Sony ditches ATRAC, will close Sony Connect

new walkmansAs Sony executives must have said recently, out with the old, in with the new.

Sony is ditching its proprietary audio format, ATRAC, in favor of a variety of formats, including Windows Media Audio, MP3, and advanced audio coding (AAC). Sony immediately announced new Walkman models, all of which support WMA, MP3, and AAC formats. Two players, the NWZ-A810 and the NWZ-S610, are the first U.S. units to also play video (MPEG-4 and AVC) and display photographs.

Sony’s proprietary format and closed music-hardware platform was a sore spot with consumers, who had the choice of Apple’s iPod or a large number of WMA-compatible PlaysForSure devices. While the iPod also uses a proprietary DRM (FairPlay), people could still play MP3 and AAC files.

sony connectSony also announced at the International Funkausstellung (IFA), the world’s largest consumer electronics fair in Berlin, that it’s closing its online digital music store, Sony Connect, no earlier than March 2008. Sony’s market share among online music merchants is dwarfed by Rhapsody, eMusic, Urge, and Napster.

“With these new Walkman players, Sony has widened its digital music environment to support Windows Media technology,” Sony said in a statement. “This gives customers greater flexibility in their music software approach.”

Sony Connect, launched in 2004, was dogged by suspect press almost from the start. USA Today called the downloading service a “flop” in May 2004, saying it was a “shockingly un-slick maiden voyage” for Sony.

Sony posted a Connect Music Service Phase Out FAQ to explain why it’s closing the store and what customers can expect. Sony’s SonicStage software, used to interface with Connect, and older Walkman hardware will continue to support ATRAC, but the company says people who purchased DRM-protected content should rip their music to CDs and then re-rip it to MP3, WMA, or AAC if they want to play it on new Walkmans.

Consumers may also use their music in SonicStage libraries and on older ATRAC Walkmans afterl Sony Connect closes. Existing libraries are not at risk, Sony said in the FAQ, but it’s recommended that customers archive their music libraries to CDs — indicating that Sony may not support Connect indefinately.

The one part of Connect that is not affected is the eBook service for the Sony Reader. The restructuring allows Sony to turn the focus of its remaining 80 employees to its PlayStation brand — and possibly release video and music to the PS3 and PlayStation Portable through the PlayStation store.

last100 is edited by Steve O'Hear. Aside from founding last100, Steve is co-founder and CEO of Beepl and a freelance journalist who has written for numerous publications, including TechCrunch, The Guardian, ZDNet, ReadWriteWeb and Macworld, and also wrote and directed the Silicon Valley documentary, In Search of the Valley. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

10 Responses to “Sony ditches ATRAC, will close Sony Connect”

  1. Decklane says:

    Wow, it takes Sony a long time to open their eyes. I bet literally millions of people picked up their players thinking “this looks pretty cool”, but put them back down in favour of an ipod or WMA player because of them trying to force their format/software on them. I know I’ve done that many times in the past.

  2. Rick says:

    I ‘ve purchased a lot of albums in Sony’s ATRAC. They should make the albums I purchased available to me in the new format free of charge. I’m extremely upset.

  3. Mong says:

    Why rick? Your albums still play dont’ they. Should they replace your vynl while they’re at it.

  4. Kerry says:

    I don’t understand why ATRAC has been ditched as if there’s something wrong with it. I’ve come to depend on it wholeheartedly. Almost four years ago, I set up Sonic Stage in my computer. I’ve loaded many of my CD’s into the format and burned many ATRAC CDR’s to play on my Sony boombox at work. I like having 33 hour CDR’s, and even 6 hour ATRAC CDR’s for my Sony car stereo. After making many ATRAC CDR’s, I’ve sold or gave away many of my CD’s.

    Now I hear that ATRAC is discontinued. So what happens in the future when I no longer have my Sony ATRAC CD players? Will all my ATRAC burned CDR’s become useless? Or will they still be playable in any future Sony CD players although ATRAC won’t be mentioned as an option?

    I need to know this. I’ve made a huge investment in how I’ve incorporated ATRAC into how I listen to music. I’ve sacrificed many of my own CD’s and put my confidence in Sony to always have my ATRAC CDR’s playable in future Sony units that I may purchase.

  5. Anna says:

    What i really want to know is how do you actually play ATRAC CDs?? I bought a HiMD player last year and it makes really great recordings but i cant find a way to listen to the music i have recorded other than to play the minidisc?? Can anyone let me know? thanks

  6. Kerry says:

    Hi Anna,
    To play ATRAC CDR’s, you’ll first have to make ATRAC CDR’s. When Sony was selling ATRAC CD players, the unit would come with a CD-ROM called SonicStage which is a program that you would set up in your computer. Once you set it up, you could load your mp3’s and you own CD’s into a file and then select one of 6 ATRAC burning formats. They are as follows: 256 kps (6 hours), 132 kps (12 hours), 105 kps (15 hours), 66 kps (24 hours), 64 kps (24 1/2 hours), and 48 kps (33 hours). If you wanted to put all your music on to one CDR, you would select a kps format that would hold all your inputted music. You can even make separate folders to categorize your music on one CDR. I’ve made about 100 ATRAC CDR’s of various themes from blues to pop, progressive to IDM Ambient Dub, and discs of a the albums from one artist (I’ve made a great Elton John CDR (9 1/2 Hours) which is fun to shuffle play. Tracks the run together on the CD can be combined as one track so that they play together without abruptedly cutting away. For example: The Beatles “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “With a Little help From My Friends” are two separate tracks on the original CD. With SonicStage, these two tracks can be combined as one. Well Anna, if you have any more questions, just ask.

  7. ian baker says:

    i have my own cd atrac discs, and i want to play them. i’ve loaded the sonic stage programe to open them, but it doesn’t want to play them. Help thnaks

  8. Anne Ahira says:

    Got same problem like Ian here! Anyone can help? Thanks!

  9. Antin says:

    So do I, Ahira. Is your problem solved? Thanks.

  10. yes,i got some problem like anna .. anyone can help me…plizzz

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