The weather at CEDIA Expo since yesterday seems more like foggy London than the traditional venue of this annual fall event. But the messages being delivered here by a few of the exhibitors seem crystal clear.
Let’s start with Sony. Mike Abary, senior VP of its home division, gave a quick overview of the CE industry during the company’s press event Wednesday, saying that while consumers are still suffering from the economy, they are still buying “a variety of products, such as smartphones, game consoles and tablets.” That last category should sell 40 million worldwide this year, Abary said, not bad for a category that hardly existed more than a year ago.
Abary wasn’t there to talk about tablets, but upscale A/V products that are the prime focus of the CEDIA audience. He said the secret to success in this market, and in the CE industry as a whole, is “innovation.” The use of that word should make CEA’s president/CEO Gary Shapiro happy since that word is used in the title of his recent best-seller and is a key to the book’s thesis on how the U.S. can rebound from its economic malaise.
The highlight of the press event was the VW1000ES home-theater projector — a 4K projector with more than four times the resolution of today’s 1080p models, suitable for up to 200-inch screen sizes, and can display full 3D movies, and has a slew of other upscale features. (Click here for more details.) Shipping in December, the price, understandably for such a product, will be in the $25,000 range.
Now, my point in mentioning this top-of-the-line 4K projector is that Sony is making a statement with it: that it is a leader in 4K commercial projectors for theaters and it has 4K cameras, recorders, monitors post-production and 65 theatrical releases — mostly its own — all for the commercial side.
When I asked Sony Electronics president Phil Molyneux if we might see direct-view 4K displays during the 2012 International CES, he just grinned and said, “We’ll see.”
I also got the chance to talk about 3D TV and the tablet business. When asked about 3D, he said, “I always point out that HDTV took about 30 years from introduction to being adopted by consumers” so “we are happy with the progress of 3D overall.” He said that the 3DTV share of 46-inch and larger displays are 50 percent so far. And while no one knows how many of those consumers have actually used the 3D functions on those sets so far, Molyneux noted, “What the consumers do recognize is that they now own the best flat panel sets available … and have the ability to watch 3D if they want to.”
He said that with the ESPN 3D channel, other special sports broadcasts and 160 3D Blu-ray titles, there is plenty of content to watch. And aside from broadcast and theatrical content, Molyneux reminded, “With 3D video cameras, consumers can create their own content, which will help [the format’s] acceptance.”
About tablet PCs, and Sony’s Tablet S units, which were recently introduced with $499 and $599 price tags, Molyneux defended the pricing due to its features and unique design. And he pointed out it is an IR remote for Sony audio components, Bravia TVs and DLNA-equipped A/V products from other brands.
One more note about 4K: At this year’s CES top Molyneux and chairman Sir Howard Stringer said that the first Sony tablets would probably arrive in 2012. But Sony quickly entered the market now. So who knows if Sony will make a consumer tech statement with 4K during International CES in January? We’ll see.