(Adds details on flexible screen, Sony structure, Stringer's
By Franklin Paul and Kiyoshi Takenaka
LAS VEGAS Jan 8 Sony Corp (6758.T) introduced
on Thursday a bendable video screen, a Wi-Fi camera and
eyeglasses that display movies, saying the industry must keep
innovating in the midst of a severe economic slump.
The Japanese firm, which pioneered the Walkman and once
dominated the high-end electronics marketplace, is hoping a
swathe of new products will spur spending and lift its consumer
division out of a business malaise.
On Thursday, Chief Executive Howard Stringer demonstrated a
range of new devices at the Consumer Electronics Show
[ID:nN05368327] in Las Vegas, including a flexible OLED
(organic light-emitting diode) screen playing a video of singer
Sony in 2007 launched the world's first OLED TV, which is
slimmer, more energy efficient, and offers crispier pictures
than liquid crystal display (LCD) TVs. The bendable OLED
screen, which is still in the development stage, would offer
flexibility in design, making possible such applications as
Stringer and Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks also
demonstrated prototype eyeglasses with built-in video screens
that can show full-length movies.
Besides Hanks, other celebrities who cameo-ed at Stringer's
keynote speech included R&B singer Usher and baseball Hall of
Famer Reggie Jackson, underscoring a unique business structure
that combines the world's leading electronics conglomerate and
entertainment group under one roof.
Sony (SNE.N) said on Wednesday sales of some of its
best-selling products exceeded expectations during the U.S.
holiday season [ID:nN07461498].
"No drop in the economy can change the fact that this is
still one of the most innovative industries on the face of the
planet," Stringer said during the day's first event.
"If we keep our sails spread high, history tells us the
wind will pick up again and it will carry us to places we could
barely imagine three years ago."
The maker of Bravia flat TVs, PlayStation 3 video game
consoles and Cyber-shot cameras is hoping to breathe life into
a struggling consumer electronics division. On Wednesday, it
trotted out a new line of environmentally friendly, ultra-slim
TVs and the world's lightest 8-inch laptop.
Sony also called the Wi-Fi camera the first of its kind in
the world, allowing users to upload videos and photos to Web
sites without going through a personal computer.
But the plethora of new devices are arriving in a difficult
U.S. consumer electronics spending is expected to slide 0.6
percent in 2009, a dramatic reversal from 5.4 percent growth in
2008, according to the U.S. Consumer Electronics Association,
which organizes CES. But the industry group predicted the
sector will recover in 2010.
Sony itself is going through a painful restructuring that
will shed 16,000 jobs and curb investment to try to save $1
billion. Analysts and media speculate more painful measures are
in the works [ID:nT18401].
Since taking the helm in 2005, Stringer has worked hard to
break down the barriers among various business groups within
the company, which include movies, music, games, consumer
electronics, insurance and banking.
The effort, carried out under the "Sony United" slogan, led
partly to its victory in the high-definition optical disc
format war with Toshiba Corp (6502.T), when its game, movie and
electronics divisions threw their full weight behind Blu-ray
Sony is now also trying to develop an online network built
on its popular PlayStation gaming consoles, a similar effort to
Microsoft Corp's (MSFT.O) Xbox Live service.
On Thursday, it said it enlisted video game publisher
Electronic Arts ERTS.O for its fledgling online PlayStation
service, and signed up Viacom Inc's VIAb.N MTV Networks to
provide more than 2,000 hours of video programming.
Kaz Hirai, head of Sony computer entertainment, said the
company had signed up 2.1 million new users for the online
network in the most recent month.