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Sony Media Music Entertainment Hardware

Sony To Make Its Last MiniDisc System Next Month 263

An anonymous reader writes "The BBC reports that Sony, the creators of the MiniDisc audio format, are to deliver their last MiniDisc stereo system in March. Launched over 20 years ago in late 1992 as a would-be successor to the original audio cassette, MiniDisc outlasted Philips' rival Digital Compact Cassette format, but never enjoyed major success outside Japan. Other manufacturers will continue making MiniDisc players, but this is a sign that — over ten years after the first iPod — the MiniDisc now belongs to a bygone era."
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Sony To Make Its Last MiniDisc System Next Month

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  • by dubbreak ( 623656 ) on Monday February 04, 2013 @12:37AM (#42782791)
    The DRM was definitely silly and I think that's what held it back. I had a couple MD players. In the era of 128mb solid state and cd mp3 players they were awesome. Lasted a month on a single AA (cd mp3 players would last a few days at best on 2xAA). Add extra memory cheap as compared to solid state. Super durable storage (much more resilient than CDs).

    The Canadian software was a lot more lenient on copying mp3s over (converting to AAC). IIRC you could copy an mp3 to devices 3 times before syncing it back as deleted off a device. Stupid limitation when with comparable devices you could make as many MP3 cds as you wanted or copy to mass storage type devices with no limitations. Other huge down side was not being able to get digital copies back off the device via the USB cable. You could use the optical out and record from that, but no drag and drop. It was a great device to plug into a mixer when doing a jam or even a show (high quality recording), but you couldn't easily get the digital file off. You should have been able to just grab it via USB like a comparable device, but that would encourage copyright infringement or something. Normal Sony behavior.

    I loved the format. I could have a few different mixes, throw them in my backpack and not worry. Carry an extra battery for when it finally got low and I was good to go. No skipping, pretty small (for the era) and reliable as could be. I really think the DRM and not licensing it were the reasons it never took off. That and not being able to use it as mass storage. In university as a computer science student having that as storage would have been extremely useful. Oh well. One more dead format to add to the pile.
  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Monday February 04, 2013 @02:27AM (#42783271) Journal

    But even worse was getting music onto the player. There were only two choices -- a program made by Sony that was a complete piece of shit, or, a plugin for Realplayer. And, for added amusement, transferring songs onto the player from my computer was very slow because they all had to be converted into Sony's propriietary, DRM infested ATRAC format.

    This is a good description of why Apple was successful with the ipod.

  • ..what is an iPod (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 04, 2013 @02:47AM (#42783327)

    sorry i don't buy drm'd control freak hardware

  • by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Monday February 04, 2013 @05:30AM (#42783811)
    It was with the introduction of MagicGate and Minidisc that Sony began to lose its marbles. Somebody in that company must have given themselves a big pat on the back when they hobbled the hardware with DRM and ATRAC3. They probably thought the public would roll over and eat that shit up, but instead the public just shunned Sony and started buying from the competition who used more open industry standards.

    I wouldn't be surprised if the media arm foisted this insanity on to the consumer electronics arm but it's all Sony as far as the end user is concerned. About the only ray of sanity in Sony was the PSP and PS3 which were pretty standards friendly and still are but even there it's not hard to see signs of interference. e.g. the PS3 has for the last 18 months or so enforced Cinavia audio watermarks which appear in some DVD and Blu Ray discs. Will it stop people ripping discs into media files? Of course not. Instead they'll just buy non-Sony kit to play it on. It's self defeating.

  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Monday February 04, 2013 @06:46AM (#42784093)

    "And rather than Sony learn any lessons, they have doubled down. For two decades. Is it any wonder their stock and their corporate goodwill are both in the shitter?"

    Jesus, doesn't anybody here remember any history? Come on, folks, this is so far off as to be just plain BS.

    The reason MiniDiscs had DRM in the U.S. (but not Japan) wasn't Sony, it was Congress! The music industry panicked over MiniDisc because it was a "perfect" copy. That meant that unlike cassettes, you could copy endlessly and it wouldn't degrade in quality, like cassette tapes did.

    Hrm, that calls for some more history. MiniDisc came out -- in Japan -- before recordable CDs. The recording industry had fought both cassettes and CDs, unsuccessfully. But when faced with MiniDisc they lobbied Congress HARD, and the outcome was that Congress banned the importing or making of MiniDisc players until they implemented a DRM system that limited copying.

    SONY at the time was NOT known for DRM. Remember, Sony had, not too long before, fought in court on the other side of the battle, to make sure videotapes were legal.

    So it was Congress that is at fault here. Manufacturers wanted nothing to do with creating a DRM system in hardware. And consumers in the U.S., by and large, were uninterested in a DRM-laden system. The result was that it took a good 10 years before MiniDisc was widely available here. You could get them; a few were made with DRM. But they were rare and expensive. And the entire 10 years, Japan used them DRM-free.

    So stop blaming Sony. You're pointing your fingers in the wrong direction. It was the recording industry -- and a compliant Congress -- who were entirely at fault.

  • by Dogtanian ( 588974 ) on Monday February 04, 2013 @09:03AM (#42784575) Homepage
    Squandering the potential of MiniDisc through over-zealous DRM, self-interest (and conflict of interest) as well as Sony's general arrogance seems to be its story in a nutshell.

    The underlying technology of even the original MiniDiscs had the potential to be *way* more flexible and powerful than it was ever allowed to be. By the standards of the early-1990s it had masses of storage and random access, leading to the possibility of file-like transfer of music tracks. Granted, back then- years before MP3s rose to prominence- people didn't consume music as "files" nor have computers powerful enough to do anything with them anyway, and veering too far from the familiar paradigm probably would have confused and scared Joe Public.

    However, the potential to handle and transfer tracks in a file-like way *would* have been something people would have liked- if marketed correctly- even then. Instead, they forced people to dub things in real-time and restricted digital copying.

    And they could still have marketed it as a data format once established and provided they kept things clear. Had they done that, it may well have replaced the 1.44MB floppy. To be honest, Sony had the *technology* (and storage space) to do some of what MP3 players did almost a decade later, but they forced it into being little more than a digital audio cassette with random access.

    Even when they did improve the format and allow some data use, they forced users to play silly buggers with their crappy software and restrictions.

    And let's not get into how, when MP3 *did* come along, their self-interest, NIH and arrogance led them to drag their heels to such an extent that a personal computer company (which is what Apple had been up until that point) steal the market for portable audio from the company that had invented the Walkman and led it for 20 years. It's easy to forget how ludicrous that would have sounded in the mid-to-late-90s, but the market was Sony's to lose- they had the technology and the name- but they totally squandered it. They lost that market, and it was no-one's fault but their own.

It seems intuitively obvious to me, which means that it might be wrong. -- Chris Torek