Sony Dumps ATRAC & Connect, Adds WMA Walkmans

The King of Proprietary suffers again for going against the crowd.

The world used VHS and Sony introduced BetaMax, Philips used 14bit CD samples and Sony introduced 16bit samples, then MiniDisc, then MDLP, then Hi8, then ATRAC, then Memory Stick and all its offshoots, then Blu-ray.

Yep, the King of Proprietary gets its nickname from me for a reason and most of the time it refuses to learn painful lesson after painful lesson after painful lesson.

Today class was resumed yet again too as Sony has confirmed it will be closing its Connect Music Store, dumping the ATRAC format and the much maligned SonicStage software in the process and moving over to the open Windows Media platform. DRM free AAC and MP3 are also on the menu.

As for Connect users (which exist apparently – but why?) they have been told the store will close in March 2008 and Sony advises all its customers to burn purchased music to CD and re-rip them into MP3s to remove the DRM and enable long term future use. Ouch. Sony will also be providing free MP3 converter software to customers to convert any original CDs they may have ripped into ATRAC.

If you’re annoyed right now, you should have known better.

On the upside however the company did introduce two Walkman lines (as its ranges aren’t confused enough already?!), the NWZ-A810 (right) and the NWZ-S610 (left). Nothing particularly revolutionary going on here with both offering mid-sized QVGA 2in and 1.8in screens, button rather than touchscreen control and Sony’s usual exorbitant battery life: 8 ½ hours and 9 ½ hours video respectively and 33 hours audio.

Interestingly, ATRAC support is immediately dumped with support instead for WMA, DRM-free AAC and MP3, plus Jpeg, AVC and Mpeg4. Sizes go up to 8GB and prices start from $120 for a 2GB S610 and $140 for a 2GB A815.

Expect these models to be stomped into the ground by the recent lines from Samsung, Creative and SanDisk let alone whatever Apple has planned for 5 September.

So goodbye ATRAC, goodbye Connect, goodbye SonicStage – time for you to take your places alongside BetaMax, MiniDisc, HDLP and Hi8. MemoryStick and Blu-ray may soon be along to join you. You will not be missed.

Connect Music Store
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