Wednesday, November 02, 2005

No Sony for me!

I am not a big fan of Sony. I have resisted buying Sony products for years because of the poor quality of just about everything they sell and their drive to force consumers to use Sony-specific peripherals, such as their overly expensive Memory Stick. Not only has their poor quality effected consumers who directly purchase Sony products, but it has also effected other manufacturers who use Sony OEM products in their consumer products. In the later category is the recent CCD quality control issue that effects Fuji Film, Canon, Nikon, Konica-Minolta, Ricoh, and Olympus.

Now it's being reported that some of Sony's music CDs contain Digital Rights Management (DRM) software that installs a rootkit on your Windows machine. In an article by Mark Russinovich, Mark provides extensive details on how, without any notice, Sony software installed their rootkit on his machine to control how the Van Zant brother's Get Right with the Man could be played on his PC. You should follow the link and read every word, and pay special attention to what he had to do in order to rid his system of the Sony provided rootkit. Sony is rapidly becoming a company that is not to be trusted in any form.

This paranoia towards consumers and a desire to have total control over their preciousss content resonates with another article written by Jon Stokes at ArsTechnica. The article, titled Waiting on a Revolution: a look ahead at the next-generation console wars details his ideas on what to expect when Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony ship their respective game consoles. What caught my eye was his theory on what Sony was after with their PS3 console, and why:
As for Sony, I'll just ask a simple question: who here has ever used a Sony device that connected to a PC? If you have, then you know where I'm going with this. The PC software side of Sony's "connected" devices is just awful. The company is obsessed with digital piracy, and the PC interfaces for their digital devices are invariably buggy, intrusive, slow, and almost seem to be designed to make the user just give up and buy Sony physical media.

Regarding the network angle, Sony has nothing like Passport or Windows Media Center, but even if they do manage to make the PS3 interact somehow with the PC then what are the odds of the experience not being bad? Actually, I'll tell you the odds: they're zero. That's because the PS3 isn't made to be connected to PCs, which are nasty little piracy-enabling devices that Sony's media arm doesn't trust with its precious music and movie content. Better to keep that stuff off the PC entirely and have it move in its own separate Sony ecosystem.

To this end, the Playstation 3 is made to connect with two things:
  1. Other PS3s and/or various Cell-based and Sony-blessed (if not Sony-produced) entertainment devices such as DVD players, TVs, etc.
  2. Sony's "Playstation World" online service.

Sony therefore envisions an alternate, proprietary universe of its own making, consisting solely of devices that are DRMed to the gills and that connect in a trusted and secure manner to each other and to Sony's online entertainment hub. Sony will use the PlayStation 3 to invite you and your credit card into that alternate, sealed-off universe and to live, play, and consume content, all via the security of Cell + HDMI + Blu-ray + Sony only knows what else.

The advent of the PS3 and the coming wider array of Cell-based products signals that Sony is tired of trying to make their products and content work securely with the PC, so they've decided instead to have a go at simply replacing it. The PS3 isn't a convergence device, but a sort of anti-PC that takes Sony's practice of proprietary everything to the next logical and global, networked level. Sony is through trying to get along with the Internet and the PC, so they'd like to take their toys and leave.
Yep. That just about fits in with the rootkit episode and my own dissatisfaction with the Sony-way-is-the-only-way attitude towards peripherals I can easily purchase and add to Sony gear. And that's rather sad. I really like the PSP. I've actually held one in my hands and had it demonstrated with a game, and I have to admit it is pretty slick. But not slick enough to get me to part with my hard-earned cash. The movies and games that can play on the PSP come on proprietary micro-disks, and the movies won't play anywhere else except on the PSP.

As an old guy, I grew up in a generation that built electronic hardware from Heathkits and other such manufacturers, that built their first personal computers from scratch, and that grew up thinking we'd always be able to get inside and down to the metal of just about anything electronic we purchased. And we also grew up thinking that when we purchased it we owned it. But over the decades that basic right as been eroded to the point where all we do is pay for the media and the distribution labor. According to major players such as Sony (and even Microsoft) we don't actually own the content, and we can suffer great retribution if we don't use the content exactly as they demand. And that's where I draw the line. Call me silly, or call it cutting off my nose to spite my face, but I don't have to buy from Sony or anybody else with such an attitude (i.e. Apple). Because of the RIAA's legal rampages against the file sharers, I no longer purchase music CDs (and I slowed down anyway a long time ago because the music was crap). Because the MPAA is trying to follow in the RIAA's footsteps, I've cut back considerably going to movies (of course, once again poor quality, every higher ticket prices, and the 15-20 minutes of commercials before each movie has also had an impact).

And now Sony wants to up the ante by extending their dominion over my personal computer because I gave them money to purchase one of their music CDs. I think I've reached a point where I'm tired of Sony quality, Sony movies, Sony music, and Sony everything else. Once upon a time it was neat to own Sony. Not anymore. I hope Sony gets their head handed back to them next year in the upcoming game console wars. I hope that Microsoft and Nintendo are quite successful. Sony has replaced Apple at the top of my list of consumer electronic companies to avoid at all cost.
While I was writing this, BetaNews published Sony to Help Remove its DRM Rootkit. The company that created the rootkit for Sony, First 4 Internet, will publish a patch to help remove the rootkit on the Sony BMG site. But it still doesn't change anything. It should have never gotten this far in the first place.

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