Sony CEO: We could have beaten Apple in Digital Media had we embraced open technology

Mon, May 25, 2009


In a recent interview with TechOn, Sony chairman and CEO Howard Stringer had some interesting things to say about Sony’s past failures and achievements, in addition to laying down a noteworthy tidbit about DRM and Sony’s failure to successfully take on Apple.

On Sony’s failed CONNECT music download service:

Sony hasn’t taken open technology very seriously in the past. Its CONNECT music download service was a failure. It was based on OpenMG, a proprietary digital rights management (DRM) technology. At the time, we thought we would make more money that way than with open technology, because we could manage the customers and their downloads.

This approach, however, created a problem: customers couldn’t download music from any Websites except those that contracted with Sony. If we had gone with open technology from the start, I think we probably would have beaten Apple Inc of the US.

And therein lies the problem with companies that approach business like Sony did in the above example.  The obvious, and perhaps only, goal of a business is to make money, but if you do so at the expense of the customer experience, you’re bound to fail as your customers will inevitably flock to competing products.

Could Sony have beaten Apple had gone with open technology?  Who’s to say (I say ‘no’ by the way), but it’s such a big “if” that Stringer might as well have said, “If we had come out with an iPod/iTunes hardware/software combo, I think we probably would have beaten Apple.”  Ya think?


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