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CES Report: 4K Is the Future for Sony; Promises Affordable 4K TV
Sony trades sizzle for flubs in a lackluster CES press conference. Come back, Howard Stringer.

Two years ago, the Sony International CES Press Day conference thrilled with Seth Rogan and the Green Hornet car. Last year, Will Smith set the bar higher while plugging Men in Black 3. And this year?

This year, for most of the conference the audience got Sony Electronics president and COO Phil Molyneux giving a surprisingly low-key presentation. It seemed he was speaking quietly so he wouldn't wake himself.

"How cool is that?" he asked of one product. His tone and delivery suggested that he didn't find it that cool, at all.

The days of Sir Howard Stringer at Sony, it seems, are long gone.

For those who could stay awake, 4K was the big story for Sony this year, but the demos didn't always go off as planned, Kazuo Hirai, president and CEO of Sony Corporation, showed the prototype of a 56-inch 4K OLED screen, only to have a blue screen appear seconds after the set was brought onstage. The image never recovered.

Hirai promised more affordable 4K TVs this year, saying that Sony will release 55- and 65-inch 4K price-conscious models. He didn't give specifics on pricing.

"An 84-inch television isn't for everyone," Hirai said.

The press conference mentioned a 4K distribution system beginning this summer, making it sound like a streaming service for ultra HD titles. According to a Sony representative at the site, however, it's actually an existing service. Buyers of a $25,000 86-inch 4K Sony TV get a media center stocked with 4K titles. Occasionally, Sony sends out Blu-ray data discs with new titles to save to the media center. There's no streaming involved.

Jumping on the second-screen bandwagon, Sony announced SideView, an app for iOS and Android. The app has useful features, although it doesn't add anything new: it shows what's currently on, provides easy navigation, gives deeper info on programs and stars, and recommends related programs. The app also accepts spoken commands.

Two years ago the Sony CES press conference ended with a dazzling Cirque du Soleil show. This year it ended with a yawn. Sony fans will have to hope this doesn't foreshadow the year ahead.

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