who did it. It’s easier that way. And I am sure it was the usual clusterfuck of decission making or pure lack therof that pushed this brilliant idea of a follow up into the lower ends of mediocricy. The sport lives from the real Bravia. Not more, not less. A typical sequell that can’t deliver. Too bad they blew it.

bravia teaser

October 16th, 2006

After the balls in SF Bravia ad Sony is making another one. The teaser and some stills.

Ives Klein would have loved that. Wait a minute I just had an idea. Sony, can I make a commercial, please. Pretty please?

ps3 @ tgs

October 3rd, 2006

PS3: hot or not

But at least it seems that they managed to build it.

Universal: no blu-ray

September 19th, 2006

Universal retracts support for retates it is not supporting blu-ray

And so it begins to tip and slide. People said generally that Bluray had the upper hand in the beginning of this format war. It certainly is no ‘war’, since nobody cares. But it looks like Blu-Ray’s chances of getting the market are slimming down quickly. It’s not at the tipping poing yet. But it might happen quicker than Sony wants.

This kind of press puts even bigger pressure on the PS3. Not that it could deal with the current level. I have not seen an announcement that production has begun. Two months left to launch, and nobody has ever seen a PS3 how it would be sold. Just design mockups and Blu-Ray players.

update 9/24/06: it seems that this news item was kind of a press stunt: Universal never backed Blu-ray in the first place. They just said again they would not do it.

next gen numbers

September 8th, 2006

Sony sold one million PS2 consoles in the first 3 days in Japan. Now they launch with 100,000.

They claim that they have received three million Cell Processors from IBM.

Of course Nintendo could not help itself and issued a press statement that IBM ship shipments for their Wii console are on trak. They will announce a launch date next week it seems.

Microsoft will lower the price for the XBox 360 in Japan one week before the PS3 comes out. They only sold 159,000 consoles since they launch last year.

PS1, PS2, PSnope

September 6th, 2006

4 days ago I wrote that the PS3 is in trouble Given how grim it looked to me I thought that I might have gone too far in my assessments. Suddenly those predictions look less outlandish. From 2 Million at launch down to 500,000. US: 400K, Japan: 100K and Europe: none, launch in March 2007 over there. Imagine you are a game developer for the japanese or European market. Imagine you bothered to develop for the PS3 at all.

The official Sony PR speak ‘blames’ a shortage in the blu ray diodes. Those do cost like 1 US$? 10? Sony is a propoenent of Blu-Ray technology since 4 years. They knew they would need those blue Lasers at one point. Still they rather make laptop batteries for Dell and Apple, instead of producing this rather essential part? C’mon, it’s called ‘Blu-Ray’. I have problems buying that it’s this little laser that kicks Sony’s next console strategy like it supposed to do.

Beginning this year Sony delayed the Ps3 launch from Spring to November saying that the DRM for the BlueRay discs would not be finalised. Which was obvious BS. They did have enough laser diodes back then? And those dissapeared?
Interesting also that there were standalone players in early summer with working DRM.

I think that the ‘blu-ray-shortage’ is a straw fire to direct the attention away from the real problem. The Cell does not want to run inside of that puny little case that Sony dreamt up. It does, but it gets way hot. The yields are beyond horrible. But if you say that now, then people that run their shiny new console under a blanket will blame Sony for their ‘over heating failures’.

With the ‘blu-ray’ spin Sony says that they very expensive PS3 contains this precious thing that is so amazing that you can not even make it. It’s a rare gem. So they want everybody to believe. “Whoa, you managed to get a Blu-Ray laser”?

Awesome. Kids like Lasers. It might even work. For a week or two. Till people will start looking at the PS3 online component. Anybody heard anything there? Wouldn’t it be time to give out teasers? Getting attention away from the Xbox by announcing details? Well, there is nothing. Which is not a good sign.

doa

September 2nd, 2006

“It’s Living” Sony’s slogan for the upcoming PS3

“It’s dead, alright” me saying that PS3 might sink Sony much quicker than people think.

