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Sony: Upbeat On Holidays; Talks Q4 Blu-ray, OLED Plans

New York — Sony Electronics, upbeat on its prospects for the holiday season, revealed some pricing indications on its Blu-ray players and possible year-end shipments of its 11-inch OLED in the United States.

That was some of the news to come out of a twice-a-year media roundtable hosted by Sony this morning with Stan Glasgow, president of Sony Electronics, and Jay Vandenbree, president of the Sony Electronics Consumer Sales Company, held at the Sony building, here.

When asked about Blu-ray player pricing from Sony for the holiday season, Glasgow said it should be “in the $399 range … I don’t expect it to go much lower than that.”

When asked where the industry is in the format battle between Blu-ray and HD DVD, he noted, “It continues. I still find it curious that there are 170 companies backing [Blu-ray] and two companies behind [HD DVD]. I find some abnormality in that. Hopefully when all the [movie] titles reach the market this season and the beginning of 2008, [consumers] will see the [difference] in performance.”

Concerning talk from this week’s Blu-ray meeting in Los Angeles where Panasonic debuted a 1.1 player, the specification mandated by the Blu-ray Disc Association, Glasgow also said that Sony plans its own for next year with “possibly 1.2” features.

He added, “1.1 is a set of features. Step-by-step we will be adding features and have to work with the studios” which can add plenty of features to a disc. Glasgow added that certain existing Blu-ray decks could be “upgraded with firmware” via the Net to have some 1.1 features.

Vandenbree quoted CEA’s Holiday Purchase Patterns study, saying, “Based on what CEA said we expect 9 to 10 percent growth. We see all of [Sony’s] major categories growing except microdisplay TV. Home audio continues to grow. We can’t keep portable music players on the shelf. Do we have a dominant share? No, but we have a great business. Digital cameras have been a great success.”

Concerning HDTV and its Bravia LCD line, Vandenbree said, “Our sales here are not just happening because of product. Our ‘HDNA’ [advertising] program is working. We have over 25,000 retail displays in place across the country. We have TV ads out there … and will have more assisted selling people out in the field than the last time and more [retailer] product training.”

Glasgow said the HDNA program is “breaking now and we are trying to explain to U.S. consumers the HD business. We are telling them that Sony starts with the broadcasting cameras … [a majority] of all sports broadcasts are done with Sony equipment, really take the message that we go from the lens to the living room. We have Dale Ernhart Jr. and Payton Manning in our ads, people who consumers can identify with.”

Sony’s momentum into the holiday season is reflected in its fiscal second-quarter report which showed that its consumer electronics sales worldwide went up 20.7 percent vs. the previous year, hitting $14.5 billion, while operating income was up a whopping 1,231.6 percent to $930 million, said Glasgow.

In reference to Sony’s OLED 11-inch display that was shown at CEATEC in Japan last month, he said, “There may be limited quantities available in the U.S. if there are quantities available.” He explained that OLED “is in its early production mode … and as always yield could be a question. It is about to ship in Japan, but if there is enough [for the United States], you might see it here before the end of the calendar year.”