By Peter Allen Clark
Spotify is coming to Playstation 4, continuing a shift in proprietary entertainment.
Sony and Spotify sittin' in a tree
Both Microsoft and Sony developed company-specific music services. Xbox Music basically serves as the spiritual successor to Microsoft’s Zune store outing and Sony’s Music Unlimited sat beside Video Unlimited as the company’s entertainment wing.
Though its unclear how successful (or unsuccessful) Music Unlimited was for Sony, Microsoft showed some of its Xbox Music cards last month as it ended the service’s free streaming.
Not two months later, Sony steps in to announce Playstation Music Jan. 28, which essentially will serve as a portal to Spotify accounts and the 30 million songs that service offers.
It also allows Sony to discreetly push Music Unlimited over the side as it concurrently announced the service would close in all 19 countries by March 29.
Playstation Music also serves as an experience bonus for Sony as Xbox Music does not allow music streaming while a game is played, unless the player is ‘snapped’ in the Xbox One user interface.
It’s not a complete reversal of a proprietary model because even though it’s another company’s software, it still will only come to Playstation 4, Playstation 3 and, of course, Xperia smart phones and tablets.
All in one and one for none
When Microsoft and Sony revealed the current generation of consoles, the companies stormed out of the gate with a prophecy that each box would become the center of a living room’s entertainment.
Microsoft hit this nail hardest with its marketing hammer in the May 21, 2013 Xbox One reveal. Everything from the inclusion of the Kinect controller to the A/V inputs that Microsoft meant to tie directly into the television all pointed to the company’s goal to not only take over customers’ living room, but to do so with their propriety services.
“[T]he all-in-one entertainment system for a new generation,” is how Microsoft described their new machine.
“During the Xbox Reveal event, the Xbox team showcased how Xbox One puts you at the center of all your games, TV, movies, music, sports and Skype,” Lisa Gurry, Editor of Xbox Wire, wrote shortly after the reveal. “And how Xbox One is designed to deliver a whole new generation of blockbuster games, television and entertainment in a powerful, all-in-one device.”
Sony didn’t have too much of a different tune when they announced the Playstation 4 Feb. 21, 2013.
“A single device was now expected to provide a range of services and applications,” System Architect Mark Cerny said at the reveal press conference. “We wanted to fluidly connect the player to a larger world of experiences and provide easier access to everything Playstation has to offer, across the console and mobile spaces and the Playstation Network.”
Microsoft began turning back on the original conceit of the Xbox One shortly after the console’s announcement.
Saying “your feedback matters,” soon-to-leave President of Interactive Entertainment Business Don Mattrick rolled back on always on-line requirements and the strict set of DRM rules announced at the reveal June 19, 2013.
Like a snowball gathering momentum, this movement led to the evaporation of most of the Xbox executive team, as discovered by The Verge. And it culminated with the closing of the Xbox Entertainment Studios last summer.
Recode obtained a statement from current head of Microsoft Studios Phil Spencer that laid out part of the “plan to streamline a handful of portfolio and engineering development efforts across Xbox.” That included folding the entertainment wing of Xbox, which formerly promised a host of original programming, including variety shows, a “hardboard detective thriller” and a drama about “highly-developed robotic servant[s].”
Sony has also long been a fan of proprietary services and devices, from the Memory Stick required by many of their digital cameras to the capabilities of Sony Xperia phones. This is not to mention the overly expensive memory cards used in the Playstation Vita.
When the company has had a chance to develop its own proprietary means to keep customers on its platforms, it seems to take every opportunity.
This use has decline over the past few years. Sony began selling their own SD cards, in competition with the Memory Sticks of old. And this partnership with Spotify gives a peek into the company's changing philosophy.
While the music ball might be in Microsoft’s court, both companies seem to play a game exploring how to smoothly depart from their once grand proprietary dreams.