All Things Digital conference, Sony (SNE) CEO Howard Stringer, who comes out to the opening notes of the song “I think Iâ€™m turning Japanese.” He is being interviewed by Walt Mossberg.
Stringer says Sony is the number one seller of LCD TVs in dollars, but not in profits. They did $9 billion in televisions this year, but profit was not as high. He notes that it has become a commoditized business. He says race for market share drives prices down at a rate that is “quite striking.”
Stringer says LCD has plenty of life in it, but is working on OLED, which is very expensive at the moment. First product is in the market place. Costs $2,500 for 11-inch screen. Stringer says he has one on his desk. The screen is so bright; a million-to-one contrast ratio makes it 100 times brighter than an LCD screen. Stringer is showing the next generation screen, which is 0.3 mm wide, thinner than a credit card. And you can make a flexible plastic version. He says there will be 27-inch version “fairly soon,” and it will be “fairly expensive.”
- Stringer says they are making and selling their OLED panels; working very hard to figure out how to mass produce it. When they do, it is a winner.
- On game console business: Stringer says the model has been lose money for long time, then make money on software, and then on the hardware. He says they are coming up to break-even on the hardware for PS/3, and making money on the software. Now number one in the U.K. Has life beyond that of video game; working on Playstation network for later this year. Beginning to generate its own excitement.
- He says they won the Blu-Ray/HD-DVD war in part because of the ability to play Blu-Ray titles on the PS3. Stringer says the company did NOT write a lot of big checks to the studios to get them to back Blu-ray. (Unlike the HD-DVD camp.)
- Walt is asking: How many years of value does Sony get for winning the high-def format war, given the move to digital download. Stringer says there is a long lead time. Downloading and streaming will be way to get video, but he says it will be a long time before you can get Blu-Ray quality that way. Stringer says if they had lost the format war, the headline would have been â€œBetamax 2.â€ So they did not want that to happen.
- Stringer says the movie theater is not going to die, as a shared experience. He notes that not every home will have a 70-inch Bravia, and even if they do, â€œyou arenâ€™t going to want to watch it with your mother.â€
- On PCs, they had their best year ever last year, Stringer says. Mossberg notes they are low market share; Stringer says they are an elegant computer manufacturer. Mossberg says that the Vaio is loaded with â€œcraplets, littered with half-baked programs.â€ It had 3 Sony-produced movies, but you had to pay $15 to watch them, Mossberg says. Stringer says he promises to do a â€œcraplets review.â€
- On music players: they are focused on phones. Stringer says they are doing more and more downloading relationships; you can get Usher downloads exclusively from Sony BMG on Sony Ericsson phones.
- Mossberg is wondering if standalone music and video players will eventually go away in favor of music and video capable phones. Stringer says there is room for 2 or 3 devices.