Sony: Underwhelming At CES (SNE)

| About: Sony Corporation (SNE)
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By Carl Howe

Sony's press conference was structured around four topics: high(er) definition TVs, digital cinema production systems, Playstation gaming, and e-Entertainment portable gadgets. The show was dazzlingly produced and presented in live high-definition. But the content and the logistics fell far short of the production values.

For content, Sony touted its progress in each of the four areas. Bravia LCDs now outsell the next-best-selling LCD line (Sharp) by 2 to 1, and Sony will be adding a 1080p 82-inch LCD to the lineup. Its 24p high-definition cameras and production systems are being used in more movies, and its new 4K projectors (actually 2160p) are going to roll out in Landmark theaters this year. The Playstation Portable (NYSEARCA:PSP) did better than they expected for the holidays. And Sony introduced its new eReader product using e-Ink technology. All great accomplishments.

But the logistics of the press conference were terrible. Sony had lots of food and drink for the press attendees, but despite pre-registration, all the press and analysts were then required to line up at the booth to get wrist-bands. Because the line stretched around the booth and then down the hall, after a half hour of registering people, they then just let everyone in. But of course, there weren't enough seats to accommodate everyone, so any benefit of controlling access was then lost. Despite lots of effort to sort everyone out and get everyone where they were supposed to be, it was chaos.

And the bigger story was what Sony didn't say. It said nothing about the PS3 launch, when we could expect it, what it would cost, or even how great it would be. That was a glaring omission. And worse, there was no discussion of Sony's strategy for building market momentum after its well-publicized problems, nor was there even any acknowledgment of those problems. The result: the event felt forced and false, even though the products shown were quite impressive by themselves.

However, Sony did offer one nice bit to make up for the poor logistics. Since the conference ran late, most of the attendees had no opportunity to see the Bill Gates keynote at 6:30. Sony suggested that those who wanted to skip the keynote could stay in the booth and watch the Rose Bowl in high-definition on their digital cinema, SXRD, and Bravia displays. It was more exciting than Bill Gates, but was poor consolation for attendees who had hoped to get a clear and compelling story.

The Playstation 3 on display was just conceptual, not real hardware:

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