Another Arduino Compatible? This Time, It’s A Sony

When it comes to microcontroller development boards, we have a plethora of choices at our disposal. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, be they associated with its support and community, its interface capabilities, or its choice of processor family. Most boards you’ll find in our communities come from niche manufacturers, or at least from manufacturers who started as such. Just occasionally though along comes one whose manufacturer you will have heard of, even whose manufacturer the Man in the Street will have heard of.

Which brings us neatly to today’s story, the quiet announcement from Sony, of a new microcontroller development board called the Spritzer. This is Arduino compatible in both physical footprint and IDE, is intended for IoT applications, and packs GPS, an audio codec, and an ARM Cortex M4 at 156 MHz. There is a Japanese page with a little more detail (Google Translate link), on which they talk about applications including audio beam forming with up to eight microphones, and a camera interface. 

The board is due to be available sometime early next year, and while it looks as though it will be an interesting device we’d sound a note of caution to Sony. It is not good enough to have an amazing piece of hardware; the software and community support must be more than just make-believe. If they can crack that then they might just have a winner on their hands, if they fail to make any effort then they will inevitably follow Intel into the graveyard of also-ran boards.

Thanks [Chris] for the tip.

97 thoughts on “Another Arduino Compatible? This Time, It’s A Sony

  1. This looks really interesting, glad you threw caution to the wind on the community side of things as we all know that’s the real make or break for a product in the hacker/maker world. But those specs make me want one now!!!

    1. I’m going to argue a bit here – Sony has a history of doing clever, interesting and innovative things, then locking them up behind proprietary “stuff” – everything from battery packs to memory sticks (notice I’m leaving video formats out of this) – while the rest of the gadget-verse moved to easily interchanged standardized “stuff” (memory cards, USB compatible chargers etc. etc.).

      To be quite honest, my first reaction to the headline was “great…but you’ll have to buy a $40 Sony cable to program it”. Cynical to be sure, but not unjustifiably so.

      1. I must agree with Thinkerer.

        Let us not forget the PS3 “firmware update” fiasco that ended in lawsuit against Sony.

        Under the excuse of “due to security concerns”, Sony disabled the “Other OS” feature on the PS3 models sold between November 1, 2006, and April 1, 2010. While Sony said that the upgrade was “voluntary”, without it the console would not connect to the PS Network, play games (online or not), play Blu-ray, any files on a media server, or download any future updates.

        This created a huge problem to those who created super-computers, by making clusters of PS3s, and the Linux community in general. In addition, Sony broke their promise that the PS3 was more than a console.

        Then, Sony launched the “slim” PS3 which one could purchase by returning their “thick” PS3. This would make the customer ineligible to participate in the class-action lawsuit.

        Or, the Sony BMG copy protection rootkit scandal implemented in million of CDs in 2005. Their CD would install two software for “digital rights management” (DRM).

        The first program would be installed even if the user refused the end-user license agreement (EULA) and it would keep sending reports to Sony about the user’s listening habits,

        The second program, which was not mentioned in the EULA, configured the OS to hide the software existence. This would make both programs to being classified as rootkits. In addition, with this program SONY was doing an infringement of copyright on open-source code being used as part of the program.

        Both software created vulnerabilities that were exploited by unrelated malware.

        When Sony was exposed, they provided an “uninstaller” which would only show the hidden program and installed software that would collect email addresses from the user, introduce more security vulnerabilities, and couldn’t be easy to removed. How nice of them.

        Going deeper, we can see other Sony “moves” such as the lawsuit against George Hotz, multiple security leaks, and much more.

        Sony behaviors, which I would classify as “malignant”, makes me reluctant to get involved in anything that Sony may have to offer.

        1. “makes me reluctant to get involved in anything that Sony may have to offer.”

          I decided that about Sony over 15 years ago. Haven’t bought a single Sony product since. It’s too bad – they actually come up with some well-designed hardware very often, but then destroy any appeal by closing it off with proprietary this or that by any means possible, on everything they make. Almost seems like they go out of their way to do it – “well this is a very clever and well-executed widget. How can we screw it up so nobody wants to use it?”

          It’s a deeply ingrained culture at Sony I think. Suits suck.

        2. Yes, I agree. There are a multitude of reasons, mostly involving past history of asshole-ishness on the part of Sony, to avoid this board. Sony does not have a good track record of playing nicely with anybody else and goes way out of its way to impose imperialistic, proprietary and overbearing tactics onto their consumers. Despite their name and the supposed reasons for its selection, they are far from being the most consumer/end-user-friendly company I can think of. In fact, in my own view, their name would not even come up in a month-long conversation on the subject.

        3. Malignant and self destructive. MiniDisc was an excellent high capacity media format that could have taken over CDs, CD-ROM, and Iomega’s entire product line. Unfortunately Sony didn’t try to sell them outside of audio devices, and even then shackled all recorders with DRM.

