In a rather ironic turn of events, Sony has pulled the plug on its strangely titled Connect music store, leaving its customers disconnected in six months time. They've introduced a set of media players that allow file formats from Microsoft, Apple, and the good ol' MP3. They've stopped supporting their own ATRAC files that were sold through the Connect music store, so the people who bought music through Sony Connect need to go out and buy a spindle of CDs to burn all of that music to, because after March of 2008 Sony won't support it anymore.
So if you've bought into this whole Sony Connect ecosystem, you better find a new environment to buy music, 'because Kansas is going bye-bye.' They're opening up new media players to the Microsoft Windows Media deal (whatever they're calling it these days), the standard AAC (supported by iTunes), and the almost 'open-source' MP3, a.k.a. the only file format that doesn't carry the kiss of death on a music store.
Sony waited until the end of a statement on their web site to announce "With these new Walkman players, Sony has widened its digital music environment to support Windows Media technology. This gives customers greater flexibility in their music software approach. As a result, Sony will be phasing out the CONNECT™ Music Services based on Sony's ATRAC audio format in North America and Europe. Specific timing will vary by region depending on market demand, but will not be before March 2008." e-book peeps have nothing to worry about, you're still in like Flynn.
What does this mean if you own an MP3 player? You can now shop at most online stores and buy music that has a high chance of working on your new Sony player, whatever it is. It seems de riguer these days in online music stores to sell everybody's formats but your own, a sign of the times in online music buying. The industry is waking up to the idea that interoperability is good, and forcing people into your own player/store ecosystem is bad. Unless you're Apple, in which you case you're so far out in front of everyone else that you can make the whole industry your beatch and see how they respond.
Perhaps the most interesting of the new Sony players is the basic but super cool NWZ-B100, which let's you plug it into anything USB so you can use it all over. A simple idea but superhandy in the fact that it works everywhere.
Sony also announced its own set of video players, the NWZ-A810 and NWZ-S610 which will finally let them sell a video player in the U.S. It seems Sony might be out of the store business for now and into the player business.