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CES: PlayStation's role in Sony's big unified entertainment plan
CES: PlayStation's role in Sony's big unified entertainment plan
January 9, 2012 | By Kris Graft

At its Gamasutra-attended CES press conference in Las Vegas on Monday, Sony made clear where its future lies: in the network.

Sony execs, including CEO Sir Howard Stringer and consumer products head and former PlayStation boss Kaz Hirai, explained how the Sony Entertainment Network will serve as the backbone of Sony’s wide array of consumer entertainment devices, from TVs to PlayStation hardware to new tablets and smartphones.

It’s all indicative of Sony’s initiative to take its relatively loosely-related products and use the “cloud” to more tightly integrate entertainment, by allowing consumers to use one common ID across all platforms, and one digital wallet. And PlayStation will play a key role.

“We have a stake in every part of the entertainment revolution,” said Stringer, and that’s what makes product unification via network important for the firm, which has sold 900 million devices worldwide.

Sony’s new line of tablets and smartphones are leading the company’s expansion plans, and the company is adding new PlayStation Certified products, including the newly-announced Xperia S Android smartphone, to its lineup.

The firm also unveiled the Walkman Z, a wi-fi enabled, Android-based portable music player with a touch screen and access to Android’s app marketplace. The Walkman Z will be able to play games not only on the built-in screen, but it also is the first Walkman product that has an HDMI output, allowing players to view games on a large screen.

(A demo of the Walkman Z displayed Vector Unit’s jet skiing game Riptide GP, which looked relatively sharp despite being blown up on a larger screen.) Walkman Z also has wireless connectivity to DLNA-enabled TVs.

Even as Sony expands its line of mobile devices that are PlayStation Certified, it’s PlayStation products like the PS3, PSP and new Vita that continue to target gamers more directly. As with other Sony products, the company is expanding the functionality of PlayStation hardware, adding network and social functionality to the PS3 and introducing those features on the Vita, which launched in Japan late last year and is due for U.S. release February 22 ($250 for a wi-fi version, $300 for 3G plus data fees).

Hirai said that as of January 5, the Vita had sold 500,000 units to consumers since its Japanese launch. PlayStation hardware sold over 6.5 million units during the holiday period worldwide, he added.

Hirai also revealed that Sony’s cloud-based, cross-platform service Music Unlimited will be available at Vita’s launch in the U.S. and UK, and that Netflix is aiming to have its video streaming app ready at launch as well.

Creating an integrated experience across all of Sony’s products is an initiative that in some ways was born out of the PlayStation business, which has the underlying PlayStation Network infrastructure and services. Taking that network expertise from the games business, applying it across the board at Sony, and successfully leveraging its massive product line could make the firm as formidable as it ever was.

“Whether you’re playing games, watching movies or TV, or sharing photos or videos, you’re really doing one thing – experiencing the content you want to,” said Hirai.

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Eric Kwan
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I've read several sources that claim that Android OEMs make almost no money from Android itself and have to rely on flooding the market with new hardware that sells to generate income (look at all the crap Motorola is putting out). I imagine that is the reason they are pursuing so many different models of what is essentially the same thing. Don't want a Vita? Well, there's Sony tablet for you. Too expensive? Maybe Walkman Z is more up your alley. I'm sure Sony hopes that you'll end up getting at least one of those.

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Sounds like Sony is applying the Hydra like method of business to help them gain market share from their competitors. However I personally question having 5 to 10 devices out there that do a variation of the same thing to deliver the same content. I mean is there any statistics to suggest that the reason someone isn't playing your games is because you don't offer a tablet or smartphone version of it? It seems experimental to me, and I don't think it will convince a mass market to do something its not doing in the first instance, however I have been wrong before.

A question upon analysis of it would be; could you get several companies to deliver top not experience on each device that would make it a must have above the devices people already use to do the same things? I think that would be the main challenge. Sony has got a lot to prove in the implementation of this business method.

I find it ironic as a PS3 consumer that I yet have no separate VOIP chat system from the XMB while gaming yet I received several firmware updated taking my consumer rights away. It makes me question their priorities in the scheme of things. I also feel like this integrated experience across multiple devices has been promised before by the same company, yet the experience has been well under delivered up to this time.

Jeremy Reaban
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This is a great example of what is wrong with Sony.

They are launching the Vita, which plays games. And they are launching the Walkman Z, who's main draw apparently is playing Android games.

Why are they directly competing with each other? Especially since they seem to be the same exact price ($250).