LAS VEGAS Embattled Sony Corp. is sending a clear message at this year's Consumer Electronics Show: In its next incarnation, it will work with others and will no longer resist developing new products based on competitors' ideas.
Like other consumer electronics companies pushing new ultra-thin, 3-D-ready TVs, Sony placed heavy emphasis on 3-D at its press conference here Wednesday (Jan. 6). The Japanese giant flexed its music and movie muscles and highlighted its expertise in professional and consumer hardware, all of which are geared to embrace 3-D.
Still, what stood out here was that Sony is no longer portraying itself as "Sony like no other," a company that can do no wrong as it promotes proprietary technologies, downplays consumers' preferences and ignores applications and features developed by competitors.
Examples of Sony's new strategies included:
Offering SD/SDHC memory cards -- more broadly accepted by consumers -- for digital imaging products, in addition to the company's proprietary memory sticks.
Slow to develop new portable gadgets based on widgets, Sony is finally rolling out a personal Internet viewer called "Dash."
Its basic idea -- "a compact wi-fi device that displays useful and entertaining information from the web" -- was originally pioneered by a much smaller company called Chumby a few years ago. Sony today, striving to be inclusive, is bringing in apps originally developed for the rival Chumby into the fold of Sony's Dash.
Offering high-end video image quality on its traditional camcorders, Sony was late in introducing a simple camcorder that can be easily connected to the Internet. Flip Video (acquired by Cisco), not Sony, dominates this end of the video camera market.
In response, Sony is introduced a pocket-size camera called "bloggie" complete with built-in USB arms, like those used on Flip cameras. Sony's camera offers simple, high quality 1,920 x 1,080 MPEG 4 video and 5-megapixel photo. Demonstrating its willingness to improve on a competitor's good idea, Sony may have finally come up with "Flip Video on steroids."
Rolling out new digital cameras equipped with Sony's TransferJet technology, which allows users to select up to 10 pictures and transfer them from one camera to another by bringing the two devices together. The TransferJet technology, developed by Sony a few years ago and often shown in Sony's technology demos but never in commercial products, is now supported by a consortium of 45 companies, complete with its published specification and a whitepaper.
There will be plenty of opportunities for Sony engineers to strut their stuff, but the point is that they don't need proprietary technologies for the sake of being "unique."
If the company continues to back the new approach, as Sony CEO Howard Stringer said here, "Maybe you will call us cool again."
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.