‘One Sony’: CEO says firm will focus on device integration, emerging tech this year

Tapped to help officially launch International CES for 2014, Sony chief executive Kazuo Hirai on Tuesday offered a focused and personalized vision for the electronics firm as it heads into the new year.

The keynote speech was somewhat light on product announcements, since Sony unveiled the bulk of its new products in a press event on Monday night. But Tuesday’s announcements were all in service of showing that the Japanese firm is moving ahead with Hirai’s mandate that the varied company act as “One Sony.”

The company touted plans for new streaming game and movie services that will give customers greater access to a huge catalog of entertainment content, including games for Sony’s previous PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3 consoles. A planned TV content streaming service will also pull together TV shows and movies for consumers, who will also be able to watch the content on multiple screens within their homes.

That unifying philosophy is also apparent in the firm’s goal for mobile, laid out at the beginning of last year: to become one of the top three mobile companies on the world stage.

Stephen Sneeden, a product marketing manager with Sony’s Xperia mobile line, said that the mobile team sought the cooperation of Sony’s Brava display, camera and content service teams to build a new version of its Xperia Z1 phone for the U.S. market. The phone, launching this month exclusively on T-Mobile, has been designed to share features with the firm’s stand-alone cameras and is packed with preloaded content -- movies, music and games -- from within the Sony ecosystem.

Hirai said the firm will be focusing on emerging tech in the coming year, tapping its advanced optical technologies for medical, agricultural and -- of course -- photographic applications. For example, he said, Sony skin monitors will be able to get a read on medical factors such as blood sugar levels. Crops in the field can be monitored to determine the optimal time for harvesting, and once the food is picked it can be watched for spoilage along the supply line.

While Hirai acknowledged that the firm has had its problems -- even mentioning Sony’s backing of the long-defunct Betamax video format! -- he said that he’s convinced the company is now on track to provide products and services that its customers will use every day, forging a personal connection with their Sony devices.

Sony has seemed to lose its step in recent years, particularly as Korean firms such as Samsung and LG have grown and taken market share in competing categories such as televisions, mobile devices and audio equipment. Hirai, who became chief executive last February after success in running the company’s PlayStation and networked entertainment businesses, is now tasked with bringing the very traditional and somewhat fragmented firm into a new, multimedia age.

In addition to the service announcements, Sony said that it had sold 4.2 million units of its PlayStation 4 console, which it released in November, in just over a month.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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