January 4, 2006 5:45 PM PST

Sony details Blu-ray plans, new product releases

LAS VEGAS--After a year of skirmishing with technology rivals, Sony announced plans Wednesday for its first high-definition Blu-ray DVD players and recorders aimed at the international market. The company also provided a look at its broader 2006 electronics lineup.

Sony's most anticipated high-definition product remains the PlayStation 3, which is still expected to be released this spring, at least in Japan. But the company said Wednesday that it will also release, in the summer, an as-yet-unpriced Blu-ray player called the BDP-S1, and, by the end of the year, an external computer drive that will play and record the high-definition discs.

Photos: Sony's coming lineup

Blu-ray hardware from Sony and others will hit the market at roughly the same time that a rival, and incompatible, high-definition technology from Toshiba called HD DVD will be available to consumers. Toshiba said Wednesday that its first HD DVD players will begin shipping to consumers in March 2006.

Though Sony's Blu-ray technology has gained considerable momentum in recent months, analysts say the uncertainty over which format will ultimately prevail is likely to dampen consumers' enthusiasm for high-definition technology.

"To the degree this is perceived by consumers as a format war, everyone's going to vote by leaving their wallet in their pocket," said Gartner analyst Van Baker. "If any of these guys are expecting to go mainstream, they're going to have to come to agreement, or else someone has to win."

For now, consumers will have a limited number of actual movies to play on these new devices. Studios have said they will release a few dozen high-definition titles for both formats over the course of 2006, with new features such as Java-based games on the discs being introduced slowly.

"All of these (Sony) devices, along with recordable media, PlayStation 3, and the highest quality pre-recorded content from Sony Pictures, Sony BMG and other content creators will surely get the BD format off to a terrific start later this year," Randy Waynick, senior vice president of Sony's Home Products Division, said in a statement.

Beyond Blu-ray
Sony's announcement comes as part of a broad product roadmap unveiled Wednesday evening at the gadget and electronics show, at which executives showed off new products ranging from a prototype 82-inch LCD television to car stereo faceplates that can connect to computers to download and store music for playback on the road.

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Video: Sony's strategy
At CES, Dan Brown, author of "The Da Vinci Code," joins Sony CEO Sir Howard Stringer to discuss e-books.

Executives said they were aiming to revamp the company's Connect music download service, which launched nearly two years ago, but has had little impact on the market. The new version of the service, which will go live in March, will offer video and movie downloads for the Portable PlayStation device, as well as an expanded catalog of music.

The PSP will also get the ability to play live television, using software that allows a viewer to connect to a home television using Wi-Fi to stream the programming over the Internet.

The company is also focusing heavily on portable electronic devices of various other kinds.

Sony's first camcorder with an iPod-like hard drive, offering 30GB of space for local storage of video, will be available in May and retail for about $1,100, the company said. JVC has had a similar product out for several months.

A portable eBook reader, previously available in the United States, may raise text-lovers' eyebrows. Measuring just a half-inch wide, and using an electronic-paper technology called "E Ink," the device will hold about 80 books at a time. Sony will sell eBooks through its Connect download service, which has previously focused on music sales.

The Portable Reader System will be available in spring 2006 but does not yet have a price tag. A similar device has been marketed overseas as the Librie.

A new Walkman-branded phone from Sony Ericsson, available in the spring, will play MP3 and AAC music files and include a 2 megapixel camera.

Sony's line of digital cameras will also get an update. A new $500, 5.3 megapixel Cybershot will take TV-quality video as well as provide a slide-show display capability similar to that found on a PC, the company said. A 6 megapixel entry is also on the way, priced at $200.

Much of the industry's attention will be focused on Sony's new TV lineup. The company once dominated the television market but has lost ground over the past few years as competitors have taken market share and offered low-cost flat-panel screens.

Sony's latest Bravia line of high-definition televisions will start at $4,500, with a 46-inch LCD HDTV available in May. A 40-inch will be available for $3,000, with a 32-inch version for about $2,000.

As with every year, the company will also release a long list of new home and auto audio products, DVD players, headphones and computer peripherals.

CNET News.com staff writer Daniel Terdiman contributed to this report from Las Vegas.

21 comments

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Typical Gartner nonsense
Gartner analyst Van Baker says people won't buy next-gen DVD until someone "wins" the format war. What nonsense, and typical of what passes for analysis at Gartner.