        4. A friend has a Sony VAIO PCG-GR720p laptop he’s used for years as a DJ. I set it up for him with XP Pro, downloaded all the drivers from Sony’s website. Circa 2012 he’d messed things up, and managed to lose the CD-R with all the drivers on it, which I’d emphasized that he *not lose*.

          Sony had all the drivers online *except for* the one for the jog dial. There’s around six variants of the VAIO PCG-G, they all use the same jog dial, but that driver for them is completely unobtainable. None of the driver archive sites have it. They have drivers for other VAIO laptop models’ jog dials.

          Why the hell would Sony pick out one particular model series of their laptops and decide that the jog dial driver shall not be available forevermore? Sony just being assholes? Some 3rd party licensed code in the jog dial software that was only used for that model series? Never could get any response from Sony on it.

          The jog dial was very useful, with customizable menus and functions. It provided super quick access to all the audio programs and other software he used for his gigs. Without the driver it’s just dead hardware. Driver finder tools like DriverMax are no help because Sony gave the jog dial an invalid PCI/VEN code that’s all zeros.

          Unless he finds that CD-R, or someone else that downloaded the driver prior to Sony shoving it down the memory hole shares it, that driver is gone.

          No big deal now, I finally convinced him to upgrade, to an old HP Compaq NC6000. It has USB 2.0 and an SD slot instead of USB 1.1 and MemoryStick. The VAIO is now relegated to backup duty, with yet another clean install of XP.

      2. Basically, Sony is the Microsoft of consumer electronics – a company with ingrained presumption that the industry and its consumers are its birthright, an owned herd or crop field, and that competition (especially if it is grass-roots non-profit), either existing or just looming, is vermin and blight.

        Microsoft was first forced to notice the change of times, and is trying to make truce with the world, but they probably still didn’t undergo change of heart internally, they are just sounding the uncharted waters to find out just how much they have to give to keep getting. Sony may be following them but it is still hard to say how it will all end for both of them.

        It is funny to recollect that it was exactly that type of activity (by IBM) which made Microsoft, back in their beginnings.

        Well, I guess that is not so likely to repeat, as since then lawyers’ knowledge, shared experience, and influence in companies, have advanced even more than computer technology.

    1. It’s unclear, but they’er already being deceptive…

      1.5MB of RAM! (fine print: used to load your code… NOT actually RAM you can use, but we prefer to show you those high, impressive but useless numbers instead of what you can make use of — the useful metric).
      8MB of flash! (that probably means none on the MCU, and having an external SPI flash instead, which loads to the RAM)
      Camera IF (actually, not at all! Maybe in the next product though!)

      Then add to that an anemic set of peripherals… The dumbed-dowm tools and format (ewww)… And Sony’s awful reputation, no proven track record for documentation (especially in english), and the tendency for their hardware to be quite expensive…

      And the worst part? Don’t think about using them parts afterwards. That’s the real deal killer. You can design something with the ICs on most dev boards, then make your own PCB using the same parts. Here almost everything is WLCSP (wafer level chip scale package: 100 microscopic pins within 4x4mm!) which is not hand solderable even if you got a good microscope, and with the 0.35mm ball pitch, you’ll have to find a really good and really expensive board house (better than oshpark) for it too…

      Meanwhile, there’s lots of really good M4F and M7 boards from major companies, some with proper tools, documentation and all — including some with a ton of IO (I like the EK-TM4C1294XL for this: 178 pins expansion with the breadboard headers) which can connect all the peripherals you need. And no WLSCP parts either.

      I think it’ll flop worse than the Intel boards.

      1. I found another page that seems like that would be the case, but I’m not certain how accurate that is. The 1.5MB of RAM would make 256KB of program memory (again, no flash on the MCU) for each core which is the typical low-end of M4F’s.

        But that would also be insane… 6 large cores and 1.5MB of RAM means a large die, so a VERY expensive SoC (over $50?) And just imagine having to program for that: 6 cores fighting for access to memory and all of the peripherals, all at the same time! One core can get fairly complicated (with semaphores, mutexes and all — and uDMA too) but this sounds like something MUCH more complicated to manage… and I don’t trust them to give us some good quality, mature software and proper documentation to make it all work easily.

  2. Sony love hackers oh wait this definition Hmm…. No doubt their first sales will all be smiles, then they will lock the fuses down they will then have their own library’s then their library’s will require a one time payment then that will turn to a paid per use, Someone will come along and do pirated versions in china Sony will go into the hissy fit melt down taking it out on users with lawsuits, up next Nintendo Development board

      1. Here: Sony need to fuck off from this realm due to their practices in shekel hoarding. They’ve attempted to bribe governments to suing consumers limiting functionality at the change of CEO due to personal differences FUCK SONY FUCK THEM AND FUCK NINTENDO, Also FORD, EA, UBISOFT ….. I’ve got quiet a large list.

