LAS VEGAS—Sony Corp. wants to rewrite the eBook on IT history.
The consumer electronics giant, known for innovative hardware such as the Walkman, game systems like the PlayStation and for content such as music and movies like “Spiderman,” has seen hard times for its core business of late.
Now, under the guidance of its new CEO, Howard Stringer, the company is aiming to more fully intertwine its two most important properties—content and the devices that play them—in an effort remake itself and re-emerge a consumer electronics magnate, Stringer said in a keynote address at the 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show, here.
Sony will unveil a broad range of new products this year, ranging from a new electronic book—its Sony Reader, which will come out in North America next spring—to its PlayStation 3, in addition to new cellular phones, digital cameras and PCs.
Diverse as they are, the products will all have the ability to access and/or share some type of content, whether its electronic books, movies or television content, which sums up Sonys strategy for moving forward, Stringer said.
“No other content company has Sonys intuitive grasp of technology and no other company has Sonys intimate understanding of the demands of content,” Stringer said.
“We have analyzed our product lines and reorganized our corporate structure to become more nimble to be able to deliver champion products,” he added.
Stringers Sony—the company made Stringer, its former head of U.S. operations, its CEO in June 2005 to help right its ailing electronics business—will bring a tighter focus on content sharing, particularly when it comes to high-definition.
Sonys PS3 will be able to use Blu-ray disks, while the companys Sony Pictures Home Entertainment division will offer 20 movies, initially, using the new format, including titles such as “Black Hawk Down.”
The companys Sony Reader eBook will be offered next spring along with thousands of titles that can be downloaded via a Sony Connect Store.
The book, which can store as many as 100 books on its internal memory, and more on Sony Memory Stick removable storage, will allow users to adjust its font sizes through four different sizes, in addition to scrolling back and forth inside each book. Sony did not disclose a price for the eBook.
Dan Brown, author of “The Da Vinci Code,” took the stage with Stringer and said he believed eBooks would become popular as a way of augmenting traditional books for travelers or for schools, allowing students to pack numerous text books into one small device and shed heavy backpacks.
Ultimately, the “lower costs of publishing eBooks will allow [publishing] companies to take risks on lesser known authors,” Brown said. “The affect of this is there will be more books in print and more choice for readers.”
Sony would likely cash in by selling the hardware as well as brokering the books via its store.
Later, actor Tom Hanks and movie director Ron Howard joined Stringer on stage to discuss their forthcoming film version of “The Da Vinci Code.” A clip of the film, which stars Hanks, was shown using Sonys high-definition digital projector.
Throughout his appearance, Hanks made fun of reading from a teleprompter and quipped about the difficulty of navigating the operating systems on devices such as Sony cameras.
“Ill be damned if I can turn this flash off,” Hanks said of a small digital camera he toted on stage with him.
The appearance underscored what Stringer said is the move to high-definition video in movies, television and even games.
This year, sales of high-definition televisions will eclipse that of standard-definition sets, “making the shift from BW to color seem small by comparison,” he said. “When consumers experience true HD, they will never want to go back.”
Stringer then brought CBS sportscaster Greg Gumble to the stage. Gumble said that HD television allows fans to experience games as if they were sitting in the broadcast booth or catch the same view of the golf green as Tiger Woods.
Fostering the transition to HD will be Blu-ray, a new high-definition video disk format that can store up 50GB of data, good for approximately nine hours of HD video.
Stringer brought Dell Inc. founder and CEO Michael Dell on stage to discuss Blu-ray.
Dell said that his companys customers were demanding a new storage standard that could both support high-definition video as well as provide more space for backup that would last at least a decade. The equipment many of them have now is already prepared to show high-definition content.
“Weve got to have a way to bring HD content to all of these users,” said Dell.
Stringer went on to show a short clip of several forthcoming PS3 games, including a racing title called “F1 Formula.”
Sony will also soon release its new Sony Ericsson W810, a quad-band Walkman phone that can play music and take photos with its 2-megapixel, autofocus camera, as well as use Location Free, a technology that Sony said allows the companys PlayStation Portable to show live television from anywhere in the world.
“Everywhere you see Sony you see the benefit of the marriage of entertainment and technology,” Stringer said.
“Content and technology are strange bedfellows, but we are joined together. At Sony we are united in our commitment to creating the very best consumer experience with dazzling products. This is who and what we are.”