PS Consultants - ideas & solutions

Sony: still speechless

May  2003  

You may recall that I am not Sony’s greatest fan when it comes to their overall support and web presence. If only the estimable quality of their hardware was reflected in an online presence that wasn’t a travesty of everything the brand stands for I would imagine that Japan’s economic woes would be over.  But as it is, the Sony web site that mauled me when I tried to register a Vaio managed to assault and batter me when I went looking for an update for a ICD-MS1 voice recorder.

Like all Sony kit, this voice recorder is a charmer even if the “on-off” switch is cunningly disguised as “hold”. It uses the Sony memory stick storage device, which would be wonderful if only everyone else had adopted the format for smart media – but that’s just one of Sony’s many cunning ploys to keep its customers neatly walled in.

But what really, really sucks is the software that reads the obscure audio file format (MSV). You would have thought by now that Sony would have decided to convert the proprietary format to MP3 or Windows Media, wouldn’t you? Wrong! The only option with the original edition of this software was to convert to a humungous WAV file and then run it through the WM encoder.

I foolishly updated to version 2.03 of the player – which is very pretty  - but it doesn’t even support opening files dropped from the windows Explorer. It doesn’t edit or write the file in its own format, let alone any others. Pure pants.

I then went looking on the Sony web site for the update and any information. Well, Sony’s web sites are still as bad as they ever were, and I spent 30 minutes trying to find any useful support reference to the ICD-MS1. The web sites seem mostly dedicated to trying to flog stuff, not support users. I found the ICD-MS1 easily enough from, but abandon hope when you click the support link. It doesn’t whisk you off to a page of support for the ICD-MS1, but a generic index pages that seems to list everything else but voice recorders.

I went to the feedback form to vent some spleen, and as I was about to click “send the message” read this at the bottom:

 Agreement to use of Personal Data

1. The personal data provided via this website (“Personal Data“) may be used by Sony Europe and other Sony group companies worldwide (together, “Sony“), to advise of, offer and supply goods and services, for other marketing purposes, and for additional purposes described in the terms of sale and/or use relating to your transaction (if any).

2. This Personal Data will assist Sony in its efforts to further improve products and services. Without such data Sony may be unable to provide certain services. Sony may share Personal Data only with selected third parties to provide, promote or co-promote Sony or Sony related products or services.

3. On your request to Sony United Kingdom Limited, your Personal Data stored with Sony will be provided, corrected, amended or deleted (as required by law). Sony’s treatment of Personal Data will accord with the above conditions and any applicable laws.

Children under the age of 14 must obtain parental or guardian consent before providing any personal data

Please select one of the following options:

1) I agree to the use of my personal data as described above

2) I agree to use and storage of my Personal Data for the purpose of processing, and providing products, support and services related to this inquiry only.

3) I disagree to the use and storage of my Personal Data in any of the ways outlined above. Please note this may restrict the level of service Sony can provide and may also increase the length and number of future communications involving the support of your Sony products.

Instead of “send the message” it would have been far more appropriate and ironic to use the more popular “submit” label. However, I selected option 3 and prepared to take my punishment for failing to hand over my personal details to the marketing department to exploit,

It’s not all bad news though, the online help for Vaio users is now pretty exhaustive (as long as your laptop is working well enough to get online, of course…) but one other thing that Sony must address is the need to make all the product handbooks available on line as pdfs!  It appears that product owners still have to go through the spares ordering procedure – which is mad, because 90% of support questions are likely to be in a properly indexed manual search, anyway.

But I eventually found a really useful page for the ICD-MS1 via Google:

I have largely given up Google for product support information, since most of the responses seem to be from US sites trying to flog stuff – so I still have no idea how to reach it from any Sony point of entry.

So how about this? Put a url on every product that leads directly to its support web page. Surely that’s not too difficult?