Sony said that they would have 2 Million PS3 on launch, 2 by the end of the year and another 2 by the end of March ‘07. Of course they think that all of them will be sold. There are more than 200 Million PS2 consoles out there. To launch a next gen product with 1% of the existing install base seems reasonable. You expect a healthy run on those precious devices. And they feature a Blu-Ray DVD player. Standalone players retail for around one thousand dollars. The PS3 only for 600. What’s there not to love?

A whole lot. It’s September, and officially Sony has not started to make the thing. They have ten weeks to produce two Million units of something that they have not made yet. At this years E3 they showed playable Dev kits (think full size PC) and bluray players inside of the nifty designed cases. It might be very well the shape and design of the box that will make the PS3 the disaster that might take Sony out within a few months. Please note the the double might in the last sentence. Sony is a huge company, how could they fail so disastrous? It’s unlikely, but also the possible truth.

The PS2 saved Sony. The win of that ‘console war’ helped to hide other disasters that the company experienced. On the heights of the PS2 internal and external Sony-might Kutaragi could pretty much ask for anything in order to ’secure’ Sony’s dominance of the gaming sector. Naturally the next generation console would be the battlefield that needed to be defended and won. Sony planned to throw around it’s might and simply went off and invented a new type of CPU. Over four years IBM invested 400 Million US$ into this thing. First application: Millions of PS3s.

Now let’s suppose that things went ok, just not ideal with the Cell. That happens. Actually all things that are visible to the general public indicate that that is what happened. And this might sink Sony quicker than anybody could imagine. In 12 weeks we will know more. In twelve weeks there should be millions of PS3s in homes around the globe, computing the hell out of everything. Sony’s PS3 is expected to ‘awe’ every viewer. It was the japanese electronics behemoth itself that set this level of expectations in widely recognized speeches and announcements.

Back to the ‘what if the Cell was only ok, not perfect’ scenario. The XBox 360 had won the launch time race. Sony countered by releasing enormous numbers for their next generation consoles. Coupled with equally enormous prices. They also revealed a design. Being in the business of making decent looking things for years it was a logical step to present the public of how the thing will look like.

Sony could be in the following simple situation right now: The thing simply does not work. Putting the Cell CPU in a case like they envisioned will melt it. The Xbox had thermal problems. The PS3 case is very small, and has no visible fans. Again: Nobody has ever seen a working PS3 in public. Ten weeks before two Million should hit the street. The yields on CPUs and BluRay diodes are supposed to be very low. If the current Cell does not work in the current case Sony has not many options. They are notoriously bad in pro active crisis management. The last push in the release date came pretty much exactly when the console was to be released.

Of course the likely hood of the instant Sony melt is not high. But it’s not entirely unlikely either. If Cell and cases simply would not work that would explain why Sony did not start making the devices yet. Instead of claiming such simple and embarrassing reasons they might point to a shortage in blue diodes for the Bluray drives as a reason for shortages. Would make the thing more ‘precious’. And would leave less room for people complaining about their overheating devices.

Even if they get the 6 Million units done and sold by March 07 I don’t think that Sony can repeat the PS2 with the PS3. The world has changed. PCs and their gfx cards will soon be much faster than any game console. Gaming consoles have excluded themselfs from the pace of upgrade cycles that are possible in the PC landscape. Good and bad, but fatal for the PS3 in the mid future. If it it’s not DOA that is.

Update:
two minutes after posting this rant I came accross this image of the PS3. Interesting amount of holes in the side there.

future predictions

August 18th, 2006


the Yankee group predicts 44% market share for the PS3 in 2011

I would bet money on this not to be true. I think that Microsoft will sell more than 27 Million Xbox 360s and Sony will never sell more than ten Million PS3s. Ever. Come back here and comment as much as you like once they should do. Those ‘experts’ at the Yankee group see Sony push 30 million units. Amazing.

