Sony’s UMD Format A Failure

Wow here’s a shock — Sony has failed once again at its attempts to introduce an expensive, proprietary, DRMed media format.

Its latest failure is the Universal Media Disc, the format it forced on PSP owners for watching movies on that device.

It’s hard to see why UMD failed.

The movies were expensive — $20 to $25 per movie.

The PSP couldn’t be connected to a television and there were no standalone UMD players.

The movies were DRMed as only Sony could do.

Gee, what wasn’t to love about the UMD format?

Sony is in an odd position with the PSP. The PSP is a very cool device burdened by the fact that it is sold by a completely clueless company.

So after the PSP was initially released, a large community of modders quickly emerged providing tools to do all sorts of cool things with the hardware. Sony’s reaction, of course, has been to release several updates to make it increasingly difficult and/or impossible to use the PSP for anything which Sony hasn’t explicitly authorized.

The nominal explanation for locking down the device is the fear of software piracy, but hackers figured out how to crack the encryption on game UMDs about five months after the device was released.

As with most copy protection schemes, pirates are able to find ways around the copy protection, while consumers are left with an intentionally crippled device.

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