Article: How Sony failed to Connect

by David Eckoff · 0 comments

A fascinating inside look at what went wrong with Sony’s Connect digital music project. A case study in how not to manage the engineering side of a digital media consumer business.

What happened at the start?

Digital media start up Kinoma had developed a specialized code base called FSK, a new system for handling multimedia files as they’re transferred online, to PCs and between handheld devices. By early 2005, Kinoma demonstrated prototype digital music software dubbed KTunes, which was based on FSK. For Sony, with a severe case of Apple envy, partnering with Kinoma could provide a way to jump-start their digital music effort.

Seemingly a good match. NOT. The project, said one high-level Sony insider, was an “unmitigated disaster.”

What went wrong?

  • FSK was not a mature technology, according to critics, and lacked most of the documentation sought by Sony programmers working with the system.
  • The platform wasn’t designed to integrate with Sony’s existing Web or commerce systems
  • FSK wasn’t based on the HTML or XML standards used by traditional Internet applications, so it required significant work to build almost any feature.
  • Relations between the core Sony programmers and Kinoma were poor, with both sides pointing fingers and assigning blame.
  • The software that finally emerged pleased few, with customers reporting critical bugs, sometimes rising to complete unusability.
  • The Connect software debacle destabilized Sony’s online music plans, and ceded 14 critical months of development and consumer awareness to Apple.

    In summary, a dysfunctional mix of politics and programming were deeply destructive to Sony’s digital music ambitions, according to this article.

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