But what do you do if you have an ailing consultancy? You publish controversial statements.
And you hope that nobody finds your past prediction attempts.

bluray and hd-dvd

August 18th, 2006

There are two high definition DVD formats. Bluray and HD DVD. Of course you knew that. Both formats have been released. There are players. There are movies. And, nobody cares. I don’t see any discussions or reviews online. It’s one big yawn. Bluray fanboys will point to the upcoming PS3 release. That being the Ace up the sleeve of the format. Interestingly enough, PS3 fanboys ‘predict’ that it will be the Bluray format that will help selling the console. A 500 US$ Bluray player disguised as a gaming console might be a cheap Bluray player, if others cost a 1K. But in the consumers mind they have to compete with the 40 US$ DVD player that plays an awfully huge library of movies. Upscaling DVD players cost just a few hundred dollars.

The quality of these next generation formats is certainly superior to DVD. The current discs however have been partially made from sub par telecine masters I have been told. That aside, people don’t understand nor care about quality all that much.

Those two new formats have a better picture than traditional DVD. In order to see it you have to be equiped with a HD set.

Let’s have a look at the last format change. DVD replaced VHS tape. And it was better in the following ways:

  • Image quality. Much more resolution. VHS was dreadful.
  • Audio quality. They called that CD quality. VHS was dreadful.
  • Sourround audio. Five speakers in your living room. No possible before with anything.
  • non touch mechanism. VHS is an analog tape. Tape is tricky as it is. Tape and head wear and environmental impact like dust. Analog tape degrades. Every time you use it
  • multi angle. yes, is a feature. Nobody used it. Almost nobody.
  • multiple audio tracks. Directors commentary or alternative language tracks. Both add great value.
  • menu system. Helps with branding and use.
  • non linear. Jump to any location is almost instantly. Together with the menu system
  • no rewind. Sounds like a stupid thing. Now that you don’t have to rewind anymore. Was major annoyance withVHS and big deal for DVD
  • smaller and known form factor. “just like audio CD”
  • region code and copy protection. Good for the studios. They thought.
  • computer use. I have used a data tape based on S-VHS. Was 75,000 US$.

With DVD there was a format war too. The other one backed by Circuit City and Dreamworks folder almost instantly. It’s “feature” was that the movies were much cheaper, but would expire with in 48 hours. After that they wanted to charge consumers for every view. Greed. Make sure you hide it well, or you will fail like that.

DVD vs. VHS is a pretty substantial list. After a few years it was a done deal.
Bluray and HD-DVD will never build any momentum. They will fail like Super CD or UMD or Minidisc have failed.

format shrug

July 8th, 2006

HD-DVD launched. Bluray launched.
People don’t care. Of course there are reviews in the more tech geek media.
But apart from that there is not much movement.

As expected people don’t care.
There was a format war before this one. Audio CDs with their 44,100 Hz 16 bit sampling rate were not state of the art as far as technical ability around the turn of the century. So Philips and Sony came up with the Super Audio CD that quickly went into a format war with the similarly feature yet incompatible DVD Audio.

That was 1999. There are probably around 631 audio geeks who can get really excited about these formats and their differences. The rest of us is happy with compressed mp3s that indeed can sound horrible.

The current HD DVD format flavors do present a bigger quality jump than the CD / next gen format had to show. Most peoples eyes are better educated than their ears.
In order to watch next gen material there is a very considerable investment needed. You need a HDMI capable screen with enough resolution and the right image processing ingredients. And an expensive player.

Roughly between 3000 and 6000 US$ worth of equipement.
I remember that we paid 450 US$ for our DVD player three months after it came to market. There were 18 titles available, but the quality jump from VHS was stunning. VHS was considerably bad compared to live TV. DVD was noticable better. And there was decent sound too. And the things needed no rewind. And there were multiple audio tracks with commentary and an OK navigation system. And the disks seem to last longer than tape. And they used up less space.
Sure in the beginning many Studios were betting on the other format. Divx, not to be confused with Divx , was an attempt to get people used to the fact that they can not own anything that Hollywood creates. A failed attempt, but not the last one.

