Dear Sony, Please Stop Pissing Me Off

Microsoft and Motorola, you’re on my list too.

A few months ago I purchased a Sony IC Voice Recorder. It has a nifty USB jack so I can plug it into my PC and pull the sound files off the flash memory. Neat, right? After installing Dragon Naturally Speaking 9 (because Microsoft pulled voice recognition out of Office 2007), I thought this would be very handy because I could use Dragon to read the files off of the flash memory and transcribe them into a text file.

This would be a good theory if I was using an iPod with a mic-attachment, because it stores the voice files in a format that the rest of the world can read. I happen to know that Toshiba’s voice recorder, with USB-accessible flash memory saves files in WAV format. That’s easy to get to as well.

Not so with Sony.

Sony saves voice files in DVF format.

What in the heck is a DVF file? A DVF file? I have a 1 Gig voice recorder that writes out DVF files?

It’s not like I’m some sort of newbie-slouch, who can’t get under the proverbial hood of my PC and change my own oil.

The fact that I can’t change the oil in my own car is another issue.

WinAmp and Audacity have no idea how to read this file type. They’re pretty sophisticated sound playback and recording/manipulation programs, respectively. If they can’t read this file type, who can?

Certainly not Dragon Naturally Speaking, that’s not who.

I have a copy of Sony Soundforge, but it’s on my desktop PC. I don’t know if it can read DVF files. It would be funny as heck, and not surprising in the least, if it couldn’t.

After all who ever heard of a hardware engineer telling someone in software about a issue with the choice of file formats?

And doesn’t Sony have their AC3 format? Why didn’t they use that?

Sony, Sony, Sony. No one was impressed with the Blu-Ray DVD (no one more than your collective self).

Few people bought into the minidisk player and even fewer bought any of your artists’ recordings on minidisk (though I would have bought a copy of the White Album for my collection of it in all formats).

BetaMax? Rest in pieces.

Why do you have to mess up something that should be such a mundane and trivial detail that has already been solved by the rest of the industry with shipping products and established formats?

Sony, it’s ok to spread your wings and be innovative. We thank you for inventing the walkman. But when it comes to something like a file format for savings voice recordings on a product advertised (or implied) as being accessible via USB, how about choosing a file format that is actually accessible? Would that be so hard?

It’s amazing to me that engineers make such idiotic decisions on purpose. I have a background in the tech industry too. I’ve seen amazingly stupid, and deliberate, decisions made by engineers and left unquestioned by anyone else with a brain.

Let me guess, an engineer said “we need a universal file format for the recorder.”

Someone in product marketing said, “how about Mp3?”

The engineer said, “Well, with MP3, there’s a patent, right? We don’t own it and Sony corporate doesn’t like to pay anyone else for Patent licensing. That’s why we have DVD-R format.”

At this point, the person in product marketing had been duct taped to the wall (a common prank) and the engineers set off to solve the problem.

Eugene: How about WAV?

Phil: Can a Mac read WAV?

Eugene: What’s a Mac, and does it have enough of a market share for us to even care about solving problems.

[Note: Engineers love to use the concept of market share to tell someone else to piss off but will ignore it completely when it comes to validating their own ideas.]

Nolla: AC3?

Eugene: Go do some work.

Rick: How about AIFF?

Eugene: That’s too many letters, you can’t have a four letter extension if someone uses the USB on a DOS machine it won’t work?

Damanda: Ahem, USB doesn’t work with DOS.

Eugene: Yes it does! I wrote a custom BIOS for my DOS machine at home to read USB. Sheesh!

Chorus: Dude! That’s so cool!

Phil: Why do you have a DOS machine?

Eugene: Because I don’t like any windows on my screen. Drawing them takes up too much CPU power. With my DOS machine, I can run 400 SETI@Home jobs in 20 minutes on stock hardware.

Rick: Stock hardware from where?

Eugene: From the test engineering lab.

Damanda: Cool.

I know this is what happens because I’ve been in the middle of these conversations more times than I care to admit.

Notice how the DVF decision wasn’t made in the above exchange. That’s usually what happens. They probably went off to sushi and someone made a “temporary” file format, which was to be replaced by someone else before the product shipped.

That last part never happens.

Product engineers: just because you have a PhD or a Masters, doesn’t make you the best person to make a decision for customers. That doesn’t mean you need to spend months on a focus group, just ask the opinion of someone who is actually going to use the product in the field and not just in the vicinity of a test bench.

[Exception: I do know a small number of people who are very talented and have a good intuition about what customers actually do with the product they’re paying for. For those people, it’s ok to make a decision if there’s no other guidance.]

And don’t get me started on how much I hate Motorola phone design (hardware and especially software) dating all the way back to my first StarTac. I wish I could force someone in engineering at Motorola to eat my StarTac and any of the four Motorola V3 RAZR’s Cingular sent me to replace my first one. Silly me to figure that ten years after owning my first Motorola P.O.S. cell phone they would have figured out how to make things suck less.

I admit that the RAZR looked cool though. It just turns out that was the only thing it had going for it.

Oh yeah, and let’s go back to the event which brought me to this realization. I spent good money to upgrade to Office 2007 and then I found out they removed Voice Recognition. It doesn’t say anywhere on the box that this happened. It doesn’t say anywhere on the web that they did this. After 2 hours on the phone with tech support, finally someone said “oh, sir they removed voice recognition from Office 2007.”

Hi Microsoft,

The next time to decide to remove a major bit of functionality like voice recognition, do you think that maybe, just maybe, you could let people know? Perhaps a mention in the tech support area on the web site when a confused customer types “voice recognition gone” into the search box.

Would that be SO HARD?

By the way, I am writing this from my Sony Vaio VGN-TX770P laptop. I have owned 7 Sony laptops and 3 desktops. I love each one. I’m not a Sony-basher. I just hate to be on the receiving end of annoyingly stupid decisions.

 

1 Comment

  1. Dave Saunders on April 17, 2007 at 9:34 am

    Funny update. Sony’s own Sound Forge software is incapable of reading Sony’s own DVF file format.

    How amazingly stupid is that?

Leave a Comment