Sony Connect, ATRAC Exit the Stage
It's official: Sony's pulling the plug on its Connect music service.
Back in June, I'd posted an item here about reports of Connect's demise, reports that Sony denied at the time. Its confirmation arrived early this morning, in the 17th paragraph of a press release announcing a new lineup of Walkman digital-music players.
Instead of supporting Connect downloads, this new hardware will work with stores using Microsoft's Windows Media Audio format. They will also play MP3 and AAC files--but not Sony's proprietary ATRAC format.
Essentially, Sony just hit the Eject button on its entire digital-music strategy to date.
Customers who had bought into ATRAC and Connect can't be too happy about these developments. A Q&A on Sony's site breaks the bad news to Connect customers: They need to burn their downloads to audio CDs if they want to keep listening to them--after the copy-control machinery governing Connect purchases shuts down, starting in March of 2008, they won't be able to transfer purchases to new computers.
The demise of Connect and the closure of Google's video-download store will both wind up depriving customers of things they thought they'd purchased for good. (At least Google now says it will refund its customers' money.) Those episodes--along with last weekend's crash of Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage copy-control system--amount to the plainest exhibit possible of the risks of remote-controlled "digital rights management" systems.
It's like what my old acquaintance Jack Valenti used to say: "If you cannot protect what you own, you don't own anything!"
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