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Sony drops MiniDisc players years after losing MP3 crown

updated 08:50 am EDT, Fri July 8, 2011

Last Sony MiniDisc player to exit in September

Sony on Friday said it was cancelling sales of its last MiniDisc player, the MZ-RH1. It would "complete" shipments of the five-years-old player in September 2011. The recordable 1GB Hi-MD discs it can use will phase out a year later.

The company explained outright that "demand has decreased" for MiniDisc and that flash-based media players had taken over. Older style MiniDiscs would still be on sale for the foreseeable future.

Sony first launched MiniDiscs in 1992 at the height of its popularity for portable music. The format eventually, however, represented the company's sluggishness to adapt to the digital shift and an insistence on proprietary formats that had little reason to exist. Sony was still selling MiniDisc devices as serious competitors when the iPod was at its peak and only began shipping real competitors years after Apple's device was on the market. Until late in their life, MiniDisc Players often required loading files using Sony's ATRAC format rather than more popular AAC and MP3 tracks.

The format was always unusually popular in Japan. Many have seen overconfidence in this that ultimately led Apple to take control of the Japanese MP3 player market in the middle of the last decade, with Sony only just recovering years later. [via Impress]

by MacNN Staff



  1. neocyberdude

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I've owned a few MD player/recorders over the years. This was a GREAT format, especially for car audio (no worries about scratched CDs in the car). It just showed up too late. If it had arrived in the 80's--wow. But showing up just before MP3 players killed it almost from the start.

  1. Herod

    Joined: Dec 1969


    its a sad day...

    time to put all of the MDs in storage along with my LDs.....

  1. JeffHarris

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Great format, Poor marketing

    MiniDisk debuted in the days of SyQuest and Zip drives! If Sony had marketed MiniDisk as a mass-storage and archival device in addition to music, it could have been huge. HUGE. What a shame!

    If you ever owned SyQuest or Zip or Jaz drives, you know what c*** they were. I owned SyQuest 44MB and Zip 100MB and 250MB, but had Magneto-Optical for archival storage. I still had to keep a Zip drive around for compatibility.

  1. jdonahoe

    Joined: Dec 1969


    It was great for a while

    I thought the MD was great in that you could put about 5 and a half hours of music on a little 2.5" disk. The only problem was having to convert an hour of music to the proprietary atrac format took hours. Sony lied in their advertising that the MD could play MP3s, yeah, after converting them. I am not sorry to see it go, but I am surprised that it was still being manufactured. I still have my MZ-R500 and I remember lusting after the HD player/recorders,

  1. BigMac2

    Joined: Dec 1969


    DRM killed the MD

    The MD faced the same faith of the DAT format. Being both in music hardware and music record industry, Sony has choose to cripple their product with DRM just like they did with the DAT and protected their format preventing a wide adoption from other firms. Sony have done everything to avoid at any cost using the wide spread MP3 giving us sub-par Atrac compression, this is what kick-out Sony from competition in the digital music sharing era.

  1. lamewing

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I used the format for years, even after the iPod revolution came about. I just loved the spinning disc and the "japanesiness" of the device. But time marches on and Sony did nothing to help improve the HiMD, so it was inevitable. will always have a place in my heart!

  1. loco

    Joined: Dec 1969



    What you might be unaware of is that Sony *did* market the MD as a data medium - I know because I bought one in the summer of '96. Why did that fail? Simple:

    1) You had to buy *new* MDs, not the ones you already had for music
    2) The gear was expensive by comparison (although this wasn't the worst problem)
    3) In usual Sony fashion, they made it difficult to use: it was SCSI (which is fine), but you couldn't boot from this device that had a proprietary connector (yes, it was a funky connector even for SCSI!)

    I kept it for two weeks, but returned it when Sony confirmed that things weren't going to change as far as my complaints.

    I continued using it for audio for years, even with a car deck for MDs.

    The reason this would never have been viable in the '80s is strictly one of data compression and the required computing power. It's what made MP3s possible: you needed to have a computer fast enough to decompress music in real time or better before you could use it in a practical/home setting.

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