* Sony CEO: consumer will decide if reader format sticks
* e-reader to offer Wall Street Journal, Marketwatch
* Device will also make NY Post available
* Sony says sales of e-readers phenomenal so far
(Adds comment from CEO, byline)
By Franklin Paul
NEW YORK, Dec 17 (Reuters) - The way Howard Stringer sees it, Sony’s digital e-readers should focus on the printed word and making reading “comfortable,” even though the consumer electronics giant could turn it into a multimedia machine.
Stringer, Chief Executive of Japan’s Sony Corp (6758.T), admits there is a lot of “energy” behind Amazon.com’s Kindle, which is seen as the leader in a burgeoning market for portable reading devices.
As speculation grows that Apple Inc (AAPL.O) may introduce a tablet-style computer that could also address the e-reader market, Sony could differentiate itself by adding more powerful chips, displays and media features to the pocket sized readers.
But Stringer says that, given the nascence of the market, it is smarter to wait and see how consumer warm to the current makeup of the devices.
“The consumer will tell us if this format is comfortable and helpful and convenient and all those things before you start plowing on a thousand apps,” or making the “Vaio Reader” Stringer said on the sidelines of a press conference in New York on Thursday.
Sony, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble Inc (BKS.N) are in a heated fight over who will emerge with the best-selling electronic reading device, each beefing up their devices with exclusive content or high-tech features.
Sony struck a deal with News Corp (NWSA.O) on Thursday that will make The Wall Street Journal, MarketWatch and the New York Post available on its electronic reader, the latest shot fired in an intensifying battle with Amazon.com Inc’s (AMZN.O) popular Kindle device.
Sony said subscriptions would be available shortly from its e-reader website, with monthly prices set at $14.99 for The Wall Street Journal, $10.99 for MarketWatch and $9.99 for the New York Post. The publications will be jointly marketed by the companies.
At an event to announce the deal on Thursday, Sony described sales of the e-readers as “phenomenal,” but did not disclose any figures. Executives also said they did not know how sales stacked up against the Kindle, one of the top names in the e-reader category.
And while Stringer called the competition a “horse race” he noted that the e-reader will sell to a very wide demographic, leaving no need to make it into a reader thats is also a Walkman or a portable video device.
“I think there is plenty of audience to go around,” he said. “I think it will be interesting to see if this is the reader of choice, particularly for older audiences who don’t need a million other applications. There is a whole generation that may learn to love this. We might as well let them find out.” (Reporting by Franklin Paul and Paul Thomasch; editing by Dave Zimmerman and Andre Grenon)