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Brier Dudley's blog

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

January 11, 2013 at 10:33 AM

CES: The backstory on Sony’s OLED demo fail

LAS VEGAS — One of the most excruciating moments at CES was the grand finale of Sony’s press conference on Monday evening.

Earlier in the presentation, Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai had talked about how Sony’s technical prowess would drive its resurgence and mocked the progress of competitors making OLED TVs.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=ejzZpb6Piuw%3Frel%3D0

Then, with dramatic effect, Hirai rolled out the world’s largest OLED set — a 56-inch beauty that failed to work.

The huge room full of journalists, customers and Sony employees went quiet during the awkward moment while Hirai waited for the display to restart. It flickered and showed a clunky blue BIOS page of a PC, and then the black-and-white message that “Windows had failed to shut down properly.”

IMG_4075.JPG

Hirai went on as if nothing happened and the crowd still applauded, but you could see a tenseness in the jaw of the new chief executive of electronics giant.

Reporters in the crowd whispered that someone was going to get fired.

But it turns out Hirai didn’t lose it after his speech, and the guy backstage behind the demo didn’t lose his job. The next day he was out on the show floor, demonstrating the same TV sets and their truly dazzling displays.

IMG_4260.JPG

Ken Otsuka, left, product planner on the 56-inch OLED TV, afterward explained to me what happened to make the demo fail.

The TV was going to display content fed by a Windows PC. But the thumping, high-volume presentation caused a lot of vibration on the set.

Otsuka told me that the cables didn’t come loose, but vibration prompted the PC to reboot at a particularly inopportune time.

Asked what happened to him, Otsuka smiled and said “My neck is almost …” — then drew his finger across his neck in a slicing motion, stopping just short of completely severing his head.

Otsuka now joins the pantheon of tech workers who survived epic tradeshow demo failures.

He earned his place alongside Microsoft’s Chris Capossela, who was involved in the famous “blue screen” demo failure during the Bill Gates keynote at Comdex in 1998.

Capossela went on to become a senior vice president. In 2011 he became Microsoft’s chief marketing officer.

[do action=”custom_iframe” width=”640″ height=”480″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/73wMnU7xbwE?rel=0

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