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Sony Focuses on Future of Entertainment at CES 2006

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES Booth # 14200), Sony will be focusing on four "pillars" or categories of entertainment to highlight its moves into the future of entertainment. The company will announce new products and strategies as it pertains to high definition, digital cinema, videogaming and e-entertainment, during the conference in Las Vegas, running Jan. 4-7, 2006.

In a pre-show press conference, which was emceed by comedian Wayne Cotter and featured the heads of several of Sony's U.S. business divisions, the company demonstrated its advancements in the future of entertainment with a breadth of product introductions.

Highlighting Sony's market leadership in the high definition television category, specifically Grand WEGA rear projection micro-displays (including those based on 3LCD and SXRD technologies), and the BRAVIA line of LCD televisions, Randy Waynick, svp of Sony's Home Products Division, kicked off the CES press conference announcements by expressing Sony's commitment to "elevating high definition to 'higher definition' by delivering an HD experience that encompasses not only the display but also content, creation and editing both from the consumer and professional point of view."

Waynick previewed a new 55-inch SXRD Grand WEGA, which is almost 50% thinner than the current 50-inch model and still delivers 1920x1080 full HD resolution.

He also touted the success of Sony's number-one selling BRAVIA line of flat-panel LCD HD televisions and announced a new 46-inch model that will be available in May, along with three other models ranging in size from 26 to 40 inches available in March.

Generating much excitement was the premier unveiling of an 82-inch BRAVIA LCD flat panel prototype. Delivering full 1920x1080 HD resolution, this display is the first Sony Extended Video YCC (xvYCC)-compliant television. This new technology expands color data range and, when combined with Sony's Triluminous backlighting system, results in more realistic colors and an incredibly detailed picture.

Also on view were several Blu-ray Disc product introductions including Sony's first BD player that will be available this summer, as well as a recorder, recording media, broadcast cameras, internal and external drives, and a series of VAIO PCs with Blu-ray Disc capability.

In addition, Blu-ray recording media has been engineered to support AccuCORE technology, for high-speed dubbing, greater durability, quality recording and long-term storage. AccuCORE media has broad compatibility with a wide-range of drives and recorders.

"All of these devices, along with recordable media, Playstation 3, and the highest quality pre-recorded content from Sony pictures, Sony BMG and other content creators will surely get the BD format off to a terrific start later this year," Waynick said.

Also being previewed is a new concept in packaged home theater systems. Merging a 32-inch LCD TV, DVD/SA-CD player and 2.1 channel surround sound system, the unit's space-saving design appeals to those looking for a high quality home theater solution that is easy to use and stylish. The system features a motorized audio unit that automatically slides down, revealing a 32-inch high definition LCD TV. Also featuring a powerful subwoofer and Sony's 32-bit S-Master(R) digital amplifier with S-Force Pro 2.1 channel surround system, the system delivers realistic surround sound without rear speakers.

Moving onto digital cinema, John Scarcella, president of Sony's broadcast and business solutions company, demonstrated Sony's advancements in the area by highlighting 24P digital production as a technology that is "transforming the way television shows and movies are shot, edited and aired."

Scarcella also noted that the continued success of digital cinema is dependent on enhancing the movie-going experience and that significant headway has been taking place with the recent availability of Sony's 4K SXRD digital cinema projector, which provides 4096x2160 resolution or 8.8 million pixels four times the resolution of most of today's typical HD televisions.

"4K resolution was recently adopted by Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) as one of the standards for digital projection. And several studios, other than Sony, have also announced their support and enthusiasm," Scarcella said.

John Koller of Sony Computer Ent. of America highlighted the PlayStation Portable system which he said has "given us a glimpse into the future regarding how a platform once limited to gaming can have broad appeal."

He referred to recent announcement including the synching of PSP and Sony's Location Free service to access live TV from almost anywhere in the world via local hotspots, along with accessing video content. He also touted the new PSP Media Manager software that allows the transfer and encoding of everything from personal content to video, music and images from a local PC via a USB connection.

A bounty of new products and technologies emphasizing Sony's commitment to e-Entertainment were highlighted by Steve Haber, Sony Electronics' svp of its personal mobile and imaging division.

Connectivity was underscored as a key focus, specifically with the introduction of Sony's VAIO SZ series notebook computer, which allows users wi-fi access from virtually anywhere using WWAN technology that can sync with Cingular's national Edge Network Service.

Moreover, Sony announced for the first time in the U.S., the Sony Reader, an e-book reader which weighs less than nine ounces and is as thin as a magazine. Thousands of popular book titles are expected to be available on this platform through Sony's CONNECT Reader service later this year.

A variety of camcorder formats were also announced including DVD and MiniDV Handycam camcorders and Sony's first Hard Disk Drive model. Leading the pack is the DCR-DVD505 DVD Handycam, which features built-in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and supports an optional microphone that dramatically enhances the center channel sound. Thanks to Bluetooth technology, users can record wirelessly up to 100 feet away. The new hard disk drive camcorder DCR- SR100 also includes this advanced audio capability as well as a 30GB hard disk drive and advanced crash protection technologies to prevent data loss.

"Both models exemplify our new focus on audio performance in 2006. We are offering new enhancements to both audio and video functionality that are certainly going to change the way we capture, edit and ultimately enjoy video," Haber said.

In the digital still camera category Sony announced the next generation of the popular Cyber-shot M1, the DSC-M2 which records full-screen movies and 5.1-megapixel still images as the ideal hybrid device. Haber also announced the new six-megapixel DSC-S600 model that offers an advanced feature set at an affordable price.

All of these devices will have Micro Vault storage capability, leading to Sony's introduction of five new models including Micro Vault Tiny, Micro Vault Pro 8GB, Micro Vault Classic, Micro Vault Turbo and Micro Vault with Fingerprint Access.

To further underscore Sony's unified presence at the show, a backstage theater will be set up in Sony's booth featuring concerts by Sony BMG recording artists including Dave Matthews, Jace Everett, Cheyenne Kimball and the Fray. There will also be presentations touching on Sony's four pillars including a presentation about high definition by noted film director Barry Sonnenfeld; an HD broadcast of the NFL playoffs; and a technology demo of the Sony Reader.

Finally, the company's global chairman/ceo Howard Stringer will deliver the opening day keynote address to CES attendees on Jan. 6, 2006, morning.

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Rick DeMott
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