ATRAC out of tune with consumers, Sony ditches the format

By James Wells and Matthew Henry

BERLIN: Sony has given up on its proprietary ATRAC digital music file format and will embrace open audio platforms with future Walkman players while also closing the Connect online music store, the company announced at the IFA consumer electronics show today.

Sony Europe vice president – audio marketing, Jeffry van Ede, said that as of today, Walkman ‘goes open’, meaning its former dedication to the in-house ATRAC format, which the company has always maintained delivers better sound quality than mp3 and wma, is officially over.

“The new Walkman generation in Europe will no longer support ATRAC and instead move to support the open Windows Media Audio platform, a widely used format by many music download services throughout Europe,” said van Ede.

“For video our support covers the internet’s two most used formats AVC baseline and Mpeg4 video formats, ensures walkman customers can watch their content without conversion requirements.”

Sony Australia has confirmed that the changes will be global and new players coming into the Australian market will provide support for digital rights managed wma rather than ATRAC.

The decision also means Sony’s Connect music store in Europe will close for business, due to its reliance on the digital rights managed (DRM) ATRAC format.

Van Ede said today’s consumer is demanding a portable audio player that is not only desirable, reliable and great fun to use, but delivers a complete experience through the combination of great hardware, easy to use software and rich content, and ‘all of that with complete freedom of choice’.

“Hardware has always been our specialty at Sony and an area of huge pride and that’s no different for Walkman,” he said.
“It is the whole experience that we have to consider including the customer demand for freedom. The acquisition of content and in particular music is a hot topic. What is clear to us is that consumers are demanding choice of where they buy their music, how and what they buy.

“With this in mind, we are setting off in leading an open direction with our next generation Walkman players in Europe. Whether the consumer is ripping or purchasing music for the first time or looking to use an existing media library, by offering support for non secure Windows Media Audio, MP3 and AAC, we are providing the customer with choice.”

The next generation of Walkman players will be compliant with Microsoft’s PlaysForSure certification and fully compatible with online music stores that offer Windows Media DRAM content.

The players will also sync with Windows Media Player 11 – the most installed music library software in the world.

“Additionally, our new open format allows the use of the new players without the need for application software by just dragging and dropping content in windows explorer,” said van Ede.

Sony launched a new series of Walkman players today at IFA – the A810 series builds on success of A800 Series with new open platform support, a two-inch LCD and a range of colours.

The new S series includes the S510 and S610 with digital FM tuner and video and music playback.

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