Opinion: Sony to US Market: Sayonara?
Although Sony today announced the most advanced PDA running the PalmOS, there is still pessimism in the air about Sony bringing it to the U.S. Why? This article speculates on the possible beginning of the end for Sony.
It's just gorgeous. The new Sony PEG-N700C is a marvel of design and engineering. It contains the fastest Motorola Dragonball processor, a custom DSP for ATRAC 3 compressed audio playback, Memory Stick/Magic Gate slot for storage and media, audio jack with headphones and remote control, plus a killer 320x320 pixel screen. There's even provision for video playback! What's not to love?
What's not to love is that this is a device that will probably never see the light of day outside of Japan.
For many years, we Americans have looked goggled-eyed at products created and sold in Japan which have never arrived here in the US. The most prominent example is Sharp's Zaurus line of color PDAs. Long before Microsoft's "palm-sized PCs" had color, Sharp was flogging a TFTed active-matrix color Zaurus in Japan. They even displayed it at PC Expo one year, attracting a large crowd that was ready to fling cash at them for the unit. Yet it never made it outside of Japan.
A similar fate seems to be in store for Sony's new PEG-N700.
Let's review Sony's Clié actions to date.
The PEG-300 is Sony's monochrome Clié. It was introduced first in Japan, then released in the US. Just this week, it was finally released in the UK.
The PEG-500 is Sony's (first) color Clié. It was never sold outside of Japan, despite the clamor here in the States for a Clié with color. This was actually a good move by Sony because the color screen was inadequate in many respects. Unlike our generally-accepted idea of a color screen having a bright backlight (or transflective with sidelighting), the Sony color Clié screen was a moribund technology that seemed to resemble a standard PalmOS monochrome screen with colors added by crayon. No crisp white background; it had an ugly greenish-tannish background. It would have never sold here. It is quite remarkable that it sold in Japan at all.
Now Sony has introduced the startling PEG-N700. But without any clear-cut plan to sell it in the US.
Sony is obviously committed to their Memory Stick standard. They had the first mass-market PalmOS device with mass storage built-in (although the folks at TRG were the first with mass storage, they were not marketing to the general public, instead concentrating on corporate solutions; and Handspring, although offering storage, actually provided a new interface slot). The Clié fit into Sony's overall Memory Stick strategy, in which Memory Sticks are used in their digital cameras (still and moving video), audio players, notebook and desktop computers. But outside of Japan, Memory Stick has not had much of an impact. This was Strike One against Sony.
Strike Two came very shortly (in fact, within days!) after Sony introduced their first mono Clié. Palm Computing announced that all future Palms would standardize around the Secure Digital (SD) card standard for expanded memory. This was a blow to Sony's aspirations, no doubt, but it was also history repeating itself -- VHS vs Beta. Because the prime mover behind is SD is none other than Sony's old nemesis, Matsushita, which beat Sony into the ground in the great VHS-vs-Betamax VCR wars.
Earlier today, in exchanging email with Jeff Kirvin (who runs the excellent Writing On Your Palm website), we hit upon the possible reason why Sony will never introduce the PEG-N700 here in the States. And while this is very bad news indeed for Clié afficionados (who are many and vocal), it is perhaps the best possible news for Palm owners and makes perfect sense as the Strike Three that takes Sony out of the American market.
Strike Three is that it is entirely possible that the new color Palm m505 will itself contain a screen with 320x320 resolution as found on the new Sony Clié PEG-N700C.
This makes perfect sense. If the m505 were to still contain a standard 160x160 pixel screen, Sony would be mad to keep their new Clié in Japan. And yet this time I think Sony knows something the rest of us don't: that aside from being beaten in the storage war (SD vs Memory Stick), it will find itself more than matched in terms of screen technology. And what's even worse, for Sony, the brand name on that new screen will be Palm, a name known by millions of PDA owners (whereas the usual response of people towards Clié in retail stores is, "I didn't know Sony made a PDA...").
All of this explains Sony's past lack of enthusiasm in supporting even the mono Clié in the US. There is, for example, no comparison between Sony Japan's website for Clié and Sony America's website for Clié. One could in fact argue that Sony America doesn't even have a website for Clié. Sony Japan's site provides tutorials, user experiences, and detailed explanations for their software upgrades. Sony America's site is a pathetic, anemic creature that is near-autistic in its responsiveness to customers who have invested their time, money, and passion in their Cliés. It is, bluntly, a disgrace.
