Friday, February 17, 2006

Forrester Research: UMD -- Another Proprietary Sony Standard Hits The Wall

As I mentioned earlier about the sluggish demand for UMD movies for the Sony PSP, Paul Jackson at Forrester Research guest posts at his colleagues' Devices, Media, And The Future Of Everything blog about whether the proprietary UMD format is going the way of other doomed Sony formats/standards, such as Betamax, Video 2000, Minidisk, High-8, Digital compact cassette, DAT.

Jackson asks "Why is UMD failing as a movie format, why is Sony so often the loser in these format wars, and what can it do about it?" He writes:

UMD is too niche, too limited, and too expensive. UMD movies, even for old films typically retail for $20-$30, the same price or more than similar (more feature-packed retail DVDs). In addition, UMDs can only be used in the Sony PSP, and even then the PSP can’t (yet) output to a TV screen. Consumers are not going to pay for the same movie again just so they can watch it (once or twice) when traveling
Why has Sony had a number of very high-profile failures in the format space? Jackson thinks that while Sony's engineers develop "fantastic new technology" their "marketers and competitors destroy that vision." It's probably also due to the fact that "Sony wants to OWN the format because the format owner has an early advantage with compatible devices, it controls how content reaches consumers, and it usually reaps nice license revenues."

Jackson points out that:
Sony has succeeded in format wars where it controls the whole value-chain; numerous Memorystick formats, UMD for games and Playstation / Playstation 2 game disks. Several formats have also worked because of backward compatibility – Playstation disks in Playstation 2, Memorystick Duo in Memorystick devices. These formats have also succeeded because the end user device and consumer experience is more important than the sliver of plastic it’s delivered on.
In other words, UMDs are good for games because the PSP is primarily a gaming device and folks tend to play games over and over, but not so good for movies because most people already have a DVD player and don't want to duplicate their collection to watch something only 1 or 2 times....