How Sony can beat the Kindle, provided it can find its shoes and its glasses after it wakes up

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Farhad Manjoo has a nice “what-if” story up on Slate about what Sony can do to beat the Kindle. Sadly, what Manjoo is doing here is akin to helping a little old crazy lady across the street – at best his advice will be ignore and and worst he’ll be cursed out.

He basically writes:

Anyone looking to beat the Kindle, then, should look to the iPod: Study everything that Apple’s rivals did, and do the opposite.

Whoa, slow down there Zen Master. Sony had been spinning its wheels for half a decade. Its memorysticks, its UMDs, and its ATRAC files have been kept around in a wrong-headed effort to “define” the market the way it had defined hardware during the 1980s and 1990s and it has fallen so far that I doubt it even knows who the iPods rivals are let alone how to avoid their traps. The same goes for the ereader.

My thinking is this: the ereaders will sell. They’ve already sold about 400,000 of the first generation. People buy them because they have lots of PDFs they want to read and they live outside of the US. Those are the only reasons why they buy them. All Amazon has to do is start selling the Kindle outside of the US and it’s curtains. Sure there will be second tier readers, but I doubt Sony’s will be one of them. The second tier will be a cheap ebook for students that will soon replace the written word and will probably be based on an open-sourced hardware design.

In the end, Farhad means well. Sony had a good run but I wonder if a company with such a tin ear is listening to his advice, let alone understanding why it needs it.

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