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Sony's comeback strategy bets heavily on displays

Posted: 15 Apr 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:consumer electronics? displays? mp3? hdtv?

Sony Europe is betting the farm on advanced flat-panel displays and other high-end consumer products as its seeks to shed criticism that it has "missed the boat" in consumer electronics.

According to Sony executives gathered here for a high-profile media event, the company is also betting on HD products and new hard disk drive-based networked portable MP3 players.

Stressing that Sony is armed with plenty of high-definition content, advanced display technologies and clever connectivity products, Chris Deering, president of Sony Europe, added, "Sony won't be simply a technology company. We will become a digital entertainment brand of the 21st century that delivers new emotional experiences to consumers."

The jury is still out, however, on exactly how the Japanese consumer electronics giant will succeed as competition stiffens from a growing number of digital consumer electronics manufacturers.

Despite the scant availability of terrestrial HDTV broadcast in Europe, Sony said it would no longer sit on the sidelines of the HDTV market. Fujio Nishida, Sony Corp.'s EVP, said pay TV operators in Europe such as Sky in the U.K., Premiere in Germany and TPS and Canal+ in France are rolling out HDTV broadcasts.

"The HD world is also coming to Europe," said Nishida, noting that Sony is committed to the fledgling HD market here. "We pioneered HD cameras for TV production. We have a number of HD-ready flat panel products. Consumers can edit HD content on Sony's Vaio computers and Blu-ray drives. We've even rolled out the world's first consumer HDTV camcorders," said Nishida.

One Sony survival strategy for competing in the commoditized consumer electronics market is an aggressive foray into "upstream" markets such as HDTV. "We will promote the emotional values of Sony products, backed by technology, experience and style," said Nishida.

Backed by an unprecedented European marketing budget of 1 billion euros over the next three years, Sony also hopes to establish its presence in Russia and Ukraine and all of eastern European while strengthening its position in the Western Europe, Deering said.

Seeking to rebuild its tarnished reputation as a leading flat-panel TV supplier, Sony will also roll out 25 new LCD-based HD models this year in Europe. Seventy percent of the models will feature both an HDMI-based, copy-protected digital interface and an analog component input.

Sony also unveiled here a new HD, 46-inch LCD television integrated with Sony's proprietary three (red, green, blue) LED backlight system called Triluminos. The LCD TV offers a roughly 150-percent wider color gamut compared with a conventional LCD backlight display, the company claimed.

Triluminos technology can expand and maximize color purity, according to the company. The new LCD TV also features Sony's proprietary WEGA engine HD, designed to create a sharp video signal with less "noise" or signal imperfections. The WEGA engine also enables the LCD TV to display a full HD signal (1,920 by 1,080 pixels).

Sony is also pushing a micro display system using another proprietary technology called SXRD, for Silicon Crystal (X-tal) Reflective Display. The reflective display device has more than 2 million pixels contained in three 0.78-inch SXRD panels, providing over 6 million total pixels.

Since interline spaces between pixels are so narrow, the display creates "a truly 35mm film-like image with no visible scanning lines," claimed Nathalie Muijtjens, senior product marketing manager of front projector group at Sony TV Marketing Europe.

Sony, which came late to the flat panel display market, continues to rely heavily on its proprietary technologies to differentiate its products. Sony announced earlier this year it will invest $97 million in its Kokubu plant alone to begin producing LCD drivers and SXRD panels for projection engines in spring 2006.

- Junko Yoshida

EE Times

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