UPDATED Today at an executive round table we went to in NYC, Sony Electronics president Stan Glasgow (center) and Sony consumer sales president Jay Vandenbree (left) answered some burning questions. When is the oh-so-sexy OLED TV coming to the US? "It could be before the end of the calendar year," says Glasgow, citing a dependence on production yields that are understandably "not very good." He called the 11" $1,800 set an "expensive small TV." And what about Rolly, the wheeled music player making the rounds in Japan? "I'd like to bring that in next year." The talk wasn't just about Sony's newest toys. Glasgow and Vandenbree talked about survival in a high-def world, fighting the format war, and what it's like to compete with Apple.
Microdisplay TVs are down 70%, but the fabulously floaty 70-inch SXRD is on target for its revised (that is, delayed) early December shipdate. No price change, but my guess is that the $6,000 tag will be slashed at some point. Says Vandenbree: "As long as people shop on cost per inch, microdisplay has a home."
Will flat-panel pricing erosion be major for this holiday season? Smaller screen sizes won't see much in the way of price drops, but in the larger screen sizes, 46" and 52" in particular, there will be drops.
Is Sony concerned with BD Profile 1.1 Blu-ray players from Samsung and Panasonic? "The important thing is the features. Performance doesn't improve with 1.1," says Glasgow, adding "The important thing is what studios are doing to add capability. 1.1 is just the beginning." He confirmed that not every Blu-ray feature can be upgraded via firmware, as we knew.
The HD DVD-Blu-ray Format War: "The war is continuing to rage. We're still in the middle. There's a lot more that can be done. Let me say this: there are 170 companies [in the Blu-ray camp] against two companies [in the HD DVD camp]. I find some abnormality in that. Let's leave it at that." He looks forward to more "performance" on Blu-ray, with increased studio involvement.
The new Sony Reader will get PDF support in January.
The Reader is finding an audience among the military, among companies who want to load up manuals for employees, and among housewives. Educational publishers are still slow to see its value: "They are probably a little old fashioned—probably not the right thing to say—but they are a little slow to adapt," says Glasgow, adding that he thinks they will get on track. Sony welcomes the Amazon reader and any other competition as "publicity for the category."
On Apple's success in the laptop business: "We have different sizes, weights [than Apple], and we're using different materials," says Glasgow, welcoming Apple's sales boost and saying it doesn't affect the Vaio division's competition. "This could be the best year in the history of Vaio. We're not in this to have 40% market share, we're here to continue to innovate and use that expertise to help us in consumer electronics." He mentioned that Leopard has problems of its own, though the crowd laughed (implying Vista problems of greater severity.)
On recent better-than-expected sales in the flash-memory music and video player (aka iPod nano) market: "We can't keep them on the shelf," says Vandenbree, saying the new players did better in walk-in brick-and-mortar sales, where people can see the products. "We'll take a bite out of Apple," says Glasgow. "We learned more about what to do right. I'm more frustrated than you that it took so long."