HD-DVD vs. Bluray
The score seems to be zero zero.

and the winner is …

May 29th, 2006

Only four month ago the run for the domination of the console market seemed to be
wide open

After E3 and the 600 US$ price tag of the PS3 the market has shifted

Granted these are simple online polls. But there is certainly a trend. One that should make Sony feel very very uneasy.

If the HD-DVD camp is smart enough to ship two sided HD-DVD / DVD versions of movies for the same price than the DVD version then this format war might be over within a year. Nobody will be betting on the loosing horse this time. If the HD-DVD companies would control their greed just for a couple of months then they could really win this in a landslide. Good for everybody. Having a double sided Blueray/DVD combo is simply not possible, unless you actually sandwich two discs together. Actually they should start selling a movie and just give you two discs. One in the current format, and one in the next one. Making those disks is not that expensive. People would start building their HD library as they continue to buy movies. If you already have 10 movies that you can play on a HD player then you are much more likely to buy one. With the double disc approach you can avoid a sales drop for the current DVD format: People feel odd right now, that they have to spend money on something that will be obsolete soon.

ps3 @ E3

May 14th, 2006

After writing about the Playstation-3 so often I had to go to the E3 to have a look at it. The huge Sony booth featured lots of playable dev kits. Each of the games had a little scale with a sticker at the percentage how much it was finished below it. These were mostly between 30 and 50%.

To cut to the chase: 1080p can look awesome. Some Gran Canyon background textures were simply stunning. Of course Sony showed it’s protege device only on a couple thousand dollars worth of pixels. Who wouldn’t.

I am not a gamer, but even I was able to see that the PS3 does have more grpahics and CPU power than the XBox 360. It’s output looks nicer, but not by leaps and bounds.

And there is even more good news for Sony: They also showed BluRay Playback. That, if I am not mistaken, already out of the PS3 shaped boxes. I had no closer look at this. Both HD-DVD and BluRay have the bandwidth and the Codec to create some nice looking images on their HDMI outputs.

600 US$ dollars or 600 Euros (which is 773 US$ today) is the asking price for the console that will start selling in November. If Sony gets decent yields from their chip factories by then. Having playable dev boxes @ E3 is more than I expected at this point.

However:

The Playstation-2 dominated it’s market. Micosoft’s first XBox was an ‘also ran’ in terms of numbers and attention. That’s how Microsoft enters into new markets: Version 1 is horrible and they get slaughtered. The first Internet Explorer attempts were ridiculous compared to Netscape at the time. But they keep coming back, getting better every time, while the competition clings to the impressions that the first MS Version left them with.

Microsoft aims to have 10 Million XBox 360s sold by the time the Playstation-3 becomes available.

Sony hopes to repeat the disc synergy for a 3rd time: ps1 -> CD, ps2 -> DVD and now ps3 -> BluRay. While it might be, that the PS3 is an inexpensive BluRay player 600 US$ is still 600US$.
There are a couple of the top end consumers that afre affluent enough to buy any high tech device that comes out. (Those would be proably the only Origami clients right now) The first 10,000 HD DVD players were sold within a day to exactly this crowd. But the next 100,000 will harder push, and we will see about the first million. Of course Sony will sell a million PS3s quickly. After that things get ‘interesting’ though. HD TV set penetration is around 15%. 1080p native of those? None. Even normal 1080 resolution is very hard to find and super expensive. Leaves lot’s of flat screens out there. Biggest problem is, that they probably are not connected and configured in the way they should be. Not that people are stupid, it’s just that things got very complex in a short time. Your dad might have explained a carburetor to you, but would you call him if you have troubles with your HDMI connector and it’s DRM ‘features’ ?

