PS4, The Return of Sony’s Deaf Ears

PS4 Front
Attribution: Sony

Sony is an odd corporation in that I hold two positions about the company.  I like their hardware division.  It puts out good and sometime even innovative products.  However, their media division is often consumer hostile and its management control freaks.  Looking through its history there are a long line of things preventing consumers from using their products in unapproved ways.

Enter the PS4. It was nice to see Sony releasing an FAQ of its capabilities prior to launch.  So I read it hoping it would be a good candidate for a media center.  I like playing music and podcasts and only dabble in console gaming.  The previous incarnation, the PS3, is the only media player I have used without a horrendous U.I.  Since mine broke last year, I thought I’d wait until the next gen system came out and upgrade my listening experience. 

Much to my surprise:

2013-11-06 05_23_00-PS4_ The Ultimate FAQ – North America – PlayStation.Blog

2013-11-06 05_23_24-PS4_ The Ultimate FAQ – North America – PlayStation.Blog

Ever since the PS One, Sony’s game systems as well as DVD and Blu-ray players could play CDs.  I cannot think of any consumer electronics with a disk drive not being able to play one (as long as the CD fit.)  Obviously the hardware is there, they don’t want to enable it.

Not being ale to play MP3s is also weird choice given the habits of consumers over the last half decade.  The reason these music files are popular is the ability to play them on any device.  Even I have moved digital, forgoing disks in favor of convenience.

My conclusion is the media division got involved with hardware design.  This is likely because consumers would have used it to consume pirated material (it also cannot play video files) and force users to pay for their approved Music Unlimited service or apps like Pandora.  In this way they want to control the user experience like Apple, Amazon or to a lessor extent, Microsoft.   Too bad they are going about it in the wrong way.

There is a subtle difference in Sony’s philosophy.  It crosses the line into consumer hostile territory, which it has times treaded in the past.  Limiting usage choice simply because people might not use your services and not for technical reasons is anti-consumer.  It artificially limits the system to hard core gamers, a bad move given the rise of competition from other devices, namely phones.

Unfortunately, Sony does not have the market clout to do this.  It doesn’t have the brand cache of Apple to micromanage their ecosystem, the breadth of content Amazon provides, or the polish the Microsoft brings to its software (most Sony apps are poorly made.)

I wanted to like the PS4 and hoped it would be the media center of the future.  While Microsoft’s gaming systems offer a good music experience, but I don’t want to pay a yearly subscription fee to Xbox Gold to be shown ads. I guess I will wait for the SteamBox unless the Ouya improves it user experience.