Howard Stringer on PS3, CELL and High-Def

Last week, at CEATEC event in Japan, Sony Corporations Chairman and CEO, Sir Howard Stringer, made a keynote speech regarding Sony’s revitalization and it’s role in the ever changing Consumer Electronics world. We bring you the most interesting part of his speech that elaborated Sony’s role in the consumer electronic business and also in the next-generation console race.

Some of the things discussed in his 30 minute keynote speech were concerning PlayStation Portable, PS3, CELL, Blu-ray, High-Definition and the future of Sony. First time ever in Sony’s history, a foreign CEO is going to lead the Japanese consumer giant. To make it less boring for our readers, we only took the parts that would concern you the most, gaming related stuff. So here it is, a breakdown of some of the main points of Sir Howard Stringer’s keynote speech.

PlayStation Portable

Sony’s PSP, only 9 months after it’s launch has sold "Six million" units. Most successful portable game console in history.

The device’s functionality is set to expand further in the future. Users of the current PSP will soon be appointing the device’s built-in WiFi to watch video from home entertainment terminals anytime, anywhere in the world.

Expect to see a PSP with a high capacity memory-stick, in which users will be able to browse the television and film content and can also be synchronized with a digital video recorder. The PSX has the capability to move content to the PSP and currently is available in Japan.

PlayStation is one of the rare devices to have obtained the status of a popular item. And if you wonder why we speak of PlayStation Nation, listen to this, the no. of PlayStations in the world now equals the combined populations of Japan, South Korea and Australia. That would be about two hundred million machines. And no matter where in the world we are, they are all speaking the same language.

Sony has the world’s no.1 console game business. Sony’s PlayStation portable had a blockbuster debut especially in Europe and US. The customers didn’t have to take a leap of faith. They can see the quality with their own eyes with the included Spiderman2 UMD. Demand for additional UMD movies grew instantly.

Sony Pictures and MGM are now enjoying with major Hollywood studios distributing UMD movies for the PlayStation Portable. The Chinese film "House of Flying Daggers" took only 3 months to ship nearly 100,000 UMD copies.

No other format has got this much content support since DVD’s launch about 8 years ago.

PlayStation 3, Cell and it’s significance in the High Definition Era

Stringer was very excited to discuss the importance of PlayStation 3 in Sony’s future business strategies,"The PS3, due out in Spring, promises to be our biggest breakthrough yet. Words do not adequately convey the visual and emotional impact of the PS3. It plays in high definition and high drama. And it plays Blu-ray, the high-definition disc that will become the standard of excellence for new generation of recording media."

He had a lot to say about the CELL microprocesser. Indeed half of Sony’s future is banking on the CELL technology and it surely is the de facto standard for all the future products that Sony will be bringing out in the coming years. How Sony will implement the CELL into general consumer products isn’t clear yet. What’s obvious is that Sony has decided to make it’s move towards the high-definition era and it sees CELL technology as something that can guarantee Sony a major leap ahead of it’s competitors. Stringer’s words were more than a proof of this observation.

"The Cell microprocessor which Sony developed with IBM and Toshiba clearly sets the PS3 apart. It is 35 times faster than the processor in the PS2. 10 times the power of a standard PC and twice the processing power of Microsoft’s new Xbox360. This technology allows for super computer like performance, moving quality images and the degree of realism that is simply amazing in a home gaming device. It’s been said in the press that no other chip in the world can touch it. We are confident that this is true."

"The PS3 is only the beginning for CELL. That’s why industry analysts called CELL a monumental technological advance. In our new CELL development center, we have a team dedicated to developing new applications for CELL technology. Currently customers directly communicate and share images and videos with each other through portable devices. In order to enhance the customer experience we’ll look for ways to integrate intelligence into our devices. New intelligent devices will be powered by smaller and more powerful processors and will be directly connected to one another or through the internet."

"Sony engineers are finding new possibilities for CELL all the time. Imagine you’re a baseball fan. Particularly a fan of Hideki Matsui of the New York Yankees. Imagine you’re too busy but want to know how your favorite player was doing? Upon request, cell will be able to search the games of the Past League and compile a 3 minute highlight video of Matsui’s performance for you to watch at your convenience."

"As standard microprocessors are typically manufactured for manipulating HD’s rich content. Cell will also allow much faster editing in High-Definition. Sony will continue to invest aggressively in Cell and imaging technologies like CEMOS as well as the key components of next-generation display device technologies with particular emphasis on organic light imaging diode. Which we think shows great promise for mobile handheld devices. We invest in these technologies for the sake of our customers."

"As I mentioned earlier, Sony has invested heavily in HD. In both the professional and consumer markets, Sony has been the leader in high-definition from the start. It is an incredible element to our strategy going forward. In Sony’s HD world, consumers can watch Sony HD movies or other content. While creators can shoot, edit and view all in Sony high-definition. Here again, CELL’s parallel processing power will be a factor."
"The adoption of HD technology will lead to enormous opportunities for sales of high-definition devices and content. That’s why we’re increasing the percentage of Sony products supporting HD from 35% today to 75% in fiscal year 2007. High-Definition will be the center of the digital living room and so will Sony."

"We understand that excellent hardware no longer guarantees success. That’s why we’re developing software design as a top priority at Sony through a newly established technology development center which will be aggressively building up our software capabilities. And we’ll establish software development centers in the United States and China this year."

"By combining computing power, hardware technology and middleware we’ll create a world of imaginative new products for the customer. Sony devices will have user friendly interfaces and functional simplicity. We’ll create system software application for all our products. Software as elegantly refined as Sony hardware."

Blu-ray! A true next-generation disc

Stringer asks, "How will consumers experience and save their high-definition content?", adding a quick reply, "On Sony’s blu-ray disc, of course! Blu-ray can store a full length movie in high-definition and room leftover for interactive features including games, extras and behind the scenes content and 3D and who knows what else. Perhaps especially significant when you own the world’s library of digital and HD films. The world’s largest library."

"We’re currently testing discs in our labs with a capacity to store 22-23 hours or more of high-definition video. And because of its superior storage capacity we have obtained broad support for Blu-ray from the IT industry and the majority of major film studios". Quoting Paramount’s official statement, Sony’s boss said that one of the key factors for Paramount joining the Blu-ray association was Bluray’s inclusion as a standard disc player inside the PlayStation 3 game console.

Part of his speech also focused on the issues that surfaced in the aftermath of the restructuring of Sony. Stringer assured everyone that reorganization will lead to Sony’s revitalization.He said, " Every company must reach its own decision. We’ve made ours! First we’ll restructure, eliminating silos (read: departments) and the culture of silos, to improve co-ordination, efficiency and operations. Second, we’ll sharpen the company’s focus in R&D, product development and marketing in order to apply the resources necessary to develop and market ‘champion products’. Third, as we develop more sophisticated software capabilities, we’ll use Sony’s marriage of continent technology to create unique competitive advantages and compelling user experiences."