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An Open Letter to Sony
Author: Michael Ahlf 
Date: January 30th 2007

Dear Sirs and Madams, the owners of Sony, the stockholders of Sony, the employees of Sony.

An open letter to you, from a former Sony fan, a Sony product owner, and someone saddened by the damage done in the past year to Sony's brand.

I own a number of Sony products. A library of games for the Sony Playstation and PS2. A classic Walkman. A Sony television. And finally, a PSP.

For the most part, I have been relatively happy with these purchases (with the exception of the PSP, and I'll get to that later). But I submit to you that even after these purchases, your treatment of the consumer market and in particular your arrogance regarding the PSP and PS3 have harmed Sony, perhaps irreparably.

First, let me take on the destruction of the world's best-known importer, Lik-Sang, and the fact that Sony Europe went about killing the company over the objections of the consumer market. Sony Europe may have thought this was a good idea; Sony America might have lauded it; but the consumers who saw it happen are that much less likely to purchase Sony components because of it.

And then there was the rootkit disaster - when Sony America thought, in their hubris, that they had the right to damage customer property in the name of "copyright protection. How arrogant you were, how evil you showed yourselves to be.

The PS3 launch - with ridiculously low numbers available at launch, and then customers finding out that even less were shipped than promised originally - was like something out of a bad novel. Worse yet was the fact that the vaunted "backwards compatibility" from the PS3 to earlier Sony games didn't work right ; there were graphical issues and compatibility problems all over.

With the PSP, you did something even worse. You actively, and for quite a long time, worked to make the console less than it was. Time after time, "system updates" were forced on the end user that were unnecessary to play the games they were included with. Time after time, the idea that people other than Sony might want to write programs on it went right past you in your arrogance and paranoia. People were going to find a way to pirate your games. People find ways to pirate games for every single console on the planet; there were pirated game copies even in the days of the Atari 2600, the NES, and the Sega Master System when cartridges were the medium of storage. Your paranoia ensured not that more PSP owners were buying your games, but that less people bought the PSP and that those who did own a PSP actively avoided your games for fear of wrecking other functions on the console they purchased.

Today, Sony's position in the market is not of a trusted company. Your position in the television market might still be that of a company whose products are a bit more pricey, but worth the extra cost in quality. Your position in the gaming market is not so; it is of an arrogany, conceited, self-assured bully. Two years ago, you were the best company on the block. Today, you're the object of derision. Your PR people bragged about how people would take a second job to buy a PS3, but instead, the vast majority of the market are sitting on their couches with an Xbox360 or a Wii, merrily forgetting that once upon a time they were Sony fans.

Solid Snake is not going to turn this around, Sony. PS3 games at $70 and "classic game" downloads that cost $15 (plus $600 for the PS3 console, $250 for the PSP, and $100 for a decent sized memory stick) are not going to turn this around. You could easily have released a software converter to take Playstation discs and move them to the PSP, and sold it for $10-15, and PSP owners with an old Playstation collection would have purchased it willingly. You could easily have left the PSP available for third-party home programmers to write free programs for, and watched people tote their PSP around as it turned into a datebook, or a better media player, or any of many other functions.

Instead, you have behaved arrogantly, and the response from the community of Sony hardware owners has been to fix it themselves. The PSP running 3.03 "Open Edition" firmware is infinitely superior to the PSP running Sony's official, crippled 3.03 firmware. I personally know of no PSP owners who still use your official updates.

If you want to see the PSP thrive in the modern world, get off your high horses, admit you were wrong, and open up the firmware rather than giving us incredibly crappy advertising and software "updates" designed to break the systems.

Got Comments? Send 'em to Michael (at)!
Alternatively, post 'em right here for everyone to see!






Open Letter to Sony

Added:  Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf


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