CES 2009: Sony Keynote

Howard Stringer pulls a few tidbits from out his sleeve.

While I hate to say it, Sony’s CES keynote today – while containing a few bits and pieces – impressed me about as much as the dull Microsoft keynote yesterday so I’ll be keeping this fairly brief (update: brief-”ish”).

Kicked off by CES big cheese Gary Shapiro, we were immediately thrown into two of the most common themes of this year’s show: economy and environment. Thankfully the two have the potential to go hand in head with Shapiro pointing out the energy saving focus of green technology can help cut consumers’ bills (putting money back into pockets being perhaps the greatest motivator for the average man on the street).

Shapiro then handed over to Sony CEO Howard Stringer who was quick to admit “I wish I could say we are recession proof… but these are certainly challenging times.” Stringer also introduced Tom Hanks – easily the highlight of the keynote, who did everything in his power to wind up Sony reps and name drop their rivals. Brilliant stuff.

On the tech front, Stringer did use Hanks to show off the company’s first entry into the video glasses arena and while they had a touch of the svelte design of the Vuzix AV920 model unveiled recently their quality was particularly poor and led to Hank’s mocking their desirability. Definitely a work in progress Sony and there’s much ground to be made up here for the company to compete with Vuzix.

Sticking with the future we also saw Sony’s concept for a next generation alarm clock – in the format of a digital picture frame which could customise context delivered to an individual after waking them up. Examples included local weather, news headlines and sports scores – including video highlights of favourite teams. Based on an actual product currently in development, Sony said this will arrive far sooner than we’d think but I still can’t see that being before 2010.

Flexible OLED panels for mini displays were also demoed with Stringer saying they should offer impact durability for portable devices like PMP’s and mobile phones while 20in and 30in OLED HDTVs should arrive later in 2009.

At last getting to the real world, the only impending product to be demoed (aside from the super looking P Series netbook Riyad covered earlier) was the Cybershot G3, a WiFi sporting compact digital camera with an interesting first: an integrated web browser. It will connect through WiFi hotspots (free until 2012 on AT&T – Euro deals unknown) but no details of the browser itself were specified (presumably it will be WebKit based). File uploading access to Picasa, YouTube and Shutterfly is included though Flickr seems bizarrely off the list.

As for the basics you get a 10MP lens, 4x optical zoom, 4GB on native memory, steady shot and facial recognition. It’s hitting shelves any minute for a suitably hefty $500.

Elsewhere we learn that MTV networks has partnered with the PlayStation store to provide more than 2,000 hours of content (hopefully not all The Hills), an updated version of Life With PlayStation is coming this spring and Electronic Arts is joining PlayStation home and designing games and bringing contextual advertising. PlayNow Plus is hitting Europe now too but no hard facts are provided.

Finally we hear from Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of Dreamworks – who promotes 3D (the glasses look better, but in practice – while sharp – video still appears rather layered much like parallax scrolling of the past). It’ll be mainstream “sooner than we think” we’re told though. Hmmmmn.

Lastly we’re on the receiving end of Usher performing the wrap up which should be my queue to leave (and ”quickly”) but my ears stick it out as part of my dedication to you guys. We’re not rewarded though as Howard comes back simply to say his goodbyes.

In a word: underwhelming.

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