Sony At the Crossroads: Innovation or Protectionism?

The world is full of dichotomies. And sometimes, people
are required to reconcile differences that may not be
reconcilable. For example, the Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) is tasked with regulating civil aviation
to promote safety while at the same time promoting civil
aviation (see the FAA summary of
activities here
).

Another recent example is the fight between using fear as a motivator in the US elections versus freedom. In this context, the choice is between the fear of loosing a single cent through someone illegally copying something versus the millions that could come in through the freedom to innovate.

So it is interesting to see technology giant Sony hire, as
their CEO, Howard
Stringer, the head of their entertainment division in the US
(
see the story here
).

Sony, for some time, has been walking a fine line between
trying to protect its entertainment content with DRM while at
the same time promoting hardware that works best without such
DRM.

The dichotomy, to a great extent, has resulted in
customers avoiding Sony DRM locked hardware. For example,
many of their early Apple iPod clones required you to convert
to Sony’s proprietary ATRAC
format while refusing to support the more open MP3
format. But Ken Kutaragi, head of Sony’s video game unit and
father of the PlayStation hit the nail on the head when he
said Sony lost its lead in electronics when it (Sony) became
timid when concerns over content rights trumped technological
innovation (
see the article here
).

Interestingly, if rumors are correct, the race for CEO
came down to Kutaragi and Stringer. Time will tell whether
choosing gaijin Stringer was wise but I don’t think
an emphasis on DRM, over innovation, will win Sony any new
customers.

Aloha!

Advertisements

Comments are closed.