Concommitant with this lack of web presence and customer support is the lack of even basic peripherals for existing Sony Clié owners. A modem has never been released, either in serial port clip-on form nor in Memory Stick form factor. Even something as basic as hard shells, something designed to catch the eye and make people ask Clié users, "What is that?!", have never been released outside of Japan. Until very recently, Sony Japan's website touted blue and red translucent flip covers for the benefit of Japanese Clié owners. American owners have been up the creek.
Word has even now come from Targus that they have no plans to support the existing Clié with their folding Stowaway keyboard. Like the recently-dumped Compaq Aero 1550 Pocket PC, Clié owners must make do with the non-foldable (yet still useful) iBiz KeySync keyboard.
And even with the enthusiasm surrounding today's introduction of the new Clié PEG-N700C, Sony has been strangely silent on the subject of the existing monochrome Clié. Do they plan to add a faster Dragonball to it? Or will the new PEG-N700C, if it does indeed wend its way to our shores, be accompanied by a monochrome "N700"?
The weight of these actions on Sony's part can only lead to an awful yet inevitable conclusion: The Clié is most likely destined to be abandoned by Sony here in the US. The current monochrome version is most likely it and we will never see the likes of the PEG-N700C on these shores. Spend your money accordingly and carefully.
(c) Copyright 2001 by Mike Cane. All Rights Reserved.
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The memory stick argument seems strange - first of all, they aren't committed to the memory stick standard, they ARE the memory stick standard. It's not an issue of whether they want to go with memory stick or SD, they are going with memory stick on the idea that all the Sony devices will work together. There are TONS of memory stick products in the US, and Sony is not going to give up the standard because of one little handheld. And the announcement that SD would be on all Palms isn't new, and doesn't come as a shock to Sony - it's not like Palm was ever going to go with memory stick, and Sony has always known that they would have a proprietary standard for the Clie - it's all part of their plan.
There are lots of products that are not available in the US, but interestingly, few of them are Sony. Most of the products that are only available in Japan are ones that are targeted more exclusively to Japanese trends - in particular high-end mini-notebooks, and super small gadgets and cell phones that work on japanese networks. Sony has the marketing muscle to promote products, and they have shown they are dedicated to bringing the Clie to the US. Palm is most popular in the US, and the primary Palm market is here. Sony knows that, and while it will do well with the sales in Japan, the US is too large a market to pass up.
Sony is the Microsoft of Japan. Just because the m500 series is coming from Palm doesn't mean that Sony is going to run scared. Can't you see that this announcement is intended to put Palm on the defensive? How many people are going to buy an m505 if there isn't a 320x320 screen, there is no sound, and there are no SD modules to make up for it? Quite a few, granted, but fewer than if Sony hadn't set the bar a heck of a lot higher with the new Clie.
The PEG700 will come to the US. I wouldn't be surprised if there was an announcement soon after the announcement of the m505.
Syncplicity. Redefining Simple. www.cognitiveroot.com
RE: Another opinion
I would be as happy as anyone else to see this unit here. Even with ATRAC 3 compression (which MiniDisc adherents claim is superior to MP3, and they make good points too), and the conversion of files to it, I'd rather have this than, say, a Visor with a module.
RE: Another opinion
Sony has a history of entering a hostile market, and dominating when they apply themselves. Look at the Playstation - they whooped Sega and Nintendo in sales over the last few years. Look at their notebook brand - they went from a 'joke' player, to one of the top 5 notebook vendors in a matter of a few years.
The new Clie could very well spell the beginning of something great for handhelds - maybe it means that Sony is finally commited to the category. Look out Handspring & Microsoft !
Annoucing that because Sony has released an excellent product, that they must be thinking of abandoning the line in the U.S., is just silly.
RE: Another opinion
I think if they really wanted to take over the US, they'd release this Clie as partner to the PlayStation 2 as the rival to the upcoming Gameboy Advance/GameCube duo. They could make and sell their own games for the Clie that have special links to PlayStation 2 games. What could better kill 3 birds with 1 stone than a device that appeals to the corporate man, the video game player, and the music fan?
Lets face it, with Sony's raw muscle, they could make it happen in America, but from the start they decided not to. Its not like Sony to make a half-assed move into the market like the Clie.
RE: Another opinion
While Palm might have the same resolution as the sony, they will NEVER pursue multimedia like sony has. Palm would be wise to ENCOURAGE Sony to enter the US market with this product. It will cause many who are moving to PPC to stay with palm os. Many who have gone to ppc will come back. Palm OS has the software advantage. One device with Multimedia capability would severely wound PPC. This segment of palms market would be Sonys to OWN.
