Sony plans to dominate HDTV revolution


14 Apr 2005

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BORDEAUX: Sony is hoping to dominate the high-definition television (HDTV) services market and is working to embed its proprietary technologies in video, audio and computer gaming into the next generation of LCD flat-screen televisions.

At a press event attended by more than 400 journalists from all over the world in Bordeaux yesterday, the president of Sony Europe Chris Deering made it clear that Sony is moving to leverage its various interests in the worlds of computers, gaming, audio and vision technology as well as its interests in the music and movies industries to move away from being a dominant entertainment powerhouse.

“Today’s consumer electronics landscape is the most complex it has ever been and the consumer has more power than at any time in history. We are seeking the sweet spot between the revolutions taking place in communications and fashion. My vision is very clear, Sony aims to be not just the leading consumer electronics brand but the essential entertainment brand of the 21st Century.”

Deering said the company, established in Japan in 1946, will be appointing its first non-Japanese CEO in June. That position is to be occupied by Sir Howard Stringer, a Welsh journalist by trade who emerged to transform Sony’s US business and who has been given to mission to replicate the strategy across the world.

Citing strong synergies between the games world and traditional music and movie industries, Deering said that the recently introduced PlayStation Portable (PSP) has received critics’ praise and that the PlayStation 3 is on target to be introduced later this year. “We have sold more than half a billion games worldwide and have three quarters of the console market in Europe.”

Moving on to the television segment of Sony’s business, Deering said that the sector is going through substantial changes, driven primarily by a revolution in HDTV. At the Bordeaux event he unveiled some 25 new LCD HDTV products for the European market, including a massive 70-rear projector TV aimed at the home cinema market. He also pointed to synergies between HDTV and the next generation of DVD, entitled Blu Ray, which includes discs capable of storing 50GB of content on a single disc. He also unveiled a new HDTV-based HandyCam camcorder capable of recording wide-screen cinema and surround sound.

HD broadcast services are already available in the US, Japan, Canada, South Korea and Australia, which Deering said demonstrates a clear consumer demand for higher quality and accurate viewing. Broadcasters in Europe have concluded that HDTV is both technically and commercially viable.

Sony’s chief marketing officer Fujio Nishida confirmed some of Deering’s assertions: “As the world moves to flat panel we are applying a high-definition technology engine to give products the best power as consumers transition from traditional television to hard drives and DVD storage.”

Nishida pointed to a joint venture between Sony’s €1bn semiconductor business and IBM and Toshiba to develop what he described as The Cell Chip

“The core architecture of The Cell Chip allows all kinds of devices from portable games consoles to mobile phones to handle rich content at an astonishing speed. This will be deal for applications for the future. The Cell Chip sits at the heart of the forthcoming PS3 and is ideal for HDTV

“The HDTV world is coming and in fact is already here. In the US 50pc of primetime TV products are broadcast on high-definition platforms. In Europe, broadcasters are preparing to roll out HDTV-based programmes later this year. Once consumers see this they will never go back. Sony will partner with broadcasters to make widespread adoption of HDTV a reality. Sony flatscreens are HDTV compatible already.

“With the introduction of Blu Ray discs and the world’s first high-definition handycam, HDTV will not just be the preserve of broadcaster. It has the potential to ignite a new wave of demand and Sony intends to be there every step of the way,” Nishida concluded.

By John Kennedy