Here's my summary and judgement (yes, in a biblical sense) of Sony's announcements from Sir Howard Stringer's keynote (he's the CEO) at CES last week.
Theme: Entertaining the Future
The relationship between content, technology and the consumer is changing. This is one of those vague, meaningless statements that is a requirement of every CES keynote. Seriously, I can say stuff like that. Watch. People will always be a part of the human race, but they will do different things in the future. See. So do I get to run a massive multinational company now?
Content is increasingly pulled by consumers, not pushed by a central programmer.
This is true and awesome. We live in a more on-demand media world. I don't have to wait for some "programming executive" and some "television network" to decide when I watch Everybody Hates Chris. Instead I can use my "computer" and my "cable modem" to "download" "it."
Sony BMG's attempt at protecting audio CDS wasn't "anti-consumer." We were trying to protect the artists. We are aware of our debt to the artists that illuminate the screens on our devices.
Shut up. He had an opportunity to apologize to the world for that rootkit fiasco, planting destructive software secretly on millions of people's computers. He did not. I will slap him with my glove when next we meet... when next we meet, Sir Howard, indeed!
As a media company, we understand the process of creating content. As a consumer electronics company, we understand devices. Being in both places puts us in a unique position.
Product announcements (cool ones in bold)
- Walkman phone Sony Ericsson W810. Cell phone with high quality digital music playback. Don't care.
- New Cybershot digital camera. Smaller, better, whatever.
- e-book reader. Sony has designed an electronic book reader that is stunning. The screen doesn't have a backlight, so there's no flicker, and the text is very easy to read. It looks like a great way to carry books without carrying books. I do a lot of audiobooks on my iPod, but sometimes I want to actually read with my eyes to remind myself that I can. To hype the new format, Sony brought out DaVinci Code author Dan brown
- Locationfree technology allows you to stream video signals around your home or outside your home if you're online. It's a box you plug in to your broadband router and video signals (cable TV, DVD player, DVR etc). Once that's done, you can remotely stream that video content to a special 12-inch screen Sony makes, to a PlayStation Portable or to any Windows laptop/PC with some special software on it. The box can only send video to one remote device at a time, and you'll have to pay for each PC software license separately. They demoed the CEO watching programming both from Japan and the UK during the keynote
- Digital cinema theatre projector. Since I don't own a movie theatre, I don't really care. The digital films I've seen kinda suck. I prefer the look of a movie shot on actual film. Digital movies in the theatre have all these pixels and whatnot.
- Support for Blu-Ray DVD standard (rather than HD-DVD). Many of you don't know this, but your investment in a massive DVD collection is about to be made obsolete. Way faster than the shift from VHS to DVD, the tech people have created a new version of DVDs with way more capacity. The good news: they don't have a single standard, so "the market gets to decide." Whenever someone says "we have to let the market decide," that's code for, "we have to screw people over." Just my two cents.
Sir Howard described all these things and Sony's vision in terms of "four pillars":
"e-entertainment". Doesn't just mean "electronic" but also "everyone." There's more personal entertainment out there
"digital cinema". Both projectors and cameras. They previewed the DaVinci code movie, then Tom Hanks came out and said stuff.
"high(er) def". Here they talked about HD television content and new high definition DVDs (and their support for Blu-Ray). They dragged out the sports Gumble, who I like to call Not-Bryant Gumble and made him act happy. Sir Howard made his HD point by saying, "When you watch golf in HD, you actually see the texture of the fairways." That's funny; when I watch golf in HD, I actually see how clearly I'm wasting my life.
"playstation". I love how PlayStation got it's own pillar. It's that bomb, I guess. Want to hear some scary stats? There's a PlayStation in one of three U.S. homes. These stats are better though because they bitch-slap Microsoft (yes, stats can bitch-slap. Now hush!). With all the hype over Xbox 360 this CHRISTMAS season (see, I called it the right thing), the older PlayStation 2 sold more units than Xbox 360. That has got to hurt Microsoft's feelings. Here they go and get their brand new game console out ahead of the competition, and people decide they'd rather get and older PlayStation than a new Xbox. Coolest stat though: The PlayStation Portable (PSP) also sold more than the Xbox 360. Bill Gates, you just got punked!
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Overall, I dug Sony's presentation. It was way smoother than Microsoft's, and I'm pretty excited about the LocationFree stuff. I won't be getting it myself because I'm not gonna get a PSP, and the service only works on PCs, but it'll be cool for someone.