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Sony: CE spending still up despite economic uncertainty

Sony Electronics President Stan Glasgow expounds on Sony's fortunes for the upcoming year in light of increasingly difficult economic circumstances in the U.S.

SAN FRANCISCO--Though times may be tough for other TV manufacturers, Sony says it isn't feeling a thing yet in its electronics division here in the U.S.

At a press briefing with reporters here Wednesday evening, Sony Electronics President Stan Glasgow said that despite indications of a weakening U.S. economy, all is well with the Japanese electronics giant.

"I don't think consumers buying consumer electronics yet feel that," Glasgow said. "Sony did particularly well during the holidays. It was the best in the history of Sony Electronics in the U.S."

A boon to Sony's bottom line has been the growth of its Sony Style stores, both brick-and-mortar outlets, and its online presence. Glasgow said Sony Style experienced a 34 percent growth in sales over the 2007 holiday shopping season.

Another high point was its TV business. According to data collected by market research company DisplaySearch, Sony lead all LCD TV manufacturers in the fourth quarter of 2007 with 12.3 percent of worldwide shipments, considered a major comeback for the company.

One of the things that appeared to help Sony in 2007 was its expansion of specific television models made to sell in Wal-Mart Stores and Target. Glasgow said the company is expanding that commitment to supplying those retailers with 40 percent more variety of TV models this year.

Glasgow kept the gloating to a minimum, however, when it came to Blu-ray's recent victory in the format spat with HD DVD. As one of the leading investors and supporters of Blu-ray, Sony does see prices dropping on standalone Blu-ray players over the next couple years, but it will be 2009 before a $199 unit becomes a reality, he said. Price drops will happen, but it needs to be done in an orderly fashion, Glasgow said.

"I don't see any reason to do it stupidly and lose money," he said.

In the meantime, Sony is "in discussions" with a number of partners in order to get them on the Blu-ray bandwagon. An Microsoft Xbox 360 console with Blu-ray is certainly "a possibility," he said.

But perish the thought that Sony will take trade-ins of now-obsolete HD DVD players. "Sony is not going to make up for Toshiba's sins," Glasgow said emphatically.

Other tidbits gleaned from the evening:

  • Though 11-inch OLEDs are the largest size Sony is offering right now, bigger screen sizes are on the way--some day. But there are currently limits on exactly how big Sony can make them right now. Glasgow specifically said that there are major obstacles (mostly to do with the physics of creating the panels) to make OLED screens larger than 30 inches. "It would take another significant investment to get bigger than that," he said.

  • Sony is apparently unfazed by's recent entrance into the electronic book reader market. "The Kindle has helped," Glasgow said. "I think the (Sony) Reader market needed a boost. We're selling more since the Kindle came to market."