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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

January 7, 2013 at 4:46 PM

CES: Sony unveils Xperia Z, 4K TVs, OLED prototype

LAS VEGAS — Sony opened its press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show with videos showing the hands of its engineers assembling products such as cameras and camcorders.

The idea is to show “what goes into making them the most elegant, innovative devices in the world,” said Kazuo Hirai, president and chief executive.

Sony needs to make the argument. After losing its market leadership — and billions — the company began a restructuring last year under Hirai, who became chief executive nine months ago.

A leaner, meaner approach was evident in the press conference, which had none of the glitzy, celebrity appearances that were a hallmark of Sony’s CES appearances. Instead, Hirai and one of his deputies showed a series of new products and took a few jabs at competitors.

The first new gadget presented was the Xperia Z, a quad core smartphone with a 5-inch, 1080p display powered by the Bravia software engine used in its televisions.

The Android-based phone has a 13 megapixel camera and a 7.9 millimeter thick case with the highest levels of water and dust resistance on a smartphone, according to Phil Molyneux, president and chief operating officer of Sony Electronics.

Gee-whiz tricks include “one touch functions” that use near-field communications to share content wirelessly with other phones and a line of Sony NFC accessories on display at the show.

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One is a home speaker on which you touch an NFC phone to play music.

A smaller, portable NFC speaker that Molyneux showed is the size of a tennis ball; the pink ball, which can be used for conference calls, has a button that can be used to accept calls.

“I carry my pink balls wherever I go in my bag,” Molyneux said.

Molyneux also showed a “personal content station” with 1 terabyte of storage. Users tap their phones against the device to consolidate storage of photos and music and share with other wireless devices.

Sony demonstrated a new feature of its phones, tablets and TVs called TV SideView, which enables the handheld devices to function as auxiliary TV screens for searching and selecting TV and movie content.

Molyneux also talked up Sony’s new brand, “Triluminos,” for display technology in Sony TVs and cameras, and showed new high-end “X” headphones.

Sony is expanding its line of ultra high definition 4K TV sets with new 55-inch and 65-inch models going on sale this spring, joining an 84-inch model that’s already on sale for $25,000. The displays have three speakers on each side of their frames.

Also new at the show is Sony’s first 4K consumer video camera.

To further encourage consumers to upgrade their plain old HDTVs, Sony is launching the first 4K video distribution service this summer, carrying Sony movies and other material with about four times higher resolution than 1080p content.

Prices of the products and 4K content weren’t disclosed during the presentation.

The gadgets drew oohs and aahs but the presentation ended with a painful moment. After taking a crack at competitors who missed their deadlines to release OLED TV sets, Hirai brought the largest 4K OLED set — a 56-inch prototype — on stage.

Unfortunately the set failed to fire up. It was connected to a PC that first displayed a blue BIOS screen and then a Windows error message.

Hirai finished his speech and closed with a video talking about how Sony is “coming back, one wow at a time.”

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