Little known fact that nobody likes to talk about: 90% of all TVs (tube or plasma) look like crap. Nothing like the original image. Be it NTSC, PAL or HD. They all have their fair share of issues. Once analog crawl and ghosting were gone, there came compression artifacts, odd frame rate conversions and cheap image scaling issues to replace them.

This is not only the rambling of an old man, it also is a very real problem for Sony: As I said the PS3 looks pretty in 1080p @ E3. It will hardly look different in the average consumers household. And when you sell 200 Million units, then you have to sell pretty much to exactly those people. These people started buying HD since it became synonym with flat panels. They like flat panel TVs. Despite the fact that for TV content a tube for a third of the price can look much better. Right now. Of course that will change in a couple of years. So on the average consumer the PS3 looks as nice as the XBox 360. But the later one is 400US$ instead of 600US$ and it has a great online dimension that works and that all your friends are already on.

People buy consoles to play games. Microsoft probably can afford to drop the price for the Xbox by 50 US$ and offer some interesting deals when Halo3 comes out. They have the muscle to maintain momentum around the time of the PS3 launch.

The world that that PS3 enters in is a much more crowded one than the one that the PS2 came to see when you got it out of its box: Not only is the there the ubiquitous iPod, there is the cell phone (we had those back then, but they were not as cheap to use as now) and the internet. Broadband takes up time in peoples life. Specially in the gamer demographics. The music industry is looking at bad numbers and thinks that their problem is piracy. It actually is much simpler: There is just more competition for peoples time. The Beatles could be huge in the 60s, since there was simply not much more culture for young people. Rumor has it that people even played the B Sides of records in their desperation for content. (I wonder if some crazy record industry executive ever contemplated to bring back the B side by piggy backing one mp3 file on to another one)

Back to the PS3: It’s a Media Hub. Says Sony. The chips are there. That’s true. And the thing /could/ do it. But it wont, since Sony does not get it. The PSP is an amazing device. The hardware would be the greatest video iPod even. It even looks ok I think. It has wifi, a decent screen for it’s size. Still, it sucks. By now there is a web browser maybe some other devices and features. But Sony did not get any momentum for their little hardware wonder. They simply can not deliver the experience. People don’t find the magic. A comparison: I never use a Microsoft Media Center, I can imagine how it is. Apple’s front row is nothing on the technical scale compared to it. It’s ‘just’ a UI. A simple navigation that segways into a couple of components that Apple had anyway. Yet, everybody is looking at Apple to merge the computer and the TV. Sony is like Microsoft here: They are unable to achieve the status of being innovative, cool or to put it bluntly worth bothering with. Their crossbar UI is very nice looking and it works well. But you navigate into things with it that then frustrate. As deadly sin in this day and age.

The amount of accessible content that might be of interest to the a specific person has exploded within the last years.Mostly due to the internet, but not only. Netflix allows you to have access to a gigantic web collection, in two days I can have any book that I might care about. Music? Yeah, we got music, alright. And, again, this not just ’stuff’, these are the things that I care about.

Under these circumstances anything that fails to deliver on it’s promises will just be ignored. The PSP is cool, but it seemed awfully complicated to put content on it. So I ended up not investing any time in it. On the other hand there is my iPod shuffle: 50US$ refurb from Apple.com. Took 5 minutes to figure out what I needed to know about it. Probably not that long. (Why don’t they sell those things with a 30 second message from Steve Jobs prerecorded on it? “Hi, my name is Steve, and I owned this iPod before you. But don’t worry, I did not use the earphones.”. ). The shuffle served me well: It was a good deal. Money wise, but most importantly time and attention wise. The PSP having all the right hardware yet still being a lame device makes believe that the PS3 will repeat the same problem on a different scale. Sony is betting the company on the repetition of a old pattern (ps1 670MB CD, ps2 4.7GB DVD and now ps3 25GB Blue Ray). But the world of 2006 is different of that in 2000.

