Sony Admits It's "Really Late In The Game" For Personal Audio Battle With AppleS


At a press breakfast today in NYC, Sony Electronics US President Stan Glasgow admitted that Sony's attempts to unseat Apple in the once Walkman-dominated personal audio category are pretty close to over. For many years, Sony repeated the slogan, "It's still early in the game." Today, acknowledging Apple's 80% market share in personal audio, Glasgow said, "I wouldn't say the game is over, but it's really late in the game."

Rick Clancy, head of Sony's US public relations, quickly reminded reporters that Sony would still innovate in this category, but when discussion turned to the Sony Connect service, Glasgow said that, looking to the future, it would be more focused on movies and books. (It is currently the content hub for Sony's E-Ink Reader.)

On a brighter note, Sony confirmed that it would be using the PlayStation-style Cross Media Bar (XMB) in most or all of its TVs and audio-video products going forward, including Blu-ray players and audio receivers. In some instances, two connected players can be controlled by the same XMB interface; I plan to follow up and figure that out, since it would make a one-remote, one-interface relationship with your home theater possible. (I am skeptical as to the execution at this point, but will get the facts soon.)

Sony was overall upbeat about the LCD TV business with new 720p Bravias hitting Wal-Mart and Target at the end of July. In the consumer electronics industry in general, Sony says it grew 7% last year and plans to grow more, and it has an 18% market share in the US. It was No. 1 in over 20 different categories, including&emdash;depending on how you crunch the numbers—digital cameras and camcorders.

When it came to Blu-ray, Sony said BD titles were outselling HD DVD movies 3 to 1, and that the forecast for standalone players would be five or six times the 100,000 sold in 2006. The elephant of this discussion was the PS3, clearly the reason for Blu-ray's momentum. One thing is sure: Sony Electronics is glad to have PS3 on its side, even if it is some sort of competition.

When the subject of iPhone inevitably came up, Sony said it was proud of its sister company Sony Ericsson and would support it in various marketing initiatives. When pressed, however, the Sony brass did acknowledge that iPod compatibility was an important part of A/V strategy these days.