Sony Counters Samsung Experience with Qualia

At competing events in New York City, Samsung and Sony unveiled new showrooms designed to highlight high-tech convergence devices.

NEW YORK—Samsung unveiled its new high-tech showroom Wednesday to a select group of media and analysts. Located in New Yorks swanky Time Warner Center, the "Samsung Experience" follows in the footsteps of Sonys popular Style stores, located in New York and San Francisco.

The 10,000-square-foot showroom features 10 separate themed areas focusing on home, work and play. Launched with a wide array of partners including Mark Cubans HDNet and the MIT Media Lab, the Samsung Experience promises a destination for tourists and locals alike to sample and play with a wide range of Samsungs digital products.

According to MIT Media Center Director Nicholas Negroponte, who was digitally beamed into the launch event via video tape, Samsungs new showroom focuses on device convergence and personal convergence. Negroponte envisioned a world where devices do multiduty, morphing into digital Swiss Army knives of voice, music, video, home security and more. His vision of the convergence of home and work lives was vaguely disquieting, but the audience of Samsung executives, reporters and hangers-on seemed mostly bowled over by the array of technology, rather than the limiting capabilities.

Its a good thing the store isnt designed to sell products. Many of the hundreds of products on display—including a fascinating lineup of video- and photo-enabled cell phones—arent available today in the United States. Other unavailable products were also on display, including a revamped 50-inch DLP (digital light processing) projector, notebook computers and a high-tech refrigerator and dryer.

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But its more than just a touchy-feely geek paradise. Samsung hopes to entice tourists to visit the store by offering to loan out its hard-disk video cameras. By simply plunking down a credit card, visitors can borrow a camera for a few days to record their New York experiences. Samsung also offers kiosks where, after they return the cameras, visitors can burn videos onto DVD to take home.

The store also offers MP3 downloads via the Napster service, and free ring-tone downloads to cell phones. "Its all about the digital lifestyle now and in the future", said Samsungs Electronics America CEO DJ Oh.

The brilliantly lit warm interior stands in direct contrast to Sonys Style store. Designed both to showcase and to sell products, the Style store includes a product showcase on the first floor and a decidedly hip lounge in the basement.

Next page: Sony programs competing event to focus on Qualia.