Sony's latest plans: more networked devices, video download service for PS3, maybe a phone

sony logoYears ago, when product developers were thinking up what’s next, an obvious choice was electronic devices connected to each other, first through cables, then wirelessly as technology improved and the Internet became more important in our lives. At the center of this discussion was always Sony, the worldwide consumer electronics leader.

Sony invented the Walkman and portable music. It set the standard for high-quality television with the Trinitron and Wega. It popularized and legitimized gaming with the PlayStation. It seemed only natural that Sony would lead us into the brave new digital world.

Oddly, this never happened.

So the news today of Sony’s latest grand plan to rule digital entertainment rings hallow, even pathetic, as companies like Apple, Microsoft, Netflix, Amazon, and others forge ahead with innovative products and services. Sony, sadly, is left playing catch-up.

The highlights of Sony’s announcement include:

More networked devices

Sony Chief Executive Officer Howard Stringer outlined the company’s plan at a news conference in Tokyo. At the center of the initiative, Sony wants 90 percent of its electronic products to wirelessly connect to the Internet by 2011.

That seems a bit obvious. Shouldn’t every consumer electronics device connect to the Internet these days? Our refrigerators will. Our cars will.

playstation storeVideo service for PS3 and Bravia flat-screen TVs

Sony will be rolling out its much-rumored movie and TV video download service this summer in the U.S., followed by Japan and Europe later in the year. Unfortunately, Sony didn’t provide many details, so we are left to assume that the content will be available through the PlayStation Network and will feature Internet movie and TV show downloads and rentals, something that Apple, Microsoft, Netflix, and Amazon are already doing.

We also assume that this service will work across Sony’s product offering, including the PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, Bravia TVs, and any future devices.

Sony did say that the Bravia line of high-definition, flat-panel TVs will be getting video via the Bravia Internet Video Link (BIVL), a twist that no other company can offer because they don’t have the consumer electronic reach that Sony has. The upcoming Will Smith film, “Hancock,” will be available “exclusively to all Internet connected Bravia LCD TVs in the U.S. before it is available on DVD.”

Of course it would be asking too much of Sony to take another step forward and include services like Netflix and Hulu for the PlayStation 3. Let’s just hope that Sony’s initiatives will not be another walled garden and that its content and media-sharing capabilities will not be limited to the Sony universe.

PlayStation Network numbers

Sony said that there are 9.8 million registered users of the PlayStation Network. They’ve downloaded 170 million files. The PlayStation Network has delivered a total of 86 peta bytes of data, fitting on some 17 million single-layer DVDs. [via Gizmodo]

Impressive. And a great foundation for Sony’s online initiatives.

“Life with PlayStation” preview

ps3 Sony is preparing a non-game service for the PlayStation 3 called “Life with PlayStation,” which at first glance is similar to Wii World on Nintendo’s Wii, the best-selling game console. [via PC World]

“Life with PlayStation” will launch with two services already found on the Wii — news and weather — although Sony plans to expand its offerings considerably in the future.

One difference between the PlayStation and Wii non-gaming services: Expect the graphics on the PS3 to be higher resolution and more mature than the graphic execution on the Wii. Weather on the PS3 will show a satellite globe and real-time cloud patterns, not just a graphic interpretation. Also, clicking on a news headline on the PS3 will take consumers to an actual Internet page, not just stories provided by content partners.

The PlayStation Phone

Marketing Week wrote that Sony may be considering the development of a phone based on its PlayStation Portable handheld gaming device — something we’ve been hearing and an off for a year now. [via mocoNews]

Marketing Week doesn’t know if Sony would develop the phone alone or use its partner Ericsson, which has mostly released music phones for Sony’s Walkman brand and photo phones for its Cybershot brand.

It’s obvious why Sony may still be considering a PSP phone, especially if mobile gaming is as successful on the iPhone as people think.

Sound familiar?

last100 is edited by Steve O'Hear. Aside from founding last100, Steve is co-founder and CEO of Beepl and a freelance journalist who has written for numerous publications, including TechCrunch, The Guardian, ZDNet, ReadWriteWeb and Macworld, and also wrote and directed the Silicon Valley documentary, In Search of the Valley. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

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