Saturday, January 10, 2009

CES 2009: Stringer Outlines Sony’s Glitz, Tech In Keynote

Sony chairman and CEO Sir Howard Stringer — surrounded by a billion dollars worth of Hollywood, music and baseball superstars — gave a keynote that was part inspirational and part sales pitch for the company’s vast array of products and services.

Since this is International CES, an almost-required demonstration of 3-D video was part of the 90-minute

Sony chairman and CEO Sir Howard Stringer and Tom Hanks.

Sony chairman and CEO Sir Howard Stringer and Tom Hanks.

exposition. The highlight was a spectacular preview of “Monster Vs. Aliens,” a 3-D production in the works from Dreamworks Animation.

Adding to the celebrity wattage, legendary mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg of Dreamworks gave a spirited speech touting 3-D as cinema’s next big wave as he introduced the clip.  Even Sir Howard noted 3-D is a lot closer than we realize and another clip was shown of the recent Virginia Tech/Cincinnati BCS game in 3-D.

Although Katzenberg is a pretty big name, for star power no one could beat actor Tom Hanks who seemed to have a blast lampooning CEA president/CEO Gary Shapiro’s keynote. (See story on p. 1.) Hanks and Stringer had a lively give and take about technology with the actor swearing his allegiance to all things Sony—even his beloved Betamax. He even tweaked Sir Howard, thanking LG for the row of teleprompters in front of the stage.

Hanks was not above doing his own selling—especially the upcoming “Angels & Demons” film coming from — you guessed it — Sony Pictures. Hanks asked Stringer “to take the hold off of my paycheck” now that he did his bit. Stringer hit back with a laugh: “Maybe I won’t!”

Along with Hanks and Katzenberg, baseball superstar Reggie Jackson appeared, reliving his three home runs during the ’77 World Series. That gave Stringer the opportunity to note Sony had just signed a deal with the new Yankee Stadium to provide more than 550 Bravia HDTVs for the new ballpark. Other technologies, such as PlayStation3 and Vaio computers, will be on display in the Bronx.

Superstar Usher of Sony Music performed a sweet ballad along with two musicians and three backup singers. He too jokingly swore his loyalty to Sony saying his two children were born in Sony hospitals. (Don’t blame us, folks — we’re just reporting what we saw and heard.)

In a more serious moment, Sir Howard acknowledged these were challenging economic times and it wouldn’t be easy for the world economy to emerge from this recession. Sony was adopting a new seven-point program to meet the challenge such as creating new value chains and going green, another mantra of CES 2009.

He showed a working demo of a new display technology called Flex OLED. Beyonce was performing on the screen and as Stringer held it, he wondered how many in the audience would like to squeeze the superstar, which was said all in good fun, of course.

As for OLED in the real world, Sony will continue to sell its current  11-inch model, the “only one commercially available” and steps were underway to introduce displays in the 20- to 30-inch class. No specifics were given and only prototypes are on view at the Sony booth here.

Stringer was also bullish about Blu-ray and Pixar’s John Lasseter came on stage to rave about the quality and tout the benefits of BD Live technology.

And there was more. Stringer introduced celebrity medical expert Dr. Mehmet Oz who proceeded to measure Sir Howard’s waist line as part of pitch for everyone to eat right. And wouldn’t you know it? Sony’s TV’s division is now offering the show for syndication.

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