Sony delivers some Tom Hanks, gee-whiz at CES
After making Sony Pictures a few jillion dollars, Tom Hanks can get away with sassing Sony Chief Executive Howard Stringer.
Seattle Times senior technology reporter
LAS VEGAS — After making Sony Pictures a few jillion dollars, Tom Hanks can get away with sassing Sony Chief Executive Howard Stringer.
Stringer's keynote Thursday at the International Consumer Electronics Show began with a clip of Hanks in the upcoming Sony movie "Angels & Demons."
Then the actor appeared on stage, parodying the opening remarks by CES boss Gary Shapiro, mocking prepared remarks on the teleprompter and needling Stringer.
Hanks said his first Sony purchase was a used Trinitron bought from his girlfriend. He said he now has a towering pile of obsolete Sony products in his living room, topped by a "Bluetooth" video player 8 feet up in the air.
Apparently, Hanks was supposed to mention seeing Sony's name on the cameras on movie sets, but he said, "Really, I have yet to see that."
Describing his electronic book, Hanks pretended to call out Amazon.com's Kindle instead of Sony's product, saying he's using "The Ki ... Sony Digital Reader, which is a fine product in its own right."
Said Stringer when Hanks was done: "I took a risk, it failed, but we'll still be friends, at least until after the movie."
On a more serious note, Stringer talked about how the consumer-electronics giant will continue to develop new products and services despite the downturn, and he presented a new set of principles guiding the company.
"If we keep our sails spread high, history tells us the wind will pick up again," he said.
Among the company's goals is to have 90 percent of its products connect wirelessly to each other and the Internet by 2011.
The most gee-whiz product on the stage was a hand-sized flexible display screen using the advanced OLED (organic light-emitting diode) technology. Stringer flexed the screen while it played a Beyoncé video.
"How many people have the opportunity to squeeze Beyoncé?" he quipped.
Also new was a prototype wireless bedside clock/information station featuring widgets developed in partnership with Silicon Valley Web appliance maker Chumby, and a set of early prototype glasses that can be used for 3-D movies or watching video while simultaneously looking out at the surroundings.
Stringer said Sony is working on offering OLED TVs with screens in the 20- to 30-inch range but didn't provide specifics or a prototype.
On sale shortly is a svelte notebook PC that's as thin as a deck of cards and fits in a (large) pocket but has an 8-inch screen.
Stringer defended the progress of the Blu-ray video format, noting sales of Blu-ray discs grew fourfold last year. He also talked up the PlayStation 3 despite its slower than expected sales.
Kaz Hirai, head of Sony Computer Entertainment, announced that MTV is offering content on the PlayStation Network's video service and that Electronic Arts will make major contributions to Sony's new "Home" virtual world.
A major theme of the keynote was 3-D video, but unlike other major TV makers showing 3-D sets at the show, Sony emphasized 3D movies in theaters, where it provides projection systems.
The company expects 3-D theaters to be widespread by the end of 2009.
Content will come from partners such as Disney-Pixar, whose creative director, John Lasseter, said it's developing new features with 3-D and will release 3-D versions of its "Toy Story" franchise later this year.
DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg talked about how his studio is retooled to produce all of its movies in 3-D, a move he called a third major shift in movie-presentation technology, similar to the leap from silent to synchronized-sound movies in the 1920s and from black and white to color in the 1930s.
Other big names in the presentation included Usher, who performed a song and chatted with Stringer.
Baseball's Reggie Jackson gave a muted welcome to the new Yankee Stadium that Sony's outfitting with 550 Bravia TVs, Vaio PC kiosks, a high-def broadcast room and PlayStations in every suite.
Brier Dudley: 206-515-5687 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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