CES 2007: Sony plays it safe after PS3

This year, Sony's theme at CES was 'transformation'. In one respect, it's the transformation of CES from an electronics show to an entertainment show. And as both a hardware manufacturer and a leading content producer, Sony is trying to remodel itself in a similar way.

Sony finds itself in an enviable position, one of a new breed of 'technotainment' companies that build devices and supply content. But read between the lines and this transformation talk sounded suspiciously like a way to cover up a lack of new products. But that wasn't the case.

We've talked about Sony's new Internet TV initiative for Bravias in a previous article, so we won't cover it again here. Instead, Sony has a range of new TVs, PCs and camcorders to tempt consumers in 2007.

At its press conference, Peter Dille, senior vice president of marketing for Sony Computer Entertainment America announced that the company had shipped over one million PS3s in North America to date and the plan now is to have sold six million consoles by March 2007.

With games like Motorstorm and an integrated high-definition Blu-ray drive, Sony believes that the PS3 is "one of the most important consumer electronics products this decade".

Full HD 1080

The future of home entertainment is high-definition - it's one of the key themes of this year's CES. Sony, like many major CE companies is pinning its company flag on the 1080p format, i.e. a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, progressively scanned. Sony calls this 'Full HD 1080', which suggests that the popular 720p is some sort of half-baked version.

Randy Waynick, senior vice president of Sony Electronics' Home Products Division, previewed a new 55-inch SXRD HD TV that's barely 10 inches deep. He also showed off the latest addition to the Bravia range - the $33,000 70-inch KDL R70X.

This giant features a brand new LED backlighting system and contrast ratio enhancements, as well as three HDMI inputs. It also boasts a high refresh rate and x.v.Color technology, which is basically Sony's name for xvYCC, a new international standard in color technology for personal video applications.

Also on view on the Sony stand were prototypes of a wall-sized, 82-inch BRAVIA flat-panel LCD and a 27-inch Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) display capable of full HD performance.

Camcorders and computers

Steve Haber, senior vice president for Sony Electronics' Personal Mobile and Imaging Division, unveiled 16 new Handycam camcorders - four of them high definition models - that use three different media formats: hard disc drive, DVD and DV tape.

As there are so many of these launches, we'll cover them in a separate article, here .

In computing, meanwhile, Hideyuki Furumi, senior vice president of Sony's IT Product Division, showcased the VAIO UX 390 Premium Micro PC. This 544g UMPC device forgoes a hard drive in favour of 32GB of flash memory and is powered by an Intel Core Solo ULV processor. GPRS (EDGE), Bluetooth and Wi-Fi provide all-round connectivity options.

The development of the VAIO UX 390 is part of Sony's continuing commitment to technology portability that embraces Sony Ericsson's impressive Walkman phones, the eBook 'Reader' and the mylo communicator, all of which were present on the stand.

Furumi also unveiled the Sonos-a-like WA1 Wireless Digital Music Streamer, plus a new version of the Digital Living System, the TP1. This spherical, white Viiv PC features twin TV tuners and an HDMI connection. It will "shatter the notion of what a PC product should look like or where it should reside in your home," Furumi said.

The TP1 will cost around around $1,600 in the US when it goes on sale in March.