Sony outlined its 2000 product line for retailers and the press in New Jersey last week, shedding some light on its upcoming HDTV plans. The company is also pushing ahead with several new DVD-equipped audio systems and unveiling a new music website.
Fujio Nishida, president of Sony's consumer product group, reported that U.S. consumer electronic sales were up 15% in 1999.
Nishida said sales for 1999 were strong and outpaced the industry growth rate by about 50%. In its last financial statement Sony said its revenue for most of 1999 was driven by DVD video player and digital imaging product sales.
Nishida also announced the launching of the Sony.com/musiclub website for electronic music distribution. Sony.com/ musiclub gives consumers access to thousands of music titles in both CD and downloadable digital formats. The music does not reside on the Sony site, but consumers are shifted to sites like CDNOW where they can download free MP3 titles and purchase CDs. Musiclub is designed to complement Sony Walkman and Music Clip digital music players.
Sony expanded somewhat on the plans it announced at CES in January to push fully integrated HDTV sets in the 2000 model line by unveiling two high-scan rear-projection sets that will display 1080I HDTV images when connected to an external digital set-top decoder.
However, the company was not prepared to disclose any additional details on pricing or availability of either the SAT-M100 DirecTV-enabled digital TV set-top decoder or its digital cable TV decoder that is currently in development through a contract with Cablevision.
The new high-scan monitors due in April include the KP-53HS10, which will carry a $3,200 suggested retail, and the KP-61HS10, which will be $3,700. Both include high-definition component video inputs and RGBHV. Both include an enhanced version of Sony's Multi-Image Driver technology to display two different DTV formats side by side using picture-in-picture-like windows with adjustable size.
As with most Sony DTV displays, NTSC signals are upconverted from a 480I to a 960I format. Sony also uses raster-scanning circuitry to fit all 1080 lines of resolution within a widescreen HDTV frame on the 4:3 screens.
In analog TV, Sony showed some of the 18 flat-screen FD Trinitron Wega direct-view models it will offer this year. The expanded lineup includes the 13", 20", 24", 27", 32" and 36" screen sizes. Models are available with cabinets in three metallic color schemes: white, blue and gray.
DVD played a central role in new compact audio systems for 2000. The highlight was Sony's DAV-S300, an integrated DVD/CD player and A/V surround sound receiver. The system offers 180-watts of power, five cube-style speakers and a subwoofer. The unit, which will ship in April at an expected selling price of about $600, has decoders for both Dolby Digital and DTS DVD sound tracks.
Due in July at a $1,000 suggested retail price is SA-VAD900, which was billed as a "five-disc DVD/CD SAVA sound system." It integrates a five-disc DVD/CD changer and 200-watt AM/FM receiver into floor-standing speakers.
Other home theater offerings included two home-theater-in-a-box packages (the HT-5000D and HT-1200D), with a five-disc DVD changer and single-disc DVD player, respectively. The HT-5000D will ship in August at an $800 suggested retail price, and the HT-1200D ships in May at $700.
New DVD A/V rack systems include the DAV-L8000 and the R-7000, each of which will ship in June at $1,000. The DAV-L8000 offers a single-disc DVD/CD player and silver components designed to complement Sony Wega flat-screen TVs. The R-7000 features an integrated five-disc DVD/CD changer/receiver, Dolby Pro Logic decoding, cassette deck, 37" rack and speaker package including 12" front speakers.
Four new mini DV camcorder models were unveiled, including the DCR-VX2000, a 3 CCD prosumer model slated for May at a $2,999 SRP ($1,000 less than the previous DCR-VX1000). Included is a Memory Stick slot for digital still images, 2.5" LCD Swivelscreen and color viewfinder. It offers the elongated "family" series Handycam design.
The three other mini DV models use Sony's palm-style TR-series design. The highlight is the CCR-TRV20, which includes a Memory Stick slot to store still images with resolution up to 1,152x862 pixels. It ships in April at a $1,700 suggested retail.
Concerning audio, when asked about new Super Audio CD players or multichannel SACD players, both Nishida and Mike Fidler, senior VP for home audio/video, said there would be introductions during 2001. As for DVD Audio, there are no plans for any Sony introductions this year.
Highlighting Sony's hi-fi line are two Megastorage 400-CD changers, the CDP-CX400 and the CDP-CX450, which are available in June and have suggested retails of $299 and $399, respectively. There is an artist name search function of each player, and users can program using a PC keyboard via the dedicated front-panel input up to 200 different artists names and access discs via panel controls or by using a remote control. The CDP-CX450 has a Graphic User Interface with a dedicated monitor output, the company said.