While the attention of the consumer electronics world last week was mostly focused on news in the console gaming world from E3, the presence of a large contingent of CE press in Los Angeles gave Sony the opportunity to hold a briefing on the other parts of its consumer and professional product portfolios. Residential Systems was part of the small group of journalists invited to the Sony Studios lot in Culver City to meet with Sony executives including Sony Electronics president Phil Molyneux.
Although the focus was mostly on CE, the event began with a tour of Sony’s new Digital Motion Picture Center. Now officially open, the Center serves as a showcase for high-resolution 4K image technology from capture through editing and production workflow out to display. Among the products demonstrated was Sony’s F65 CineAlta 4K digital movie camera, which is billed as the world’s first cine camera with a 20-megapixel, 8K image sensor. Sony claims more than 400 pre-orders for the $65,00 camera, and the screening of a special demo presentation and live use on the sets of the Center showcased its exceptional performance.
Perhaps the best part of the Center is the fact that you don’t need to be part of an exclusive tour to take advantage of the training it offers. Training sessions of 4K will be held each Wednesday for at least the next two years for anyone who is interested in 4K. For more information, contact the Sony Digital Motion Picture Center at SonyDMPC@am.sony.com.
Transitioning to the event’s CE focus, mention was made of the current availability of the VPL-VW1000ES Home Theater E3 projector and the BDP-S790 Blu-ray player that features scaling to 4K. Beyond the front projector, and, of course, cinema projectors, Sony does not offer any other 4K display products at this time, though when asked about plans for 4K SLRs or flat-panel displays as well as 4K program distribution Molyneux hinted that they were in the offing but declined to provide more details other than that, “We’re not looking at a lengthy horizon.”
For the short term there were some interesting product introductions, including “mirrorless interchangeable lens SLRs,” where Sony claims the top U.S. market share to go along with a 60 percent share of the traditional camcorder market and a 43 percent overall camcorder share including MP4 models. Among the new camera models is the 16.1MP, NEX-F3 to be available this week with a 3x zoom and a variety of high-end features such as optical image stabilization and AVCHD recording with full 1080HD along with a built-in flash and 180-degree 7.5 cm viewfinder and greatly improved battery life up to 450 shots on one charge.
Other new camera products previewed at the roundtable included a waterproof camcorder with full HD and AVCHD recording to appear in July for $699 and the RX 1000 CyberShot with a 20mp image sensor that will retail at $650.
With this being the 15th anniversary year for Sony’s line of VAIO computers, the introductions included a 13.3 Ultrabook, and perhaps more interesting to the custom installation client, an “all-in-one” based around a 24-inch high-resolution display with PIP that makes multi-tasking easier, as you can view an HDMI input from an external source and the PC’s activity on the screen at the same time. There also will be an auto-stereoscopic “glasses-free” 3D option for the “L Series” models later this year.
Beyond the products and studio tour, the main purpose of the roundtable was for Sony’s Molyneux to speak with the press and take their questions on hot topics in the electronics industry. The discussion was wide ranging and covered a broad array of technical, product and marketing topics.
Addressing 3D, Molyneux expressed satisfaction with the current sales direction while at the same time offering that large-screen glasses-free displays would be important to the long-term future of 3D for consumers. Sony continues to work on that technology, as demonstrated at CES, but did not comment on any launch timing. Sony also is continuing development of the micro-LED-based CrystalVision display technology shown back in January at CES and pointed to the Sony Broadcast “Trimaster” OLED monitors as evidence of the company’s work in that area. However, not hard product plans, pricing, or introduction date was given for either of those technologies, either.
On the retail sales side, a great deal of attention was given to the favorable initial results with Sony’s “Strategic Investment Program” that “rewards retailers who properly support Sony products” with better margin. Given the highly competitive nature of Sony’s core TV business, the number of SKUs is being cut by half as the company works with retailers to find the right product mix, with an increasing focus on premium models. On the retail floor, Sony will expand its “golden space” exclusive “shop-in-shop” areas to more retail chains such as Fry’s.
With regard to Sony’s own retail outlets, it will expand the number of smaller “boutique” Sony Stores that are about half the size of the current 5,000 square foot stores.