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From Aiwa, Digital TV, To Networking, Nishida Covers The Bases

Aiwa, the state of digital TV and home networking were just a handful of separate issues that Sony Electronics’ president Fujio Nishida commented on during his annual press roundtable recently at the Sony Building, here.

Included below are several of the issues Nishida discussed and his views on a variety of subjects:

His opinion of the position of the cable industry on HDTV standards and what FCC Chairman Michael Powell can do: “We need cable compatibility and we must work out content protection issues. Open cable is the key. Today manufacturers can’t make one [cable] box for the entire nation. How can we make five different types of boxes? The solution is nationwide. The displays are ready. We hope that [Chairman] Powell will understand that unless this is resolved, there will not be a quick solution.

“We can’t display digital content [to a wide majority of U.S. viewers] until the cable business makes a decision. In many cases a large screen HD set [showing analog signals] looks bad … [because] we are used to the quality of DVD.”

When asked if the comparative lack of HD programming will begin to hurt digital TV sales at retail, Nishida said, “I don’t think so. People know that it is the future, it is coming. You still have DVDs that consumers can watch.”

In discussing the challenge that he has in trying to get HD signals of any type in his New Jersey home, the president of Sony Electronics added, “DirecTV HD provides two channels. I have an antenna but there is no [over the air] HD signal. I have an EchoStar dish too. I have a very busy roof.”

The Aiwa brand and how it will fit into the Sony Electronics operation: “The value of the Aiwa brand is worth pursuing, especially with Gen Y and college students. Aiwa has a very highly valued image with them. We provided that information to [Sony worldwide headquarters in] Tokyo, which is why the company is now part of Sony Electronics. We’ve noticed that in the past two years the Aiwa brand has deteriorated. [However] if we apply our target segment brand strategy, the brand should be revitalized and become successful.

“Next year Aiwa will focus products on [demographic] segments versus mass distribution. Selected distribution targeted for Gen Y can make it different from Sony. I saw the first [new Aiwa] products two weeks ago in Japan and the door seems to be open. The designs are aggressive steps.

“As for how Aiwa’s sales and marketing operation will work, we haven’t decided anything yet. The deal will be completed by October so we should have an announcement later in the year.”

Home networking strategies and how they may play out in the marketplace: “We have four gateway strategies: CE, PS2 [PlayStation2], IT and a wireless gateway. You may have the PS2 and CE gateways in the living room, the mobile gateway might be the Clie. There are several possibilities. There might not be any difference between the PS and the set-top box [for the living room]. But that may be five or 10 years down the road. [As far as the PS2 and set-top box goes] the kids are the key to it. Maybe they won’t want to share games in the living room now, but maybe down the road they will.

“Remember that history shows that all in one products don’t work. Products for specific applications do work.”

Where TiVo stands on a list of new technology: Hard drive recording [for audio/video systems] is invaluable to consumers. TiVo is the greatest technology to be introduced in the past 20 years. For most consumers the VCR is a playback technology. TiVo is trouble-free. With 1GB or 2GB of recording space you can pick and choose what you want to see for a week.”

The future of digital photography: “People need to get used to it. We need to expand memory [of cameras] and provide more professional photo printers at more [retail] locations. Two or three years from now I hope we can get a professional quality photo printer for the home. If we could sell it for $200 [each at retail] we’d sell hundreds of millions!”