Sony's UMD Format and Memory Stick
By jhawk on Oct 06, 2005
Last July, I found out that I was being sent to Scotland to attend a meeting. My frustration wasn't regarding the meeting, but rather the 10 hours of boredom while sitting in economy class. (I'm a rather hefty big guy.) On my way home, I decided to stop by Best Buy (electronics super store) and pick up something to do on that long flight. My choice was Sony's Playstation Portable (PSP). I picked up the unit and some games for the long flight. Before I knew it, I was in the airplane playing Tiger Wood's golf and racing cars through San Diego.
The PSP uses two proprietary media formats which Sony pioneered called Unified Media Device (UMD) and their Dual Memory Stick. Sony is now selling both PSP games and movies on these UMDs. The value of UMD is the size. In a protective case that is just a little bigger than a rolled up magazine, I can keep my PSP with about 4-6 UMD disks. The device proved to be a terrific diversion from the hours of being squashed into a seat between two people.
While I appreciate the UMD format for my games, I am still having a hard time justifying the cost of purchasing UMD movies to only be played on my PSP. Sony is pricing UMD movies above the price of regular DVD titles. In their theory, this is preventing UMD movies from competing against DVD movies. I thought Sony learned their lesson on Betamax versus VHS tape formats in the 1970's. Sony tried to release their titles on Beta only to keep folks from moving to VHS. I guess even Billion Dollar companies can't learn from previous colossal mistakes. Many news sites are reporting that UMD is the wave of the future. Even so, NetFlix is stating that they will not start offering the format anytime soon for their Movie Rental service.
While in Singapore's Sim Lim Electronics Shopping Centre, I saw that (in deed!) Sony was starting to learn from their mistakes. In a confusing move, I saw that Sony was now selling packages which included a 1GB Dual MemoryStick with PC software. The software allowed purchasers to copy media onto the Memory Stick. The media includes mp3, wma... And MOVIES!! I can now copy a DVD onto my Memory Stick and not feel forced to buy duplicate UMD copies of my movies!
A quick lookup of pricing on Amazon.com for a 1GB Sony's Memory Stick is about $85 (and $150 for high speed). This is still at a premium cost above other standards such as SD Memory cards. Somehow the idea that I can copy DVD movies onto the Memory Stick is a lot more appealing to me than having to shell out $20 for a UMD movie that I may not want to watch more than one time. Maybe Netflix should look at a way to place a movie rental on a check out bases onto these cards?