LAS VEGAS -- Top Sony executives took to the stage this evening here at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show to reveal, bit by bit, that the company is mobilizing its many divisions to create an ecosystem that delivers 3D content to many of the products it makes, from televisions and tablets to camcorders and computers.
The name of the platform at the center of it all? Qriocity. (As in, "curiosity.")
The platform itself isn't new. Sony debuted it last year, offering video on demand in select markets overseas.
But Wednesday, Sony unveiled a new Qriocity service called "Music Unlimited" that hints at how expansive it could be. Music Unlimited is a new cloud-based streaming music service that offers more than six million songs, from "all the major record labels." It learns your preferences over time, tracks behavior and makes music recommendations.
Key is that the service will be embedded in Sony products, from TVs to PCs to PS3 (beginning this year in the U.S., Canada and Europe).
The importance of Qriocity, then, moves beyond being just another Spotify-like digital music market offering. It becomes a true content delivery platform -- so you can feasibly download music or movies or video games and play them on a Sony Ericsson smartphone or watch them on a Bravia HDTV or perhaps on another set through a PS3 or Blu-ray player. (Or if you're on the go, perhaps one day on a Vaio laptop.)
Impressive scale on its face. But the role Qriocity plays deepened considerably as Sony simultaneously announced 3D capability across nearly all of its new electronics -- Bravia HDTVs, Blu-ray players, PlayStation gaming consoles, Handycam camcorders, Vaio PCs -- offerings this year.
Quite simply, Qriocity could become the vehicle by which Sony delivers 3D content -- lots of it -- to its many devices across the globe, in turn becoming a massive driver in the adoption of 3D technology that so far has been met with apathy by consumers.
IT'S GOOD TO BE BIG
A key part of this strategy hinges on Sony's largesse.
Sony Electronics USA president Phil Molyneux said that Sony aims to be the No. 1 consumer electronics manufacturer in the U.S. by 2013. And a big chunk of that strategy is through the living room.
"We will actively engage users in what has typically been a passive medium," Molyneux said.
Though Sony announced its first Internet TV (which runs on Google TV) in October, it took another step toward killing the set-top box by announcing on Wednesday a deal with Time Warner Cable to provide channels to Sony connected products -- simply, cable over IP.
Sony Computer Entertainment president Kaz Hirai described a "unified networked experience" in which 3D movies are delivered, online, to the living room.
"We're investing heavily in this area," Hirai said, adding, "Content is vital, but it's obviously not just limited to video content."
Touting Sony's more than 60 million PlayStation Network account base and its ability to do business across several product segments,CEO Sir Howard Stringer forecasted that more than 50 million televisions will be Internet-enabled by Sony products by March 2010.
"This is a significant base of connected product," he said. "As one can say about our famous Godzilla product, size does matter."
To underscore the point, Stringer introduced the all-new 3DNet, a 3D television channel created in partnership by Sony, Discovery and Imax.
"2011: the year in which 3D becomes personal," Stringer said, adding: "We are shaking up the television landscape and we will win with consumers who have embraced color television, high definition -- all of which, you remember, were met with great criticism."
(It should be said here that Stringer absentmindedly wore his 3D glasses through the entire first part of his presentation. Upon realizing it, he said: "You all complain about wearing 3D glasses. I wore mine through that entire thing. I wasn't even supposed to.")
So why does this all matter, you ask?
By offering its extensive content library (music and movies such as Taylor Swift, The Green Hornet and even Elvis Presley) in 3D, then making its myriad consumer (TVs, camcorders, laptops) and professional products (camcorders, projectors) support it, and finally offering the platforms (Qriocity, Internet TV) to bring that content to those products, Sony is marshaling almost every one of its corporate branches to pursue a singular goal: lead the world in bringing 3D to the masses.
It's end-to-end. If it wasn't clear last year, it is now: Sony is all in on 3D, and it's circling the corporate wagons to do so.
WHAT WAS ANNOUNCED
A few of the products that were announced:
Sony Bravia EX620 series HDTVs -- edge LED backlit, connected, XReality Pro engine to improve broadcast quality.
The flagship Bravia KDL-55HX929, joined by a 46-inch model, as well as the more affordable HX920 series of HDTVs. Features: full HD for 3D and 2D, dynamic edge LED backlit, X-Reality Pro engine, MotionFlow tech for frame rate.
Sony BDP-S780 2D and 3D Blu-ray player -- for users with 2D now and 3D later, built-in WiFi, DLNA compliant, Skype embedded for video calls.
Sony Vaio F series laptop -- with active shutter glasses, see 3D movie playback. Blu-ray 3D compatible, button to convert 2D to 3D in real time. Intel Core i7 CPU, Win7 Home Premium, $1700.
The world's first consumer 3D camcorder for double Full HD -- dual image sensors, dual processors, 10X zoom, 3.5 in glasses-free display. (This April, $1,500.)
Three new 2D Handycams -- built-in projectors (up to 5ft across). (Start at $700, in March.)
3D Bloggie: HD 3D and full HD 2D video, 5.1 MP photos, glasses free 3D LCD screen. ($250; spring.)
New Cybershot cameras with 3D capability, plus "the world's first cameras that allow you to take photos during video capture." Specs: 1920x1080 60p, 10FPS burst shoot, intelligent sweep panorama.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc, a Google Android (2.3 Gingerbread) smartphone with a 4.2-in "Reality" display and Sony's mobile Bravia engine. Available in Q1.