By Kevin Kelly
Sony continued the first-day trend of press conferences that moved along at a breakneck pace, covering a wide range of categories without lingering too long on one thing and thus saving the audience from burnout. That’s something that many companies, including Sony, have done in the past and instead the new trend seems to be “Hold on, because we’re really moving.”
Sony approached their press conference with a shotgun, giving everyone a brief overview of their new items. While there wasn’t any one “Holy CRAP!” item on the list, it was more about incremental upgrades to items: Handycams that can project videos up to 100″ wide on nearby walls, the Bloggie Live camera that can livestream HD video content to the web, a remote control for their televisions that features a touchscreen and a microphone for voice control, and so on.
Oh, and Will Smith provided one of the more awkward “Celebrities at CES” moments we’ve ever seen.
Sadly, many people tuning into the USTREAM of the event thought that Sony would be tossing the gamers a bone with a sneak announcement of the PlayStation 4, or something similar, but the only gaming updates they gave were that Music Unlimited with its 12 million songs will be available on the PlayStation Vita from day one, and that Netflix is coming to the Vita as well, hopefully by the U.S. launch date. Not exactly overwhelming, as most smartphones and even the Nintendo 3DS have access to Netflix.
Sony did spend a lot of time plugging the Sony Entertainment Network, which the PlayStation Network is a part of, remarking that they want everything to be “One common ID, one digital wallet.” They also talked about the PlayStation being a “critical differentiator,” which sounds very technical. They teased the Sony Tablet S and the Tablet P, commenting that they will be “PlayStation Certified,” and showed of PlayMemories Online, a new photo sharing service that plays across cameras, PCs and mobile devices, including iOS and Android. PlayMemories Studio on the PS3 is an editing program that “is almost like a game,” according to Kaz Hirai.
Speaking of branding, Sony Ericsson is now officially Sony Mobile Communications, and Hirai briefly showed off an Xperia Ion from his pocket. It’s lightweight and wafer thin with a 12 megapixel camera, and will be available on AT&T this spring, with the Xperia S available globally in March, with both phones being PlayStation Certified. While not as beefy as some of the other entries into the mobile market, Sony’s Ericsson name change clearly indicates that they want to do a lot of business in this space.
The Bravia line of televisions was mentioned briefly, so don’t expect those to disappear, and they are expanding their Google TV line, including a Google TV streaming player with a Blu-ray player bundled together in one unit. They also showed off that previously mentioned Google TV remote, which is chunky, backlit, features a touchscreen, and a microphone for voice commands.
Other quick looks included quick shots of some VAIO protoypes that look very futuristic with docks and flat keyboards, a camera that includes “Balanced Optical SteadyShot” that stabilizes up to 13 times. Sony’s XReality Pro engine that is supposed to make the internet look better (they upscaled a YouTube video to HD), new ultra-light active 3D glasses made out of titanium, Handycams that have a built-in projector that allows for up to 100″ viewing, the Bloggie Live that livestreams HD via wifi via Qik, new earbuds (including a “rinsable” workout model), speakers, and even a Walkman Z which runs on Android and has built-in wifi.
Sony is also making another impact in the world of film. More than 10,000 theaters use their 4K projects, and they’ve also introduced the F65, the world’s first professional camera that shoots at 4K, which is more than four times the resolution of 4K. They are also introducing Blu-ray players with 4K upscale features, and a 4K home theater projector. To highlight all of this, they brought out Will Smith and Barry Sonnenfeld through a cloud of smoke to talk about Men in Black 3, and to provide awkward banter with Sony’s Sir Howard Stringer which included a Fresh Prince pun. Awwwwkward!
Sony also stands behind theatrical 3D, which made six billion in revenue last year. They’ll be releasing Underworld: Awakening, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, and The Amazing Spider-Man in 3D, among others this year. They’ve also partnered with ESPN 3D to broadcast SportsNation on Wednesday using all Sony 3D cameras from the floor.
Continuing the LG and Samsung trends, they also showed off their 55″ Crystal LED prototype, which Howard Stringer promises “Your eyes will pop, we hope your mouth will water, and you’ll tell your friends ’I’ve seen the future, and it’s a Sony.'” Closing out, Kelly Clarkson took to the stage to sing us out along with an acoustic guitar on “Mr. Know-It-All.”