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Ninety percent of Sony (NYSE: SNE) products will connect to the internet and to each other by 2011, Sir Howard Stringer promised the 2009 CES crowd in the show’s opening keynote. Examples were woven throughout the lengthy session that smartly kicked off with a stand-up routine by Tom Hanks: a WiFi CyberShot camera that goes on sale today and can send images directly to Bravia sets as well as online; the next-gen Sony Dream Machine, an always-connected clock radio produced with the folks at Chumby; video that can move between the Bravia and the PSP; Gracenote, which can manage music content across platforms; and so on. But seamless only works when everything around it is, well, seamless. For instance, Sony’s real-time CyberShot demo worked only because, unlike mere mortals in the ballroom, it had access to a wireless network. The Chumby radio will wake you up with the latest music video from Bruce Springsteen — as long as your home network is up.
Hanks wasn’t the only celeb or guest: baseball great Reggie Jackson showed up to mark Sony’s role as the official CE partner of the new Yankees Stadium; Disney/Pixar’s John Lassater tried his level best to make Blu-ray look like a must-have; DreamWorks Animation’s Jeffrey Katzenberg showed off 3-D with an excerpt from the upcoming Monsters vs. Aliens (real, not cardboard, 3-D glasses were on every seat); Dr. Mehmet Oz dropped by to measure Stringer’s waist and pitch his upcoming new show; and Usher came by to sing and to highlight Sony’s music efforts. Usher thanked Stringer and the company for letting him stream performances from his Sony Ericsson-sponsored tour to his fans.
But — besides the Blu-ray push — the most important appearance for Sony’s future may well have been Kaz Hirai, president and group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment. The division represents Stringer’s efforts to remake the way Sony does business internally, a different kind of connectivity to bring products and goals together instead of leaving each in a silo. Some highlights:
— PlayStation 3, PSP and PlayStation Network (PSN): The PSN, launched in 2006, has more than 17 million registered users all over the world and more than 330 million bits of content downloaded to users. It added 2.1 million accounts last month with sales totaling over $150 million as of December 2008. New game LittleBigPlanet has sold 1.3 million copies; what makes it stand out is it also includes social networking and a user-gen element, with users creating some 300,000 levels for the game or the equivalent of non-stop play for two solid years. Hirai said the Life with PlayStation app has been downloaded more than 2 million times with more than 900,000 monthly unique users; they hope to publish an update this spring.
— EA phones Home: Electronic Arts (NSDQ: ERTS) will build a sports complex for the @ Home beta. (Details here.) More than 3.4 million users have downloaded Home so far.
— FreeRealms: The new massive multiplayer game/virtual world is in beta for PC with PS3 to follow. It’s aimed at girls and boys, which is a bit unusual these days. It’s the first offering from Sony Online Entertainment since it became part of the group.
— Sony Video Delivery: Added last summer to PSN, it has nearly 1,200 movies and more than 3,000 episodes. *MTV Networks* was announced as a new content partner today.
The rest of our coverage is on our CES 2009 channel
Photo Credit: Robert Scoble