TechRadar met up recently with Sony Group Product Manager, Darren Ambridge at the company's 2009 TV preview event and chatted to him about all things Sony.
At the event, Sony showcased its latest 'enhanced' versions of company's S, V and W range of TVs. Notable new features include Applicast connectivity via Ethernet for the V range upwards (this means web widgets on your TV) and MotionFlow 100Hz processing.
Here's what Ambridge had to say about the future of HDTVs, why the company isn't releasing a 3DTV just yet and what the truth is about those Neon rumours...
TechRadar: What have people's reactions been to the new Bravia ranges so far?
Darren Ambridge: Feedback has been really good. The fact that we got a really clear step up to the range is helping us.
I think people generally like logical ranges, so if you can give them this and tick all the right boxes, including screen sizes and technology, then buyers and consumers are happy.
We are really happy with the range we have got. The designs are sleek and there's some great wireless technology put into place.
In terms of wireless – everything from our V-Series up supports DLNA connectivity, and we have added video to it as well, so it is the first time you can stream video content and digital stills.
TR: Is internet connectivity the way forward for TVs?
DA: Sony really sees the television at the hub of people's entertainment and activities. One thing we are keen to promote is the wireless streaming of still images and things like that.
How many people do you know, who have a huge bank of images on their laptop, but they never show off their images?
So whether you are streaming your own content in the home or accessing content from the web, your television is the most obvious route to enjoy that content.
TR: What about web widgets on your TVs?
We're still developing the actual widgets as such. We have got some standard things like world clocks. The thing that is very interesting is the RSS feeds, so customers can enter up to 30 different feeds of their own choice.
Those that are familiar with RSS feeds on their PCs will know that the options are endless in terms with what content you want.
That is the key thing for web-enabled TVs, that people optimise them for their own interests, whether it's holiday destinations, their favourite sport or films for instance, it really is up for them to choose. Because it's open platform, we have made it very easy to use.
TR: Is this something that consumers have told you they want, or is this Sony trying to innovate?
DA: It is a bit of both really. Research has said that customers are using their TVs for more things like the internet.
I think that the success of the BBC iPlayer over the last 15 months has made people aware the kind of things they can enjoy through internet connectivity.
The challenge for Sony is to help open up the options for customers, and show them new things that may never have thought about enjoying through their TVs.
TR: Are consumers getting more technologically savvy now?
DA: We are always very keen to try and promote the benefits of the product as a whole and try and not make it too technology focused.
It's clear that there is a population of consumers out there that enjoys technology and enjoys reading up on the latest trends and researching, and while Sony is well-suited to customers like that, there's a whole lot of customers out there that don't want to understand the technology, but what they do want is great picture quality.
Our latest campaign for MotionFlow, with the zoetrope, hopefully shows customers what our TVs can do, without talking too much about the technology.
TR: There's so many Bravia TVs out now, do you think this is confusing for consumers?
DA: There are a lot of models in the range, but we believe that there's a reason why each and everyone exists.
It's all about steps up. There's three ranges that show differences in the technology we use in our TVs: the S, V and W series.
These are the core of the range. But around this we have different premium products, like the 200Hz Z series and then there's our designed-focused products, like the Picture Frame TVs, and our eco range, which is a similar TV from our W series but offers a range of eco-friendly features.
TR: Are eco products a big thing for Sony going forward?
DA: Definitely. It's very important to us. While we have got one range centred round 'eco', we are quite proud that all our TVs have eco features, and our production techniques mean that we are trying to be as eco-friendly as possible.
TR: Is there plans to get rid of the 'eco' range and just make all your products as eco-friendly as possible?
DA: Our power consumption on the TVs is already quite low, and this is getting lower as each new range comes out. But the specific thing in our eco TVs this year is the extra investment in the power system which reduces power consumption by around 42 per cent.
TR: What's Sony's plans for 3D?
DA: We don't have any firm commercial plans for 3D. We did show off some 3D demonstrations in CES in Vegas earlier in the year and they were outstanding.
It's all about content for us. Now that more and more movies are being shot in 3D, something could happen.
Sony has changed over the years and we are no longer a company that tries to develop things on our own on an insular basis.
I think the key to us now is to work with partners and develop propositions together. Televisions are a prime example of this, we would be quite open to working with different parties to bring stuff like 3D content to the market.
TR: How is Sony set for these tough economic times?
DA: We are like other organisations, we have to challenge what we do and how we do it. But it all comes down to technology. We've got some very reliable TVs and that makes the difference in times like these.
Also it's about branding. We have invested heavily in the Bravia brand in the last four years and it's paying off.
We're as excited about the future as ever.
TR: What can you tell us about 'Neon', the programme recommendation software that Sony is rumoured to be working on with Macrovision?
DA: To the best of my knowledge there's nothing called Neon. We are looking at various interactive features for the future and I think that you can already see that some of the recording technologies in the market do recognise people's favourite genres and things like that.
Sony is definitely interested into looking into the evolution of that kind of approach.
We obviously manufacture recording devices as well and what we find with hard-disk recorders that the usability is really one of the key selling points, that's why consumers enjoy using products like this.
We can definitely expand on this in our televisions. It can only enhance the user enjoyment of the TV by tapping into people's viewing habits.
TR: What are your plans for OLED? How has the XEL-1 fared in the UK?
DA: I'm not going to lie to you and say that it is flying off the shelves, but we never saw the XEL-1 as a mass-market product. We really made it just to prove that we could make it.
Sony is focused more on big-screen technology at the moment. OLED tech is certainly still important and you can see some stunning OLED screens in our upcoming Walkman [NWZ-X1000] series of media players.