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Sony zooms in with new TV tech

Electronics giant develops new television technology to attack core business from a new angle.

Hoping to re-energize its efforts in one of its core businesses, Sony announced Wednesday television technology allowing viewers to zoom in, pan and tilt their perspective in television broadcasts.

Sony said in Tokyo on Wednesday that the new DRC-MFv2 or "Digital Reality Creation Multifunction" controller chip would help to unlock and take more advantage of the level of detail available in high-definition digital video. The chip will be used in future television models that will be introduced at an event next week in Japan.

The chip and technology are part of a larger effort within Sony to boost the fortunes of one of its more profitable product categories, televisions. Televisions have been one of the key contributors to Sony's consumer electronics division, which is the largest contributor to revenue. However, the company has been caught off guard with the market's transition to flat-panel televisions, and in general the company has been recovering from a stumble in its consumer electronics business.

Sony has been fighting back and making significant headway with its Grand Wega line of rear projections televisions and has been making investments to make it more nimble in producing LCD-based televisions. Shipments of LCD televisions are up for Sony, but having to compete for the limited number of LCD panels has forced the company and other television makers to look to invest in the panel market.

Sony has teamed with leading LCD maker and rival Samsung in an LCD joint venture, called S-LCD, giving Sony greater access to LCD panels for its flat-panel televisions. LCD-based televisions allow for thinner and lighter televisions and monitors than traditional cathode-ray tube products, which at one time was the key technology behind Sony's television business. However, the company has been moving away from CRT-based televisions.

Hitachi, Matsushita Electric and Toshiba are also looking to form an alliance for the production of LCD panels for use in flat-panel televisions.

The market for LCD televisions is particularly promising, according to research firm iSuppli. The share of worldwide TV shipments that are LCD models will grow from 5 percent this year to 18 percent in 2008, iSuppli said. The total TV market is expected to jump from about 168 million units to roughly 203 million units during that period.