Sony chairman and CEO Sir Howard Stringer delivered a glitzy keynote presentation with the help of a few celebrity buddies here at CES 2009. Stringer played down the current
"challenging times", and while acknowledging that consumer spending has slowed, he suggested that the "CE industry will ultimately prevail".
That was about as serious as it got. New products were announced, but blink and you'd miss them. A Wi-Fi Cyber-shot camera was the biggest thing we hadn't already seen, with the news that it includes collaboration with AT&T for free connection to Sony's picture site. Keep it CNET for a hands-on from the show floor, although we're not confident the wireless camera will make it to the UK.
The most interesting concept featured was the Flex, an OLED screen that bends. Stringer suggested it may be the e-reader of the future. We also saw a touchscreen alarm clock created with Chumby, complete with music videos randomly selected according to your personal taste via Pandora, and news and video feeds. Stringer also promised that the next move would be an OLED television in the 20-30-inch range.
What would a technology show be without someone insisting that this is the year 3D takes off? John Lassetter discussed the future of 3D at home, and showed a clip from Up, a new animation filmed in more than two dimensions. Disney is also working on 3D versions of Toy Story and its sequel.
Sony showed off its cross-media clout, wheeling out slebrity chums, starting with a mischievous Tom Hanks. Pixar and Disney head John Lasseter lauded Blu-ray, higlighting the image detail and special features, such as BD Live and games built into the film. He showed off the Snow White disc menu, which pulls information from the Internet and adapts the menu screen to match the weather in your location. We also had Dreamworks' Jeffrey Katzenberg, Oprah's mate Dr Oz blathering on about waistlines, and Reggie Jackson seeming a little ill-informed about the 550 Bravia screens in the new New York Yankee Stadium.
Amid the celebrity backslapping, there was no mention of the rumoured restructuring at Sony, which could see Sir Howard take on the Japanese giant's old guard. Instead we got a commitment that by 2011, 90 per cent of Sony's products will connect wirelessly to the Internet and to each other. Sir Howard also shared his seven imperatives to improve user experience, which were so boring we've forgotten them already, except for number four: support open technology. Riiiight, like Memory Sticks.
Toy Story helmer John Lasseter also showed up, to talk about how much he loves Blu-ray, and the rewards of innovation. He's currently working on a version of classic fairy tale Rapunzel, and Toy Story 3.
This is Reggie Jackson. He played baseball for the New York Yankees and is apparently quite famous. As a UK reader, you probably know as much about baseball as the clearly befuddled Jackson knew about Sony.
Jeffrey Katzenberg, head of Dreamworks Animation, was introduced by Stringer as "the John the Baptist of 3D". He introduced a clip from the forthcoming Monsters vs Aliens, shot in 3D and therefore chock-full of stuff flying at the screen.
There's nothing technology companies love more than going to enormous expense to assemble the world's press in one place and then wasting their time. So while the cream of tech journalism -- that's us -- sit with fingers poised over MacBooks and Eee PCs, Usher pops up with a saccharine dirge and some bimbling on about "cross-marketing", "building a profile" and "utilising outlets". It's hard to say who was more bored, us or him.