TECHSHOW-Sony brings OLED TV to U.S., encouraged by TV sales

Sun Jan 6, 2008 8:50pm EST

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(Recasts, adds details, executive comment)

By Franklin Paul

LAS VEGAS Jan 6 (Reuters) - Sony Corp (6758.T) on Sunday unveiled a next-generation super-thin television and a robot-like music player, and an executive said the economy had not hit U.S. consumer sales -- yet.

Sony Electronics President Stan Glasgow, who oversees the U.S. electronics business, told Reuters the company had strong sales in recent months, boosted by demand for its Bravia line of televisions.

The company's fortune has not been affected by the ills of the U.S. economy, which some economists say is headed for a recession. Technology shares were the worst performer in a broad-based decline on Friday led by Intel Corp which dropped on concerns that businesses are unlikely to upgrade computer equipment in the face of a slowdown.

Glasgow noted that any slowdown would likely appear first in items such as high-end digital video cameras, as opposed to big screen TVs.

"On the horizon I see that things are getting tougher," he said.

That said, he noted at the news conference at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that camcorders, along with Bravia TVs and digital book readers helped drive Sony to strong sales in the just-finished holiday season.

"Sony's consumer electronics sales in the United States increased by double-digits compared to last year," he said, referring to the holiday season.

Riding a hot streak as its PlayStation 3 game console bounces back from a slow start in sales and its Blu-ray disc technology gains supporters, Sony showcased Organic Light Emitting Diodes or OLED TVs at CES. Proponents say they could potentially replace LCD and plasma TVs.

OLED promises a brighter screen, lower power consumption and is expected to eventually be cheap to manufacture.

Sony said it would immediately start selling an 11-inch version of the 3-millimeter thick TV for about $2,000.

"You are going to see us do bigger sizes down the road. It is a new technology that is going to take several year before it competes with plasma and LCD," said Glasgow.

The maker of Cyber-shot digital cameras and Vaio personal computers in November launched the world's first flat TVs based on OLED technology in Japan.

Glasgow said Sony is "working on flexible versions of this technology -- it is still in the lab stages."

Developing devices from its research and development spending is key for Sony, and Glasgow promised products coming out "step-by-step". Many investors' eyes are on the ways Sony makes use of its investments and squeezes profits from the products it develops.

Last month, Sony's Chief Executive Howard Stringer said its consumer electronics business in the U.S. market had not been affected by the shaky economy and was on track to hit a 5 percent operating margin for the year ending March 31.

Electronics operations account for nearly three quarters of Sony's total sales, while the 5 percent margin target has been considered the most visible indicator of success for Stringer's turnaround efforts.

At CES, Sony also unveiled other products including updated versions of its automobile navigation system and mylo personal communication and media device, as well as a $400 egg-shaped interactive audio system called "Rolly".

But Glasgow said the Sony's Walkman line would not top Apple Inc's (AAPL.O) iPod digital music player.

"We are trying to continue to build our market share. We are not going to unseat the iPod."

(For more from the Consumer Electronics Show, please visit the MediaFile blog: blogs.reuters.com/mediafile/)

(Reporting by Franklin Paul, editing by Phil Berlowitz and Tomasz Janowski)

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