Sony, who this time last year was telling analysts that their future lay in 3D TV technology, has had a change of heart after the technology flopped. The company is now banking on Android tablets in a move that will force them to compete head on with Samsung, holders of major market share in TVs and Android tablets.
According to struggling Sony CEO Sir Howard Stringer, the Japanese company’s two new tablets – including an ‘S’ and ‘P’ model – one a 9.4″ tablet and the other featuring two screens that fold together are “set to be a key part of their future success”
He said that the c
ompany has been ‘flattened, flooded, hacked and singed’ during the past 12 months.
He blamed their problems not on a lack of innovative products, but on the Japanese tsunami, a PlayStation ‘crisis’ and the London riots.
Speaking at this year’s IFA show in Berlin, Sir Howard said Sony was finally ready to “re-engage”. He announced the pricing of the two new model tablets are priced at $579 for a 16GB version of the S model and $689 for a 32GB version. The US prices of the same tablets are $499 and $599 respectively and are entering a crowded market of tablets based on Google’s Android operating system, whose sum total has been called ‘little more than a rounding error’ when compared to iPad sales.
The Daily Telegraph in the UK said that Sony’s coverage of its business is still dominated by television sales: the only division of the company that is not making a profit. There’s even been talk among commentators of the firm exiting the TV market altogether.
Kazuo Hirai, Sir Howard’s right-hand man and executive vice president was clear about the company’s TV aspirations: “We are not leaving the TV business, we are not thinking of leaving the TV business, and we are not talking about it either”. Sir Howard himself talked of transforming Sony over the last five years “from an analogue company to a digital one”. Now, he says, it is set “to use content as a weapon”.
Sony said that they are keen to use its devices to either replace others or to tie together the existing mess of other bits of electronic kit that many users already have at home. The tactic, at least, sets the company apart from its main rivals. Even the folding, two-screen P design is appealingly different, hoping to slide into a woman’s handbag or a man’s pocket.
The S offers two key features: with a built in infrared transmitter, it can replace any remote control. And where previously Sony would have limited that feature to just Sony TVs, now it works with any manufacturer. Where Apple locks people in to its products, with iPods and iPhones demanding iTunes, Sony is pointedly saying that it is more open.
The other key feature is Sony’s aim to make sense of the increasing mess of digital music and videos that many users have on different computers and hard drives on their home network. Using the standard WiFi ‘DLNA’ approach, which is built-in to thousands of devices, Sony will scan a network for stored media and for devices on which to play it back. That means the tablet becomes a key interface, allowing you to ‘throw’ music or films to any HiFi or TV that’s online.
And with the new Sony Entertainment Network, Sir Howard says it’s a matter of time before TV series are delivered directly to Sony products. The company’s glasses-free 3D technology “could go [on sale] now”, he says, claiming it’s better than any of the competition. “I’d love to launch glasses-less with a series,” he says. “But the enemy is rushing”. Its programmes, rather than the hardware, that Sir Howard argues must come first. When they do, however, even the company’s tablets may well be part of a whole new way of viewing and controlling TV.