For all the talk of the “wireless experience” and “cutting the cord” these days, it doesn’t feel like digital devices have really dispensed with the tether, said Rob Wiesenthal, group executive, corporate development for Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) in an interview with Staci D. Kramer, editor of paidContent parent ContentNext Media, at the Battle for the Digital Home conference. Wiesenthal has heard those complaints and said that with Google (NSDQ: GOOG) TV now added to its long product line of electronic devices, he is confident that a less tangled future for consumers is coming.
In her first question, Kramer asked Wiesenthal how many WiFi-enabled devices Sony has with Google TV in the mix now. “We will have 50 million
connected connection-capable screens available in the U.S. by the end of the year,” he said, though he declined to say how many Google TVs have been sold so far.
On wireless fatigue: As much as we talk about everything is wireless, I’ve never seen so many wires, he noted, looking at the boxes for the preceding demo. “Consumers are going through box exhaustion,” Wiesenthal said. “We have an advantage. We’re embedding wireless technology at a broader level. This Christmas, consumers will be able to buy a connected Blu-ray player for under $200. It’s more mainstream. We just have to convince them to fire it up as opposed to buying a new box.”
But Kramer suggested that most people might be experiencing “TV exhaustion.” In the old days, when people wanted to upgrade to a bigger, better TV set, they would move the older, smaller one to the kids’ room. “Do you expect us to buy another set?”
Essentially, Sony does, Wiesenthal said. But they promise to make it easier to upgrade as well. “As we introduce new features like 3D, advanced motionflow, and internet connectivity, people may choose to upgrade their TV’s,” he said. “However, WiFi Blu-ray players remain an inexpensive and attractive option for consumers who wish to keep their current TV.”
On Playstation: For Sony, it’s not just about TV. It’s about making sure consumers bring all its electronics products together. The success of Playstation is something that Sony believes will continue to help it introduce its wider offerings to users. “Right now, the most robust computing platform in the home is the Playstation 3. In my view, 3D gaming will be the biggest part of 3D entertainment. You’re going to need the combination of a connected device and a Blu-ray disc.”
On ownership vs. access: One of the big debates Sony, along with other companies that straddle the worlds of content and devices, have been dealing with is the concept of owning versus renting/licensing of movies, music, books, etc… “The first thing we’ve been spending time on is ownership versus access,” he said “In the ‘physical world,’ you’re in line at Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) and you go in to buy video disc. You hold it, you collect it.” Absent is that tactile feeling of physical products if a consumer is asked whether they want to download a film for $29.99 or renting it for $4.99, they’ll choose the latter more often than not. “It’s hard to think about ownership if you can’t handle it,” Wiesenthal said. “In three years, the conversation will shift from ownership to access. There’s lots of things we can add to access to make it more attractive.”