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Sony Introduces Internet TV Unit

Sony plans to market an add-on module designed to connect to a number of 2007 BRAVIA LCD TVs to receive high-definition video programming delivered over broadband connections.

Sony said during its International CES press conference, held here earlier this month, that the BRAVIA Internet Video Link system will incorporate proprietary digital connectors designed to link the module to any of Sony’s new BRAVIA LCD TVs.

The box will access free streaming music and video content, including high-definition, for display on a connected set.

Pricing for the box was not announced, but Sony representatives said the video services will not require a subscription fee. Content will be supplied by providers including AOL, Yahoo! and Grouper, as well as Sony Pictures Entertainment and Sony BMG Music, Sony said.

Content, which includes Internet video, music videos, movie trailers, user-generated videos and RSS feeds, is distributed free of charge.

Stan Glasgow, Sony Electronics president.COO, said, “This initiative will not only enhance the entertainment experience for owners of Sony HDTVs, but also reinforce our defining strategy of providing more personalization of products and content for consumers that no other company can offer.”

The module was designed to be concealed behind the TV “for a clean, integrated appearance — even when hung on the wall.”

The module links the television set directly to a user’s Internet service provider via an Ethernet connection. The content can then be accessed directly on the TV without use of a personal computer.

“We are shifting content experience from a lean-forward PC exercise to the comfort of the big-screen TV in your living room,” said Randy Waynick, Sony home products division senior VP. “Internet video will clearly be the next step in the evolution of high-definition television, giving users more control over the content they view.”

The device will use Sony’s Xross Media Bar (XMB) user interface — the same used in Sony A/V receivers, and the PSP and PlayStation3 gaming systems — will help users navigate through Internet video content, as well as the standard TV menu features on most of the company’s 2007 television models, Sony said.

The BRAVIA Internet Video Link will initially be supported by Sony’s BRAVIA S-series flat-panel LCD high-definition television line, which was also announced at the show. The new TV models include the KDL-46S3000, KDL-40S3000, KDL-32S3000 and KDL-26S3000 – all are shipping this spring.

In other announcements, Sony unveiled a 70W-inch 1,080p BRAVIA LCD TV — it’s largest flat-panel LCD TV to date – that will support the xvYCC expanded color gamut system advocated by Sony and Mitsubishi as an industry standard. Sony is calling its version of the system x.v.COLOR.

The color system, which was established as an industry standard by the International Electronics Commission in January 2006, expands the current color data range of video by approximately 1.8 times allowing the television to display more accurate, natural and vivid colors, Sony said. The system is carried in specially developed video content enabled in the current HDMI v1.3 digital video connection specifications.

The 70W-inch KDL-70XBR3 BRAVIA LCD TV will also feature a triluminous backlighting system, and “MotionFlow” 120Hz high-frame rate system designed to reduce image blurring in fast-motion video sequences. It is scheduled to ship this spring at a $33,000 expected retail.

Sony also showed an 80W-inch LCD TV prototype, but no marketing plans were discussed.

Meanwhile, Sony Computer Entertainment used CES to reveal that more than 1 million PlayStation 3 gaming consoles have been sold into the retail channel in North America, six weeks after launch.

The milestone was said to top by a week the release of the PlayStation2, which went on to sell more than 111 million units to date, and the Xbox 360, which hit 650,000 units by end of its first year.

Sony is showing here new PlayStation software titles including Formula One Championship Edition, MLB 07, MotorStorm (1,080p/60 fps), Lair, Heavenly Sword and Gran Turismo HD (downloadable), all for the PS3; Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters, KillZone and SOCOM: Fire Team Bravo, all for the PSP.

The company also demonstrated the new “Remote Play” function for the PS3, which allows the consumer to utilize a PSP to access content on a PS3 hard drive, including movies, television shows, videos and music.

Sony is also showcasing its PlayStationNetwork and PlayStationStore for the PS3, and Location Free TV capability for the PSP.