The world is changing so fast that the arrogance of the incumbent can be lethal. Microsoft experiences that from both sides simultaneously. Being the gaming console underdog they had to innovate and come up with concepts like Xbox LIVE. On the OS market they are actually the one ruling the world and therefor loosing their firm grip on it.

sony turns 60

May 8th, 2006

E3 is on tomorrow. Just enough time to surrender some prophecies to the google bot:

Sony really really needs to show some impressive PlayStation-3 now.

I’d say that Sony the company has a future if they show working devices in a form factor that will ship.

But they wont.

One level down we get to see how good of a smoke screen they can show. Most importantly will be the details on the game titles: Coding for the 7+1+1 CPU architecture of the PS3 might be horrible. Just how horrible it is one might can deduct from the quality of the demos, and if there are surprise moves and shifts. This year’s E3 will be the first where the Gaming industry has to wrangle growth slowdown issues. Much like any other media industry the battle for human time has reached the section that seemed invinicible for the last decade: The digital lifestyle leaves not even enough time for games. And time is money.

Sony’s 75th birthday, what will it be like?

HD

April 5th, 2006

would be hyperbole but is actually true.

What exactly are media companies thinking?

May 23: blue ray DVDs

March 14th, 2006

Sony will release a couple of blue ray movies. It is nice to hear that they set a precedence by outputing the analog signal at full resolution. How could the growing HD DVD competition not follow suit?
Having test signals as an ‘easter egg’ on the first blue ray disks makes sense: People that spend one thousand dollar for a device with ten titles instead of 300 dollars for one with 1,000 titles two years later really need ‘test charts’ to justify they purchase. This is the small, yet luctrative, market where you can sell a power cable north of a hundret US.

spring spring spring

February 20th, 2006

Sony’s stock price tanks. Merrill Lynch issues a pdf where they claim that the PS3 cost 900 US$ to make. Only problem is, that if you add their numbers up it makes 800, not 900. Sure, those people should really have my 401K money. If you look a google news you still find the 900 US$ price ‘news’ flying around that is merely based on one flawed pdf.
That’s only 100 US$. Oh, Sony said earliert they are determined to sell 100 Million PS3. Of course they will become cheaper over time. If they would not than this little pdf error would sum up to 10 Billion US$. I wonder if Merrill Lynch starts caring about that kind of money.

Back to Sony. They have a new
story
. Now it’s the industry specs they are waiting for. They are hinting in direction of HDMI. DRM of video IO. I was under the impression these things were all set.

Nvidia says it does not expect any royalty payments from Sony until the end of April. They make the graphics card for the PS3.

Other ’stories’ roam the net that mention 2007 in relationship to the PS3 launch. Sony has really a good chance to mess this up royally. Right now they have a decent trajectory to do so.

Instead of loosing more creditibility on launch dates, they should have discredited the ML paper on the simple grounds that it offered.

Ken Kutaragi told the Cell Chip developers in 2001 that he wanted the chip to be 1,000 times more powerful than the one out of the PS2 . Sonys speaks about 35 - 40 times right now.

spring, spring! 2006! really!

February 17th, 2006

Sony did spend the last year confirming a launch date of Spring 2006 for it’s next generation game console PS3. As late as December the company was re-iterating this mantra. People were somewhat surprised, since the very same empty ‘concept design’ hulls were all that could ever be seen of the PS3. There were ‘example’ videos, but nobody would really think that those were rendered on an actual PS3 system.

A week ago news spread that Sony would showcase the PS3 on the Taipei Game Show this week and that got people excited. Microsoft launches the Xbox 360 in Taiwan on March 16th, and many gamers expected that Sony would reveal more about the PS3, maybe even show one, in order to dampen Microsofts growing marketshare. It turned out that Sony still has no real PS3 to show. Just some more promo videos.

