After finding that Apple had a huge marketshare in portable music players, Sony, who revolutionized the portable music market 25 years back decided to step in. So they introduced the Sony Network Walkman which got many things right. The Sony device is smaller and has a much better battery life. But they decided to screw up in the most important area, the format of the songs. They decided not to support any of the popular music formats, including MP3.
One major downside of the new Walkman is that it can’t play MP3 files, or any of the other standard formats. It can play back only a proprietary Sony format called ATRAC3, or a variation called ATRAC3plus. This means that, when you transfer your MP3 files to the new Walkman, Sony’s PC software must laboriously convert them first into ATRAC3 files. Sony claims it designed the player this way because ATRAC3 produces superior sound, and because it has features that extend battery life.
For my test, I used a very modest collection of 431 standard MP3 files. SonicStage 2 refused to transfer 15 of the files, posting a nonsensical error message. After that, it took an agonizingly long two hours and 13 minutes to transfer the remaining 416 tracks to the Walkman. By contrast, Apple’s iTunes software transferred all 431 songs to an iPod in about four minutes.
Will this kill the iPod ? I don’t think so.