          1. You think Sony are in it for the betterment of developing and providing a platform for those looking for alternatives to standard RPI + other AVR and the like, The problem for me ? it’s not a problem for me as the solutions by Atmel/Micro/ST are already here and there exists library’s built around the Arduino environment already Arm based conversions exist you can do Arduino ide crap on arm, So you don’t have to like or dislike my list of hated company’s there goals and that of users of their products don’t line up with what they advertise all are perpetual liars.

            It’s very related look at the bigger picture of Sony’s practices, Making a commercial with pretty pictures is this your government elect also ?.

  3. Hmm, once bitten twice shy. I used to have a PS3 that did all sorts of things that it needed to but now it just plays old games.

    Sony’s history here says the spec. you get when you buy it may not be the same spec. that you end up with once you have had it a while.

    1. “It Only Does Everything” Except for all the stuff we took away either by software updates or eliminating pieces of the hardware with each revision.

      IMHO the only PS3 model to have is one with 4 USB ports and both hardware chips for playing PS/2 games. I don’t have one but do have one of the final model of ‘fat’ PS/2. That’s when Sony finally realized that a plastic sled without metal bushings for the laser was a really stupid thing.

  4. From Sony? So this thing is only compatible with Sony-branded LEDS that cost 20USD each or Sony-branded power supplies that cost 50USD? It installs a rootkit on the users’ computers? They eventually remove functionality from the board after they have sold a gazillion of these and have a large user base? I could go on and on.

    We won’t forget, Sony–we’ll never forget your wretched behavior. Don’t bother with this board, Sony–your culture isn’t compatible with that of the maker community. Let other consumer-unfriendly corporations take note.

  5. To all Sony hating pricks that can’t STFU about PS3 and Linux:
    Sony did what they did to protect their interests in gaming industry. They blocked user code execution to stop pirates who abused the system and broke the rules. They are the cause of this user code execution lock-out, not Sony. I expected hackers to be more rational than this. Was it OK to block the PS3 from genuine users? No. But what else could they have done? Stop blaming the victim for defending themselves from exploitation and start blaming criminals.

      1. Yes expecting people to be able to reason is ignorant. Hey – I don’t like what they (Sony) did but understanding that there was some kind of reason for doing that (other than pissing off people enough they continue to rant about it in threads about something different from a different division of the same huge conglomerate) is really basic logic. Don’t know if I buy this explanation but it seems reasonable.

    1. You probably have an excuse for them putting a rootkit on audio CDs too: it was because of those dirty music pirates, they made Sony do it! Right?

      The victims are those who bought the PS3 (blocking Linux was criminal), and you’re the only prick I’ve seen in this discussion so far.

      1. NB that it wasn’t Sony that created that rootkit – they (as others) were users of a 3rd party DRM solution. Now could/should Sony have known what it actually did on users systems? Yes. But the main blame should still be directed to the creators of the shit software in the first place.

        This development board isn’t created by the same division of the company. If the bank services provided by this conglomerate had some problems with e.g. interest rates would you then mention that when ranting about Sony movies? It just doesn’t make sense.

        1. The main blame is still towards Sony for allowing that piece of malignant software onto their product. Do you blame the guy that purposefully uses a car for running people over or the manufacturer of the car? Using your logic you would blame the manufacturer of the car. If you are going to use a 3rd party component in your product then you better do your due diligence and make sure that the component you are using is to your exact specifications especially if you have the money and resources to do so like Sony.

          Anything that carries the company’s name represents the company. This is business basics. If a division of the company gets in trouble then the public will hear just the company name and associate the entire company with the incident. An example would be a factory in China that makes Apple products whose workers commit suicide because of bad working conditions. Apple did not simply say its the contractor’s problem and leave it at that. They had to act or else the company image would be damaged. You can’t hide behind the division thing because it doesn’t exist in the public’s eye.

    2. Except that the PS3 wasn’t broken at that point in time. But broken AFTER they did this, by people who where pissed off at this stunt, and still wanted to run their own code on the PS3. As was promised. Basically, Sony pulled a bait&switch. What was sold was a gaming machine that could also run linux. And suddenly, you could only do one or the other.

    3. “Sony did what they did to protect their interests in gaming industry.”

      To all holier-than-thou Sony-blowing pricks… Installing a Root-Kit on some unsuspecting person’s system is uncool. It doesn’t matter why they did it, only that they DID it. It’s also not cool to sell people an “upgrade” with a revised EULA that’s had its language tweaked to prevent them from being able to sue Sony over its previous assholery. Furthermore, your statement doesn’t even make sense because at the end of the day, the consumer rules. They decide what they’ll buy and what they won’t. If you screw with enough of them for long enough– they’ll screw you right back– only harder. Stop defending an arrogant corporation’s douche-baggery and criminal misdeeds. What they did was illegal, you know it, I know it, they know it– we all know it. Hacking in and installing root-kits to rummage through someone’s system is expressly against the law.

