Mossberg: Sony's Network Walkman is no iPod

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited January 2014
Well, the big guy has weighed in, and it looks like Sony will be going back to the drawing board.



Mossberg gives the Sony device its due for being smaller than the iPod and almost as light as the iPod mini, and for excellent battery life (although he notes that it's not nearly as good as Sony says it is). But the rest of the review pretty much goes like this:



Quote:

But the Walkman's biggest weakness is its lousy user interface, which is dense and confusing. The SonicStage 2 software and the Connect music store are also badly designed. This is because, for all its historic brilliance in designing hardware, Sony stinks at software.



For instance, while the Walkman's tiny screen shows lists of artists, albums and genres, it can't display a list of all your songs. And neither Katie nor I could figure out how to make it shuffle through the entire song library, even after poring through the 45-page manual. Two Sony officials gave us conflicting advice on how to do this, but their advice didn't square with the manual, which is full of discussions about things like "play units."



Looks like my prediction was right: Nice hardware, crap for software, restrictive terms of use, and an inferior interface generally. Interestingly, the only thing Mossberg didn't ding the Sony for was the obvious handedness of the design.



One of these days the analysts will figure out that you can't just whip off an answer to a good design and beat Apple. Design is hard, and Sony is too internally conflicted and too focused on hardware at the expense of software to deliver.



Who's next?

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 7
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,279member




    I knew Sony would gaffe. Do you people now realize why Sony and Apple would be a horrible fit? Sony hasn't created ONE decent UI ever. I'm with you "A"



    Next!
  • Reply 2 of 7
    Great article... thank you Mossberg!
  • Reply 3 of 7
    satchmosatchmo Posts: 2,699member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Amorph





    One of these days the analysts will figure out that you can't just whip off an answer to a good design and beat Apple. Design is hard, and Sony is too internally conflicted and too focused on hardware at the expense of software to deliver.





    Design is hard. Good design is simple and when it's simple, it has to be perfect.



    Unfortunately, the masses don't quite "get it" that good design makes things easier to use.
  • Reply 4 of 7
    amorphamorph Posts: 7,112member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by satchmo

    Design is hard. Good design is simple and when it's simple, it has to be perfect.



    Exactly. The simpler the design, the harder it was to design, generally.



    Quote:

    Unfortunately, the masses don't quite "get it" that good design makes things easier to use.



    I think they do. If you ask them that claim rephrased as a question, they might not say so, because they understand the word "design" to mean something different, but there is exactly one reason why the iPod is selling at a completely insane clip and nothing else is: Design. This is precisely because an interface design is successful to the degree that you don't have to think about it to use it, and the iPod, as a handheld device, is 100% interface.



    If anything, I think the people who don't get it are the people who know just enough to try to evaluate products by their parts, rather than their sum. One of the reasons Walt Mossberg commands such respect as a reviewer is that he always looks at how the whole thing works, and so the tone of his reviews has an uncanny way of mirroring the tone the market takes to any given product. This is precisely because while "the masses" might not understand why a good design is a good design, they certainly appreciate it. After all, consumers buy things in order to use them, so the usefulness and the ease of use of a product are absolutely critical.
  • Reply 5 of 7
    Yeah they need a little bit of Don Norman in their design team. I think it's pretty crappy that they FORCE you to convert your songs to Atrac3. While it sure sounds decent, there's nothing like choosing your format. iPod wins.
  • Reply 6 of 7
    It's my belief that the majority of PC users are so use to bad design that it's accepted as normal.
  • Reply 7 of 7
    mmmpiemmmpie Posts: 628member
    On the format wars thing, atrac is ok. Its also ok that it only plays atrac. If you consider how most consumers will use it, they will rip their cds using whatever software they need to, and in this case it will go to atrac. Its not a big deal for typical consumers.



    The hardware itself sounds like it is handicapped by a clumsy interface. The interface the works for cd, mini disc and flash doesnt scale well to hd systems. The ipod got it right, and its a hard problem to solve. Be that as it may, my typical approach is to hit shuffle and just listen away. That'll work.



    Where the Sony absolutely falls over is in the host software. The sonic stage [?] program is the same on that Sony use for their NetMDs. It is a hulking piece of junk. Ive never seen something so simple ( itunes ) made so complicated. Not only is the workflow barouque, it uses really odd terminology. 'check-in' and 'check-out' for transferring music, what??? Its like using cvs. I could handle the supplied system being impossible, if I could use software of my choosing. But Sony have the atrac format tied down tight. Im not aware of any third party software that can encode ( or even decode ) atrac music.



    It gets worse, sonic stage ( at least the version available a year ago ) was extremely difficult to install ( never got it work in XP ) and horribly unstable in 2k. Sony have made the experience of working with their acceptable hardware more painful than going to the dentist.



    The final nail in the coffin is the absence of Mac support.



    Sony have a really easy option as well. Release a plugin for itunes ( windows and mac ) that enables syncing for their hardware. Of course, that doesnt push their online music store.
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