And some executive PR statements:
Sony will sell 100 Million PS3s
PS will launch this year

The latest is that Sony needs some extra time and care to protect the PS3 against pirates:

Our No. 1 competition is not other companies but counterfeiters.

No word where they will launch first. No prices. No working consoles. No schedule. Sony also says that it will an online component called “HUB”.

Contratictory to so bleak non-news
Sony’s stock price
has been going up since mid last year. According to Businessweek Sony lost 290 Million US$ in their electronic - and made 365 US$ with their gaming-division last year.

I think that we will see the stock price go below thirty US $ until summer.

Here the real story about PS3.

(I don’t know this, I have no inside knowledge. I would not write about it if I would. It’s just an educated (?) guess)

Sony is depending on their gaming division revenue. More than ever. None of their established fields did well lately: They ARE the Walkman company, but never got mp3’s. Their Trinitron Tubes were the best around, but the prettiest Flatscreens came from Samsung and Co. Computers ? Well, not really that hot either. Movies are hit and miss, they have a big music division, but we all know how well CD peddlers do.

Leaves games. In games people still pay for content. The bigger the current problems of Sony in total grew the higher the expectations rose in their Gaming Division to deliver the goods. In Japan, uf you are asked to deliver then you do. Or you pretend to do: Kutaragi got years ago Millions and Millions in R&D for the next gen console. He suceeded with PS1 and PS2. Now, in his early 50s, it was time to build some legacy. So he set amazingly high marks for the specs of the PS3. Nothing less than dual 1080p should this machine be able to push. More than ten times the screen resolution than the PS2 can do. A huge leap ahead. Sony liked to hear that: It would secure the revenue stream off their gaming divsion. They knew all to well, that they sold 100 Million PS1s and 100 Million PS2s. . It is no coincidence to see this number now been cited in respect to the PS3. In reality it might just be whistling in the woods.

There is no PS3 yet. Not one has been built. At least not one that would be worth showing. Sony went to Toshiba and IBM to get the very very latest in CPU technology: The “cell”. Based on Kutaragies specs the CPU is supposed to do wonders. I think that this is were the problem is. Launching a new CPU is a big deal. There is a learning curve for everybody. Lot’s and lot’s of things need to work together real well. If you have a working system and you ‘just’ tune parts. Not so here: Most things inside of the PS3 are new. Eventually they will work. And might even work well. Sony’s bigger problem is to internally manage exactly when the machine will be ready.

If the executives cite now piracy concerns then I think that they simply telling the world what their engineers told them. The real fact is that things just got out of hand. The box is too complex to handle. But it sounds better if you tell your boss that you need extra time to protect against all those pirates out there: “Those damn pirates, you hate them too Mr Stinger, right? You don’t want your pretty new PS3 been pirated right? ” While the truth is rather different: Sony tried to leap too far. Last year they had to show most amazing videos at E3, because that was what Kutaragi did promise his elders for years. Now they are stuck on delivering this. Kutaragi said that he would expect people to get a second job in order to pay for the PS3. That’s how amazing he thought it will be. I think now he would be really reallly happy if could cram a working system into those slim empty case they did show since almost a year. Just a system that is up to par with the XBox 360, with some games for it. Maybe even this year. So that Sony can plug into where the gaming money really will be: online connection of gaming consoles. XBox Live becomes right now the ITMS for small little games. A whole new concept. There will be ample games for a few dollars: Gamers are happy, since they have the choice, developers are happy, since they get to market quickly, get new trends and have no production cost. Sony is lightyears away from having anything like this.

