Digital delivery critical to Sony's future

Howard Stringer unveils new strategy through 2011

TOKYO -- Sony Corp. unveiled its digital dreams Thursday, painting a picture of a company positioning itself for growth on the back of the explosion in digital media usage and convergence.

Sony CEO Howard Stringer and games division president Kazuo Hirai, speaking from Sony's corporate headquarters, repeatedly emphasized the delivery of digital content through the company's PlayStation consoles, Bravia TVs and other devices that will be connected to the Internet.

During the conglomerate's first corporate strategy update since 2005, senior executives led by Stringer laid out the company's plans for networked integration and convergence across its divisions.

"This fall, in the U.S. we will be high-definition streaming 'Hancock' direct to Bravia TVs, without the need for any top-box and before it is released on DVD, bypassing traditional providers," Stringer said, providing a key example of how the conglomerate is pushing synergies between its content and electronics businesses. "This is an industry first, and Sony now has the capability to deliver content direct to TVs."

A movie download service for the PlayStation 3 console also will be launched in the summer through the PlayStation Store platform in the U.S. and then later in Japan and Europe, according to Hirai.

"The difference between these services on PlayStations and PCs is that everybody has the same download qualities and capabilities with the PlayStation 3 or PlayStation Portable," Hirai said.

The 50 million user base of PlayStation players is an expanding network to which Sony can deliver a global download service with localized content, one that would be at the forefront of the convergence of TV, gaming and the Internet, Hirai said.

The company offered a demonstration of its thrice-delayed PlayStation Home environment, which looked very much like Second Life with better graphics.

A new platform, Life with PlayStation, also was announced and presented. It allows users to travel around an image of the globe, checking in on news, weather reports and events in real time.

"The idea is for people to turn on their PS3s instead of their TVs when they get up in the morning," said Hirai, who didn't give a launch date for the service.

The gaming division, along with the TV manufacturing business, is on course to move into profitability by the second half of Sony's financial year, which ends in March.

Sony plans to double its group revenue from the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries to 2 trillion yen ($20 billion) by 2010.

"We plan to utilize the successful model we've established that has made SET (Sony Entertainment Television) India the No. 1-rated TV network and leverage that in the other emerging markets," Stringer said.