If movies are available fairly widely in either format, people will buy that format. And it is likely combo players will be made, compatible with both formats. The lifespan of consumer tech is now so low that people don't view investing in a player the same way they did back in the VHS/Beta days. It is not such a big deal to replace something after a couple of years or less. And two years after the intro of either format, you can be a low-end combo player will sell for peanuts, so it is no big deal anyway.
Posted by baisa (126 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Replacing Stuff
Brad, you say, "It is not such a big deal to replace something after a couple of years or less."

it is for me. and i suspect that it is for lots of other folks, too. besides the obvious drain this puts on family finanaces, there is also the enviromental impact of high turn-over of electronic devices. even businesses are balking at the constant need to upgrade: to wit, lots of them are sticking with older computers, and with older versions of windows and office because they do the job "well enough".

bottom line: i'm not seeing the **compelling** reason to upgrade from dvd to either format and, if the cost of the high def content is significantly higher (remember cassette to cd?), i plan to stick with dvd.

mark d.
Posted by markdoiron (1138 comments )
Link Flag
Error in Story
I think the story has an error that you may want to correct. It says the Sony ebook was "previously available in the United States". I believe you mean that the Sony ebook was previously UNavailable in the United States. Previously (currently) Sony only sells its Libre ebook in Japan.

Thanks,
Michael
Posted by emellaich (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Any rootkits?
Highly likely.
Posted by ordaj (338 comments )
Reply Link Flag
If I told you, I'd have to kill you...
Yes, Sony plans 4 new invasive rootkits, but the press is forbidden by law from discussing them because they are so stealth that even mentioning them is the first step in cracking their DRM and the Sony lawyers are agressively persecuting (yes that's the word I meant) anyone who even entertains a notion of thinking about glancing sideways at a discussion of cracking their latest DRM endeavors.
But you didn't hear that from me!
Posted by skeptik (590 comments )
Link Flag
Boycott Sony, boycott Blu-ray!
<eom>
Posted by anarchyreigns (299 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I'm not buying Sony, I'm afraid of Rootkits or Rootkit like software
being installed.
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Rootkits???
Why is everyone so worried about "Rootkits". Sony made one bad deal with another company that probably deceived them. Now the whole company is bad after making one mistake? Every time I hear of this "Rootkit" paranoia I can't help but wonder how young the posters must be. This "Rootkit" epidemic didn't even have any real casualties, but oh yeah, I forgot the sky is falling, right?
All I have to say is Grow up.
Posted by psedog (40 comments )
Link Flag
.........
Yep, that sony tv is going to network itself to my computer through the power cables and install a rootkit on my computer!!!! Or maybe it will somehow use the DVI out on my media center to upload a virus!!!! Sony is evil and must die!!!!

Please note the sarcasm in my above comments, and try using your brain for once. If you don't want to buy sony products, fine, but don't try to scare people off with your nonsense.
Posted by Rolndubbs (194 comments )
Link Flag
Car audio mis-step?
<quote> car stereo faceplates that can connect to computers to download and store music for playback on the road </quote>

OK, that's sort of cool, but wouldn't it make more sense to provide a standardized digital port for portable players to jack into?
Posted by C.Schroeder (126 comments )
Reply Link Flag
iPod-like hard drive
...and people say CNET does not like Apple! What kind of garbage is that? Since when did Apple make hard drives? They were not even the first to offer a HD music player...
Posted by Andrew J Glina (1673 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I still use my VCR sometimes DVD player
I read that major studios want to outlaw analog capture. I have
an ATI based TV Tuner with analog capture for Windows XP and
a DVD writer from Sony along with Nero 7 so I can burn CDs and
DVDs.

I still use my VCR sometimes and other times use my TV Tuner
which both have analog capture -- I also download video for
free off major p2p networks so I can get them without DRM. It is
easier for studios to encryot video in digital form than analog so
they want to stop analog capture. Most of the movies I own are
in VHS while I have bought a few DVDs most of my videos
though I prefer to record myself.

I have a video iPod with 80 GB of space and an iPod AV video
cable to connect it to my television and watch video, I buy
music, TV shows and movies now from iTunes Store frequently
which I can transfer to my iPod or play on my computer, watch
on my TV using iPod and soon plan to buy an Apple TV device so
I can play the content from my iTunes Library bought on iTunes
directly on my television without using up the iPod's battery.

I plan to buy a new HD TV in about a year but have no plans to
jump ship for BluRay Disc or HD DVD until they can be cracked
and still be usable afterwards.

Even while I buy on iTunes I am wary that DRM in video
purchases cannot be easily removed that's why I use moderation
in my purchases. Still prefer to download for free off p2p most
of the time.

I have a Nintendo DS at home to play games and also an Intel
Mac Mini. Screw the studios I use existing technology I'm not
buying content on new formats anytime soon.

Boycott BluRay and HD DVD.
Posted by maneeshpan (69 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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