Thursday, September 09, 2010

Sony's New Streaming Service Hopes NOT to CONNECT the Dots (to Death)

Netflix, Blockbuster, iTunes, Google TV, Hulu and a host of others -- all now offer movies and television shows on demand either via streaming services or via downloads. And, they are catching on in a big big way in the living room now. (I recently blogged about my own mostly stellar "Watch Instantly" experience in the living room with Netflix.)

So, what's a consumer electronics/television company like Sony to do? Join the party, that's what. And, Sony is doing just that, recently announcing that its own streaming service -- with the ridiculous unpronounceable name "Qriocity" -- is expanding into Europe (apparently the service has been alive in the U.S. since April, but I have never heard anyone widely talk about it previously). Qriocity (which apparently intends to be pronounced "curiosity") is initially bundled in all-in-one PlayStation 3 units. It soon, however, will also come as standard equipment in Sony flat screen TVs and DVRs (with the goal of infiltrating your living rooms).

But, will Sony's Chairman Howard Stringer be joining you anytime soon on your living room couch (in the same way that Apple's Steve Jobs likely will be in the months ahead with iTunes and Apple's own inevitable all-in-one (non set-top box) TV)?

My Magic 8-Ball says "all signs point to NO."

Remember Sony's ill-fated iTunes wannabee music service "Connect"? Likely you don't. And that's the problem.

Connect ... umm ... absolutely failed to connect with customers. Sony should have gotten it right and rivaled iTunes, but they didn't. They were late to the party, and they didn't behave well when they got there (the Connect service itself paled in comparison to iTunes in terms of the overall user experience). So, Sony ultimately drove a stake in its heart and killed it.

In my view, history will repeat itself here, much to Sony's (and Stringer's) dismay. Qriocity already is late to the party -- Netflix and iTunes, as examples, began to establish themselves online long ago and are highly respected brands that already are available to many consumers. That means those consumers already are invested in those services and will not switch to Qriocity unless Sony's service is able to "do" something radically different -- like offer a much deeper pool of content (which I don't foresee). And, if Sony's name choice for its service is any indication (Qriocity? Yikes!), then the overall user experience itself will once again pale in comparison to others.

So, my prediction is that Qriocity will CONNECT the dots to the same fate of that vanquished predecessor service.