Showbiz and gizmos — unite!

At CES, Stringer and Sweeney urge 'fusion' to reach consumers better

Top executives from Sony and Disney called on hardware manufacturers at the Consumer Electronics Show on Thursday to step up cooperation with Hollywood given their shared interests in reaching consumers.

In separate keynote speeches, Sony chairman and CEO Howard Stringer and Disney-ABC Television Group president Anne Sweeney emphasized the intertwined fortunes of showbiz and technology with regard to delivering simple user experiences on new content platforms.

Stringer told the CES crowd that the first among seven key principles to connecting with consumers is acknowledging the blurring lines of entertainment and electronics. "We must accept this fusion is a reality," he said.

The Sony boss proved his Hollywood bona fides with the help of high-powered friends he brought onstage. The company's two-hour presentation was bookended by an introduction from Tom Hanks, who brought along a trailer of his upcoming "Angels & Demons," and a closing performance by Usher. The star power also extended to the executive suite, with Disney Animation/Pixar Animation chief creative officer John Lasseter and DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg offering sneak peeks of respective upcoming releases "Up" and "Monsters vs. Aliens," the latter viewed through 3-D glasses distributed to attendees.

Lasseter had his own 3-D fare to show off for the crowd in a new animated short he unspooled, "Tokyo Mater," but he left the 3-D pitch to Katzenberg while sharing his own impassioned plea for the viability of Blu-ray Disc.

Countering criticism that the format already seems anachronistic in the age of the digital download, Lasseter noted that consumers ain't seen nothing yet.

"Blu-ray doesn't stop here," he said. "The future of this technology is pretty amazing."

Sweeney had her own favorite technology to plug: Intel's Media Processor CE-3100, a new chip that Yahoo and Samsung recently announced will be used to embed the content-carry applications commonly found everywhere from online social networks to television programming. Sweeney suggested that the technology, known as a Widget Channel, could be used to supplement ABC shows "Good Morning America" and "Lost," which she said could use the chip for its series finale next year.

Echoing Stringer's call for collaboration, Sweeney said, "The chip may create the opportunity for content providers and consumer electronics companies to work together to help consumers connect more deeply to the content they watch."

The urgency for more cooperation also might have been underscored by opening remarks from Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Assn., who offered a projection of flat year-over-year revenue growth for his industry in 2009 because of steep discounts retailers will be making during the recession. He noted 5.4% growth in 2008. (partialdiff)