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The first great war of the Internet is on

The ironic thing about a hardware fight is that by the time it's settled in the courts, the hardware in question is junk. Sony, of all companies, should know this. The entertainment industry lawsuit that was brought against their proprietary Betamax technology in 1976 wasn't settled until 1984 and by then cheaper VHS technology (made by multiple manufacturers) had consigned the Betamax to the bric-a-brac section of thrift stores.

Yet my money is still on Sony this week as they've entered the fray of the Google settlement crisis. They're on the side of Google Books. Sony's Reader displays any e-book format and supports file copying on up to six devices. The Reader and Google are a good match.

On the other side is Amazon with their Kindle (which is a proprietary-file-laden piece of poo). Stepping into that corner with legal and monetary support, just because they hate Google, is the axis of Microsoft and Yahoo.

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In the middle is the plunder: a badly weighted settlement for Google's right to display and distribute thousands of out-of-print and not-so-out-of-print titles as well as setting the dialogue, price and methods for how e-books will be sold.

What was a held-breath moment for publishing's plunge into the digital world has turned into a web-wide war and a hardware battle, the likes of which publishing (and, for that matter, Amazon) has never seen before. Sony, however, has experienced it multiple times and has a deep war chest and brand recognition in consumer electronics that Amazon doesn't. But then again, Sony has blown their edge multiple times.

All that's certain right now is that in a few years Kindle and the Reader will be nerd punchlines but the battle between them will say much about the future of all that software (or "books" for you old-fashioned types).

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