It’s a little like when Concorde was cancelled to balance the books. Sure, the planes required an exorbitant amount of money to build and maintain and they cost a fortune to fly in, but in 2006 you can no longer do what you could in January 1976: flight to New York in 3.5 hours. That’s just not progress.
Much to my chagrin, I never flew on Concorde and I’ve never owned a Sony AIBO either, but as the most advanced readily available consumer robot on the planet I’m more than a bit narked to also see its future development cut for the sake of a few extra percentage points.
Of course Sony didn’t shed a tear; to the contrary it leapt up and down the other day when it announced record sales and profits after the ‘positive’ restructuring of its business – part of which was the decision to cease all AIBO and QRIO (the company’s less famous humanoid robot) sales by the end of this quarter. In its place the company said it will place more emphasis on flogging its Bravia TV line which has reputedly captured 30 per cent of the market share worldwide. Logical moves? Yes. Passionate ones? Hardly.
Can we ever really expect fat boardroom execs to realise that planes like Concorde and robots like the AIBO were not built by bean counters, but designed by visionaries with the principle of pushing technological innovation forward? Sony may now be a more profitable company from its latest move (much like British Airways and Air France post scrapping supersonic consumer flight) but it is suddenly a considerably duller one.
Perhaps is now a good time to quote Sony itself from the QRIO homepage before it disappears forever:
Throughout history, curiosity has been a source for inspirations, expanding the possibilities for the future. The fun of discovery, the joy of creation: technology that goes beyond “convenience” to touch the hearts – these have driven Sony since its founding.
Any of that sound a little hollow right now…?