Also with regard to memory stick, true it is not widely adapted in the US. But the incredible popularity of a device like this would be a way to introduce memory stick to the masses here. This would spur sales of their other products that use the mstick.
Then again you very well might be right.
Pity for us.
Pity for Sony, an opportunity lost.
My bet is that they are waiting for memory stick peripherals
RE: My bet is that they are waiting for memory stick peripherals
Nate is right
"Can't you see that this announcement is intended to put Palm on the defensive? How many people are going to buy an m505 if there isn't a 320x320 screen, there is no sound, and there are no SD modules to make up for it?"
The timing here is no coincidence. Look at all the forums, all the people who were ready to part with cash imediately upon the 505s release who are doing an about face.
I expect that around the time of the 505 release we will also get some indication from sony about when this puppy will begin shipping outside Japan.
My guess is that its about the quantity that would need to be made in order to satisfy the HUGE initial demand. Thus the initial role out only in Japan. They dont want to be the "Ipaq" of Palm OS by not being able to meet the demand (am I going to now hear it from the "dont slam PPC" guy.)
But those of us who were ready to buy the 505 sight unseen have something to think about.
This news(as well as the "edge" release)also adds validity to the rumor that the 505 WILL be released next week.
Stupid Wild Ass Guess
RE: Stupid Wild Ass Guess
Sony will never be able to meet demand
US, faster than you can say Playstation 2. :) The worst part of it all is that Sony is clearly
quite capable of meeting production.
Someone at Sony better do some serious market research -- I'm willing to bet that they won't
even be able to meet demand in Japan. IIRC, the old color Clie sold out in Japan in hours. The
first Aibo robotic dogs that were brought to the US were sold out in under an hour. And the
Playstation 2 is STILL a hard find (although the prices have come down to earth again).
Can anyone say $5000 Color Clie on eBay? :)
I think the Clie is headed here, but it will be a LONG road ahead if they can't meet demand in
Japan. First day of pre-orders will be a good indicator.
1) All closed systems eventually die. VHS beat out Beta (even though Beta was better) because of market penetration. PCs beat out Macs (even though the Mac was better) because of market penetration. The memory stick is doomed because it is a Sony, closed system and not a standardized, open-market system. If you think otherwise, I've got a couple of old Beta machines I'll sell ya, cheap. Sony's made this mistake before.
2) Remember the recent remarks from Palm's CEO. The company wants to move towards producing "razor blades rather than razors." (devices being the razors). The comment stems from the concept that software sales are much more profitable than equipment sales. The company wants out of the equipment business. It wants to be more Microsoft-ish as opposed to being more Dell-ish. Notice that Microsoft doesn't make any PocketPCs. Don't be too surprized at all if the new Palm is not all that awe-inspiring. It's probably a device that the company is using to introduce some new technology, but it won't be intended as the end-all-be-all of the hand-held world. Palm will probably want to show off its new razor blades, not sell you another razor. There's little profit in selling the razor.
3) Remember that these devices are going to be good for one year. Palm will introduce the software to run on ARM or StrongARM (or something much faster than a Dragonball) in 2002. That's next year folks!
RE: Some Thoughts
RE: Some Thoughts
#1 Memory stick format/interface is actually about as open as it gets for a so-called "closed standard", Lexar (www.digitalfilm.com) is making their memory stick, as well as several other manufacturers are licensed to make memory stick type devices.
#2 Memory stick storage are actually CHEAPER MB for MB when compared to Compact Flash. (I know, because I use both of them, you HAVE to get cheap if you want to compete in the digicam storage media market.)
RE: Some Thoughts
As for MemoryStick vs. SecureDigital cards, I think Sony made some mistakes with the initial licensing agreements and got few true adopters when MemorySticks were first introduced. The appearance of SD cards woke them up and they now have more reasonable pricing on their licensing fees. While Sony still maintains control of the spec as opposed to an organization with paying members, actually making MemoryStick products doesn't look too bad these days. The question is, is it too late?
See the pricing for yourself:
RE: Some Thoughts
not a factor that gets mentioned much -- the format war
is played as if it were all in the marketing domain.
However, you're wrong when you say the Beta format
didn't die. It did. The professional BetaCAM format
is not the same animal (I think it even pre-dated
I don't agree
Still, I think you guys may be jumping the gun a bit. Don't forget, this new Clie was announced for the Japanese market. Just because of the Internet, that's how we all knew about it so fast. Think about how this would have been during the pre-internet times - this discussion wouldn't have taken place at all!