    4. They sold the PS3 with the promise to run Linux, which in combination with its unique processor, made it a cheap platform for parallel computing. Thats why unis actually bought them. All of the sudden they disabled that, cause somebody used a bug in their fucking games…

    5. Sony a victim? Please stop doing this drugs you do. I don’t own a console, but in general “I bought the hardware, so it’s mine. I want to execute any code I like.” Sony was good in the 80ies or 90ies, they went bad when they changed from a manufacturer of good hardware to a DRM company. Fuck digital restriction management!

  6. Does it have DRM [ Digitial Restrictions Management ] ? Will it be full of non-open protocols? Will the SDK have at least one rootkit? Will it depend on external servers with piss-poor security? Will it leak my details to advertisers everywhere?

    Will Sony sue developers on a whim? Will people trying to experiment be threatened with lawsuits?

    That is what I have come to expect from Sony. It just wouldn’t be a Sony product without it.

    1. I concur. I stopped buying Sony, PS3 being my last purchase and now all the Sony tvs, tape recorders and any other Sony device has been removed from my house. This has cost them at least £3000 in lost revenue from me.

      Prior to their dishonest behaviour most of my electronic devices were Sony, it is a small company and really should be more careful.

      1. I stopped buying from them too, but I wont remove my working stereo set from the 90ies as long as it works or I am able to repair it. Why should I remove it? They built good hardware in the 90ies.

  7. Because we should be giving money to Sony, after they installed rootkits on millions of windows PCs with their audio CD DRM, removed that ability for the PS3 to run Linux, even though it was a selling point at time of purchase, sued Geohot almost to the grave.

    Fsck Sony

    1. Forget player! My minidisc recorder was the bomb when it was new. AAC had a better sound per bitrate than MP3 and the preamp in the thing was actually really good. Before WAV recorders became affordable, it was one of the best ways to make field recordings for a while.

      But try to buy one of the funny Sony proprietary batteries today. Boo!

    2. it had awful drm though, you couldn’t copy minidisks. I have a lot of older sony stuff i love, audio amp and their cracked psp. I wouldn’t buy anthing new from them though, don’t want a lemon on my hands.

      1. You could copy them over SP/DIF if you had a gadget to clear the copy flag. Metadata would get lost though.

        Then there was NetMD, which is a horror that should never be spoken of.

    1. yes, you make a good point. In fact, I was wondering, have Apple had a go at an arduino or r-pi copy yet? (I seem to remember HaD doing an April fools about it). Seems like all the major players are having a go at it and all getting ignored. Apple, with all their devotees could probably pull it off (but only if they charge at least 500 quid for it).

  8. Interesting to see little love for Sony here. Can’t say i disagree on many of the points. Sony IMHO last did amazing stuff back in the days when the Trinitron was the best CRT telly on the market.

    Fun fact: most Raspberry Pi boards are made in a Sony factory in Pencoed, Wales.

  9. Without a price point, this isn’t news. The board could cost 500 euros for all we know.
    Feature wise, I’m not seeing anything I cannot get today from various vendors, depending on what I’m willing to pay.

  10. I wonder would this sell better if released it indirectly by a partly held Sony subsidiary like Olympus (or Aiwa if they did not sell the brandname). Sony just have too much bad history to release a product like this directly.

  11. I haven’t bought a lot from sony in recent years. Last thing was probably a PS2. For me, they started to go downhill around the time they started getting distracted by all that ‘media’ stuff (movies and music etc). I don’t know how ‘sony’ is pronounced in different parts but, in the UK, it is like ‘So Knee’. Back in the 90s (I think), they started trying to change it to ‘sunny’ or some such. Thats about the time they started to become irrelevant. Credit where its due though, I remember getting a walkman back in the 80s (probalby a 2nd or 3rd model), probably the best thing I ever bought, so I still have a soft spot for them (not enough to buy one of these pieces of crap though).

  12. Lets see what they put out in terms of documentation.

    Sony, as others have pointed out, have had a quite spotty history where it comes to product support, and the maker industry is almost the antithesis of what they’ve been doing to date… but then again, no one in the previous decade thought Microsoft would be embracing open source to the extent they are today either.

  13. I tried to design a CCD camera once, using a Sony CCD. I already knew about the general requirements of CCDs and their behaviour. And I still had to postpone that project to a later time due to me not understanding a single thing from their datasheet. Not the first time that happened to me with Sony’s datasheets. I don’t even understand why they bother writing them as those docs are often quite useless.
    It don’t expect them to do a better job with this dev board…

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