Today, Sony made its second major misstep along a path to failure in the digital music space. The first was Sony Connect, YAPDDS (Yet Another Proprietary Digital Download Store), selling tracks in ATRAC format. Then, today, they introduced the VGF-AP1, a 20GB iPod-like digital music player. But it only plays Sony’s proprietary, DRM’d ATRAC format, not MP3 or AAC or WAV or anything else. So, in order to get their MP3s onto this new player, users will have to re-encode their collection into ATRAC format. Re-encoding always introduces additional compression artifacts, making the tracks sound worse.
Why would you buy one of these when you can buy an iPod, which will play MP3s too? I realize that ATRAC is and has always been a better codec than MP3; I have a Sony MZ-1, the first MiniDisc machine (MiniDiscs use ATRAC), and it still sounds fantastic. But requiring consumers to re-encode is just stupid. (What? You expect us to buy all of our tracks on Sony Connect? I don’t think so.)
This is an attempt at format lock-in, but happily it’s so ham-handed that it won’t work.