I say, let Sony do what it needs to do cause I'm sure they're doing what's best for themselves. As far as we are concerned, let's just wait and see what happens...
"The only constant in life is death"
Sony, on the other hand, wanted to create a completely different Palm from it's form factor to it's uses. They stressed multimedia over everyday organizer functions. In my opinion, they were over ambitious with the Clie 1. The reason that the Clie 1 was so slow to make it (and the color Clie never made it at all) to US markets was not because Sony didn't want sale it here, but Sony realize that the Clie 1 did not live up to their ambitions and was a failure by the reaction in Japan.
So Sony went back to the "drawing board" and complete over-haul the Clie 1, learning from their weakness and mistakes to create the Clie 2. I think that they did a very good job with the second generation Clie, implamenting major changes and improvements. If you compare Clie's evolution to other first to second generation Palm handhelds, you could really see to amount of improvements that Sony has invested in the Clie 2.
The Clie 1 was Sony's first Palm handheld, therefore, Sony is bound to make some mistakes with the Clie 1. Sony has shown that they are committed to improve the Clie line with the introduction of the Clie 2, and they apparently have done a great job, implamenting many innovations and improvements that are sorely needed. Give Clie 2 and Sony a chance.
I'm hoping that they will release an English version of the Clie 2 soon.
Color Clie Not Coming to US Shores
which I think should be part of the license agreement with Palm. For example, Kyocera could have confined ther Palm OS based phone to Japan only. Fortunately, they didn't.
But probably Palm will not include such provision since other licensees (Sony, Handspring, HandEra), could design better devices than palm is currently offering (as we all know already!) therefore causing a serious threat to Palm. Imagine a Palm OS based PDA with capabilities like the Pocket PC not to mention the 320x320 screen resolution, this will surely send Palm and Microsoft running for their money!
I think Sony should really make a US version of the Color Clie because competition brings about improvement.
But- at this point in time it is pure SPECULATION!
I am keeping my fingers crossed for this device. If Sony does not release it here... they are really really stupid. IMO...
New Clie is coming to US
"A Sony representative said that the new Clie will launch in the United States this year, with an announcement expected sometime around midyear. "
So we are indeed going to see a Englist version of the new Clie.
However, even with this limited pallette, the increased resolution of this screen spells the doom of the Franklin eBookman. The PEG-N700 is a *dream* machine for reading ebooks. (And now if Microsoft would just release a PalmOS version of MS Reader...)
As for MS Reader... Well, don't hope for a MS version, I rather have some PalmOS software producer (be it a company or someone work on their home computer) to come out with one... :)
have 16-bit color?
Sony CLIé and US Market
Here's the facts : On March 8th, Sony announced at a press conference in Germany that the CLIé line will be sold in Europe from June 2001.
RE: Sony CLIé and US Market
TRG is regarded highly for their quality, innovation, and commitment to their product line. But mass market they are not until their units are in retail stores.
Sony will bring Clie to the US
From the article,
"The new unit will go on sale April 7 in Japan, although the company plans to start taking orders on its Japanese Web site next week. A Sony representative said that the new Clie will launch in the United States this year, with an announcement expected sometime around midyear."
There goes the whole theory...
RE: Sony will bring Clie to the US
OK, let's restrict it to Sony, then: They showed a Memory Stick still video camera in Asia. And that's all they did. Show it. Can you buy it? Not even the Japanese can... and where are the other Memory Stick peripherals? Hell, let's make it simple: where's the *modem*? That doesn't even have to a Memory Stick!
RE: Sony will bring Clie to the US
Sony's Lost Format Wars...
Just wondering, 'cause I'd like to film him/her with my 8mm Sony HandyCam!
RE: Sony's Lost Format Wars...
I think it might be just the opposite. This whole discussion about higher screen resolution, music and video playback, more memory, expansion slots inevitably makes people think about the Pocket PC. Every single news item I read about the Clie references the iPAQ or Pocket PCs in the general. They alraedy have this. You can buy them right now in stores.
I believe many people will hear of the great new color palm pdas go into a store and the only devices that match their expectations might be Pocket PCs and they end up buying them.
RE: Sony's Lost Format Wars...
A bunch of people want lots of function alright, but they often don't want to pay more for a huge brink to weight down their pants...
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I pretty much agree...
I just hope the m505 will release with a higher resolution. That'd be sweet.