Ironically it will be Microsoft that will be depending on it’s gaming revenue much like Sony has been for the last years: Vista will fall /way/ behind internal expectations for various reasons. But Xbox will make continue to make money.
And Sony? Well, they will be known for the mobile TV Set’s they flew into NY with a 747 in order to meet demand, the Walkman and the Trinitron TV. And the Playstation1 & 2. The rest is history. Not the pleasant kind. Sorry Sony. No better news for you.

ps3 in September? better be, but probably wont

February 15th, 2006

PlayStation ‘HUB’ and a September Launch of PS3 in Japan and the US are been rumored here

Of course XBox Live needs competitions. Not sure what Sony can pull of till September. But it is indeed crucial. Like the whole thing. I think the PS3 release date is the one dimension of the watershed decission that is due this year: If they release in September or earlier and if PS3 as well as the online service are comparable to what’s out there right now then Sony might have a chance to survive. The quality of PS3 and online service are the other dimension.
Since nobody has seen anything yet, it can only be speculated upon.
But the fact that Sony has shown nothing since last years E3, and those images were clearly not from a real PS3 point in the direction that the PS3 will not be as great as Sony tried to make everybody believe last year.

If Sony had any images or release date then they would need to put this out right now in order disturb the momentum of the competing technologies: Every day people buy XBox 360s. These people will buy games for that machine, and not for the PS3. Decent hype around the PS3 could stop the ongoing proliferation of the 360 somewhat.

A friend of a friend said that there will be final devkits in June. If that would be true then a September launch is impossible. And that in turn mean that Sony is done. Toast. Over with. You probably can still buy a Flatpanel TV in 5 fives with those four letters on. But chances are that it’s actually from some chinese company that picked up the brand.

the end of Sony (again)

February 9th, 2006

Another perspective on Sony’s problems.
It is indeed tru that Blue-Ray has less bandwidth than recent DVD implementations. What’s the point in BlueRay?
Just the capacity? H264 compression will help there.

Cell erie?

February 8th, 2006

IBM says in a press release that they will have Cell based blades in the beginning of Q3 of this year. “special bids” get them now.


Masakazu Suzuoki, Sony’s lead designer on Cell, says Sony aims to use this power to create movies that are interactive and changeable, with multiple story lines, so people will watch the same flick more than once. Another idea Sony is kicking around: placing ads in the background of movies and TV shows and customizing them to suit the viewer, with Cell processors keeping track of who sees what.

from here

“sure”, I say. It’s gonna be great! Just like those multi-angle DVDs. Engineers really don’t know content it seems.

How about a release date for the Playstation 3? Some parts of Sony still say “Spring 06″ others are very very silent.
Gamespot picked October 1st as a pre order date for PS3 game titles. They probably just made that up.

So far I have not seen anything that would let me think that Sony can survive the looming PS3 delay and
therefor change the fate of the certain demise for the entire company. The last sentence does not look much like english to me. Let’s put in another way: Sony is fucked. Any launch date before July 1st we should have heard about.

Sony’s clock is ticking

February 4th, 2006

Sony makes amazing technology. Their professional Broadcast division did a great job with the HDCAM SR. Only the name was a gigantic mistake: Much like a Porsche competitor would call it’s car a ‘Yugo RS’.

Branding for the “bravia” seems to be working ok as well.

But: There is no Playstation-3. And there will be none that you can buy this year.
Blueray sounds like Betamax.

Sony was always bigger and more important than the other consumer electronics companies in Japan.
It will have been this size difference that led to their demise: They are not what IBM was to computers in the 70s
or Apple is to the mp3 player market. Still they are big enough to think that they can push their own formats
alone: Betamax, Minidisc, MemoryStick, iLink (only the name was different), and now blueray.

Sony leaned out of the window last year with the Playstation-3 Presentation. They would need to deliver
this year. And I am taking bets that they can not.

Sad really: I loved those Trinitron TVs in the 80s. Nothing came only close.

twexus on PSP

December 15th, 2005

I picked up a PSP just after it came out. Finally I got around and upgraded firmware on it. And now there is a web browser. The pairs mode of twexus runs nicely one it. 10 pixels get cut off, but that is fair enough for a website that I wrote three years ago. It actually looks decent. This is what my webserver says in the agent column:

Mozilla/4.0 (PSP (PlayStation Portable); 2.00)

when the PSP comes along.