In the not-so-distant past, Sony was arguably one of the most trusted companies in the world. Well, at least it doesn’t seem that distant for some of the older ones among us. While growing up, Sony was the symbol of high quality products – the company that all tech companies aimed to be like. Even the great Mr. Jobs envied them and tried his best emulate the same with Apple. There was nothing wrong with saying you only bought Sony. The word ‘fanboy’ did not exist and even if it did, everyone would agree that they made quality products and arguably the best products.
Disclosure: at this point I am afraid of Mr. T jumping in an calling me a foo and saying SonyFTW! but I shall persevere.
I have a few ideas on why and how it all started to go wrong. Since I don’t have any real proof I will just limit this to my own experiences and anecdotal stories from friends and people I have a close relationship to.
In the early days of MP3, Napster and illegal music sharing, SONY decided that they had to protect their music business which was a perfectly understandable move. But in order to do this they released MP3 players that would only work with their own (shitty) software. What a nightmare it was to work with those! That alone was a crap move but we could understand the decision. In theory it was fool-proof, Sony would provide you with the software on a CD and all you had to do was install it. The problem was that if you lost the CD with the software on you could not get it anywhere else. A total dick move that will forever be ingrained on my mind. Even today you cannot recover tracks from those products because SONY will not give you the software for it.
Sony VAIO was my big hope for awesome computing. They had some OK designs and carried the weight of the brand on their shoulders so surely this would be a top product range. Sadly, it wasn’t. The hardware problems with VAIOs were numerous including overheating and poor craftsmanship. No! SONY building a sub-par hardware? Not possible! And yet it was. VAIO owning friends were complaining about it, as were people on the web, and my faith in the SONY brand suffered another small dent. But at this stage, it was nothing that couldn’t be fixed.
The next problem with the VAIO was the bloat. SONY decided to pollute their products with bloatware. Why? Why in the world would a firm that prided itself of quality do this? Money is the only answer that comes to mind but I doubt any amount of money that could be made from the bloat would be enough to jeopardise your brand. So the question still stands. Why?
The first realisation that I was beginning to give up on SONY was when someone I used to work for had to downgrade from Windows Vista to Windows XP and wiped out the recovery sector on their VAIO laptop. I had experience with other manufacturers and thought it would not be a problem since they would send me the disk and if not for free they would just charge the postage.
Ha! So naïve! After talking to a number of different people at SONY/VAIO, for an unreasonably long time for such a simple solution, I was informed that they would send me the installation disks for £50! We are not talking about a cheap low-end laptop from a cheap, low-end manufacturer who could use this to make a little extra money. No, we are talking about a laptop that, at the time of purchase, was close to £2,000! That’s Apple-esque money, but the difference is that Apple would have probably given me a new laptop (if I could manage to get a ‘Genius’ appointment in London). In the interest of full disclosure that money was not even mine but that is beside the point, it is a matter of principle. Because of a couple of installation DVDs worth less than a few pounds at most, I came to the decision I could not buy SONY products any more.
That infamous VAIO disc incident happened at the exact moment I was deciding which new console to buy – XBOX 360 or Playstation 3. It was during that arduous call to SONY/VAIO “customer service” that I made up my mind and decided that Microsoft’s XBOX would be the console I would gift myself for Christmas. For the sake of a couple of installation discs that other manufacturers would send out for minimal cost, Sony had lost a PS3 sale. In fact it isn’t just one PS3 sale, their apparent lack of concern about customers and their customers’ experience has lead me to write this article and ensured I have steered a number of others away from SONY VAIOs and other SONY products, with the sole intention of protecting them from the shambolic products and services I had witnessed so far. A year or so later I discovered that the PS3 was also overheating and having issues…what a shock!
The Xperia Z1
From that point on I gave up on SONY and was happy with Nexus offerings for my mobiles and Apple Mac Pros for laptops. But then SONY revealed the Xperia Z1 and my geek antenna was slightly raised. The prospect of a high spec phone with an awesome camera and above all full waterproofing piqued my interest slightly, but as it was a SONY product I sort of ignored it for a while.
That was until my fellow geekpower.co.uk author Ash decided to buy a Z1 and started saying good things about it. If you know us and read our stuff, you’ll know that we view things with a very critical eye and expect the best out of all of our gadgets. And for those who have read his posts, you have probably realised that Ash can be the pickiest one of us all! But from his initial accounts it seemed like SONY had actually hit the spot with the Xperia Z1. The skin was not too bulky – as with other manufacturers – and you could get a very near vanilla Android experience. Adding that to the fact that it had a great camera and was waterproof and I could not believe it. Could SONY be on its way to glory again?
I went into a phone shop, had a play with it and it was indeed snappy without too much bloatware. SONY was finally back on track…or so I thought. Despite all that was mentioned above I really thought this was THE best phone available, so I took the leap and bought a Z1. Surprising I know, but I should note that all of this happened in the first week of its release – we are geeks after all and we love a new gadget. After using it for a month and a half, I noticed some camera issues, and so did Ash. Even worse, we both were experiencing random phone reboots, but Ash had the worst of this – we bought the phones in September and only a couple of months later, after one of the December software updates, Ash’s phone was going from 100% battery to 0% in a matter of minutes. (That isn’t an exaggeration, it was literally a handful of minutes from full charge to total battery drain – he has the screen-grabs to prove it.)
That’s a massive problem for a mobile phone, so you would think the phone manufacturer would be somewhat sympathetic to their customer’s plight. Well, you’d be wrong! SONY’s customer service informed him that it was a known software problem in their latest update and while he couldn’t revert it back to the previous version without voiding warranty, the problem should be fixed in a future update. Great! It is a known problem and there is a solution being worked out, surely it would only a matter of days to get it all fixed and SONY’s redemption would be complete, right?
Wrong! Not only was it not going to be in the next few days, but he was told there was actually no set date for the release of a fix. Wait! What?! A customer has a mobile phone that has been made unusable because of officially released software, and the company’s solution is for the customer to wait the situation out until they release a fix at some indeterminate point in the future…WTF SONY?!
Sony has fallen asleep at the wheel, living in past glories and doing possibly the worst thing a tech company do – failing to adapt. Customer service has become a secondary issue for them, a trivial afterthought, something they seem to think isn’t really within their remit anymore. It seems that Sony view their customers as resources to be exploited for cash. They are people only when it comes to selling the product, if you need support after the fact you are on your own. I am far from being an Apple fan but it is time that the teacher starts to learn from the apprentice.
If that is not enough let me just remind you that SONY is responsible for all the latest Spider-Man movies.