PSN debacle illustrates stark differences between Apple and Sony

Sony's failure to keep PlayStation Network user data safe illlustrates the stark difference between Apple and Sony, and it shows you what's riding on the outcome - the hearts and minds of millions of customers.
Written by Peter Cohen, Inactive

In the wake of Sony's revelation that PlayStation Network customer data was stolen, pundits are asking the question, "Who's next?"

Apple's iTunes service is, of course, the biggest target.

But it's been more than seven years since Apple launched iTunes as a paying service, and it still hasn't happened. Why not? What's different about Apple?

I think we can safely rule out the "security through obscurity" albatross that's dogged Mac OS X for years. No, Apple thinks differently about a lot of things, it seems, such as the importance of its customer data.

Sony has what is, by any measure, a devastating public relations disaster on its hands - the company admittedly publicly on Tuesday that account information for its PlayStation Network and Qriocity services was compromised. The company is still unsure about the extent of the security failure, but admits that customer credit card information may have been exposed. Sony has had to hire a security firm to find out more.

It took almost a week for the story to gain national significance - an indictment of the relevance of Sony's paying customers to its revenue stream, if nothing else. Because if they were paying out for Sony products and services before, chances are they won't be again if there's a viable alternative.

This comes at a particularly bad strategic time for Sony, as the company just this week introduced new Android-based tablets to compete with the iPad and to further Sony's position in a business it's already entrenched in: e-book devices like the Kindle or Nook Color.

Will customers for those devices be willing to be part of an already-damaged ecosystem? Doubtful. That casts doubts on Sony's ability to sell its own curated content for its devices in any sort of impactful way, but it also relegates Sony to also-run status in the increasingly fragmented Android tablet market.

In the interim, don't expect the mobile apps market or the tablet market to change its makeup dramatically. That two horse race will remain dominated between Apple and Android devices that haven't been tainted by the pall of Sony's recent debacle.


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