Sony unveiled plans for a digital download store to sell music, videos and books just like Apple’s iTunes. What the company forgot to mention is that the digital download space is already too crowded.
The store, tentatively known as the Sony Online Service might best spell SOS for the aging electronics manufacturer. The carbon copy of iTunes follows other rip-offs like Sony’s PRS-700 e-book reader that looks strikingly like the Kindle.
Sure the euphemism about if a friend jumped off a cliff, would you follow them is usually used to refer to a bad idea and the iTunes is certainly successful. But in the online era, you can’t just crank out carbon copies of other people’s work and expect the same response.
We saw a similar reaction in the social networking space online. MySpace was a success and Facebook rounded out the top competitors in the space, but you don’t hear so much about Friendster, Orkut or the dozens of other social networks on the Web.
This is because of the first movers advantage on the Web that many companies drastically underestimate. Whoever can grow a large community around digital downloads or e-book readers is likely to own that channel as evidenced by Amazon’s unparalleled success with the Kindle.
Now every music and media company is launching its own version of iTunes, from Sony to Nokia among others. However there are already two strong leaders in this market in Apple and AMazon’s MP3 store.
If a user can already get media through a channel like iTunes that they have an established relationship with, why would they jump to SOS? Yeah, we’re having a hard time figuring that one out too.
There’s always the chance that Sony’s service can strike a chord with a niche market within online media and become really big in Japan or something, but it’s not going to be a hit with the broad center of the U.S. or global entertainment markets.