Sony outlines high-definition future

Sony outlines high-definition future

Sony hopes to make itself the leading brand for products using high-definition technology in Japan this year and worldwide in 2005, executives said at the company's dealers' convention in Tokyo.

Sony showcased its new lineup of HVX Grand Wega high-definition (HD) TVs, Vaio laptops and desktops, and DVD recorders. It hopes that some of the products will bolster its brand image abroad, including a 70-inch Grand Wega rear projection TV, aimed at the US HDTV market, and its first high-definition video camcorder, the HDR-FX1.

The 70-inch Grand Wega goes on sale in the US in January 2005. The HDR-FX1 would be in shops worldwide by the end of this year, the company said.

One of the goals of this year's convention is to change the perception that Sony was late to the flat panel TV market when it arrived last year.

"This year will be different," Sony president, Kunitake Ando, said.

Sony's new mantra is to create an HD world, which means tempting consumers to switch to high-definition products, Sony executive vice-president of marketing, Fujio Nishida, said.

It is hoping that home users will shoot video on a Sony camcorder, edit it on their Vaios, watch the home movies on their HD TVs and store them on Blu-ray Disc recorders, he said.

Sony would emphasise liquid crystal display (LCD) as its core TV technology, Ando said. S-LCD, the LCD joint-venture set up by Sony and Samsung Electronics, could be making as many as 3 million 40-inch TV panels within a year or two of starting production.

Sony has said it would start production between April and June of 2005.

It has sold about 10 million TVs of all kinds in 2003 and will sell about 11 million in 2004.

About 10 per cent of sales this year would be LCD and plasma models, rising to between 40 per cent and 50 per cent over the next three to five years, the company said.

Despite Ando's optimism for Sony's new products, price com­petition for flat-panel TVs and stagnant demand for home audio gear means that Sony will be unable to boost its profits from a year ago for TVs, DVD players and other large consumer products, the Sony president said.

"Compared to the mobile and portable markets, for home products, we cannot expect a leap in profits this year," Ando said.

Japan's electronics companies have been outlining their strategies in recent months for large, flat panel HDTVs.

Sony joins Sharp in opting for LCD screens, while Matsushita Electric Industrial is opting for plasma technologies.

Earlier this month, Matsushita unveiled an HDTV with a plasma screen measuring 65 inches diagonally.

Meanwhile, Canon and Toshiba said they were opting for Surface-conduction Electron-emitter Display (SED) technology for large-screen TVs.

The companies claim SED produces vivid colours like those of a cathode ray tubes (CRT) television, and that it uses much less power than LCD or plasma panels. Toshiba plans to phase out its plasma TV production from 2007.

Ando took a swipe at the SED technology. He said that it may not have as bright a future as its proponents claimed.

"It's an extension of cathode ray technology, and it does seem to be a technology slightly out of phase with the times," Ando said.

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