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Lego vs Sony

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Two companies take very different attitudes towards their customers.

The February issue of Wired Magazine has a great story by Bendan I. Koerner about Lego embracing the community of Lego Mindstorms obsessed fans to tap into their enthusiasm and loyalty and make the product more popular and even improve it in future releases.

Koerner writes about Lego executives (and their legal department) debating their response when the Mindstorms firmware was hacked and released on the net within weeks of release:

After a few months of wait-and-see, Lego concluded that limiting creativity was contrary to its mission of encouraging exploration and ingenuity. Besides, the hackers were providing a valuable service. "We came to understand that this is a great way to make the product more exciting," Nipper says. "It's a totally different business paradigm - although they don't get paid for it, they enhance the experience you can have with the basic Mindstorms set." Rather than send out cease and desist letters, Lego decided to let the modders flourish; it even wrote a "right to hack" into the Mindstorms software license, giving hobbyists explicit permission to let their imaginations run wild.

Soon, dozens of Web sites were hosting third-party programs that helped Mindstorms users build robots that Lego had never dreamed of: soda machines, blackjack dealers, even toilet scrubbers. Hardware mavens designed sensors that were far more sophisticated than the touch and light sensors included in the factory kit. More than 40 Mindstorms guidebooks provided step-by-step strategies for tweaking performance out of the kit's 727 parts.

Compare the way Lego embraced their customers with Sony's battle against PSP owners to control how customers can use their PSP's.

Gizomodo's recent story about the latest PSP firmware crack is less interesting for its content than its tone. More and more customers are becoming fed up with Sony's attitudes towards them.

Between this and their recent "Rootkit" DRM disaster, it appears Sony could learn a lot from Lego.

EDIT 1:14 PM: Hackers have just released a firmware crack for the newest Sony firmware version 2.60.

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3 Comments

You have to love the way Lego's approach to this sets the tone for their whole product philosophy - exploration and ingenuity.

As a parent, I'm incredibly impressed with the strategy they seem to be pursuing with the Lego shops that are opening in malls across the country - opening up the product, installing play tables, making them playcenters for kids to just hang out in and play, with no pressure to buy anything. What an excellent way to turn a new generation on to the product, and what an even better way to sucker parents into spending time in their stores.

said Scaramouch on January 30, 2006 12:02 PM.

Do whatever you want. Just don't call them LEGOS.

http://www.yesbutnobutyes.com/archives/2005/09/legos_legos_leg.html

said aquaman on January 30, 2006 2:28 PM.

Man, this new robotic lego is ace, just seeing all that gear made me call mum to see if my old legos are still stored away :)

said slashdot on February 2, 2006 7:24 AM.
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