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Sony has ceased production of the cassette tape Walkman in Japan. According to Sony spokeswoman Hiroko Nakamura, “sales will end (in Japan) once the last batch disappears from stores.”
News of the demise of the cassette Walkman is exploding on the Internet, and is even a trending topic on Twitter at the time of this posting.
Fear not, lovers of analog – Sony will still make the cassette Walkman in China, and continue to sell them in the USA, Europe, and even some Asian countries.
The end of cassette Walkman production in Japan is still a defining moment in Sony history, as the device was one of the key products that lead to Sony’s success in the 80′s and beyond. The Walkman helped build a name for Sony outside of Japan and was one of the many products that influenced consumers to trust the brand.
The original Walkman was a tremendous success for Sony, as it was one of the first commonly available products that allowed people to carry their music with them, a revolutionary concept for its time. The device was built in 1978 by audio division engineer Nobutoshi Kihara for Sony co-chairman Akio Morita, who wanted to be able to listen to operas during his frequent transpacific plane trips.
The original Walkman was marketed in 1979 as the Walkman in Japan, the Soundabout in many other countries including the US, Freestyle in Sweden and the Stowaway in the UK. Morita hated the name “Walkman” and asked it to be changed, but relented after being told by junior executives that a promotion campaign had already begun using the ‘Walkman’ name and would be too expensive to change.
Sony has sold 220 million cassette Walkman players globally since the product’s launch in July 1979.
At IFA in 2009 and then at CES in 2010, Sony took the opportunity of international electronics shows to announce the group’s first unified brand message, make.believe, to be used globally and unveil animated 2D and 3D logos. Meet the designers whose teamwork and enterprising spirit brought the logos to life in an interview courtesy of Sony Design.
Here are the principal designers involved with the make.believe design process:
Yamaguchi: The statement make.believe is the first unified brand message used by the Sony Group internationally. But just what form should this message take? How should we introduce it? Answering these questions was the mission of our design team.
In the message, the dot plays a pivotal role in joining two different elements—make, representing action, and believe, a frame of mind. You could also substitute hardware and software for these elements. Besides manufacturing electronics (the “hardware” side of our business), Sony produces a wealth of content, including music, movies, and games (the “software” side). The dot in the brand message is the spark that brings the two elements together, the flash point when new value and experiences are created.
Just adding the Sony logo is not a compelling way to present these concepts. Instead, we thought of adopting an animated logo as our key visual for introducing the new brand message. Normally we finalize static logo graphics before considering how to animate them, but this time, we took the opposite approach.
We also knew that a new age is finally dawning in 3D video. Sony is united in supporting the move to 3D at all stages, from movie production to screening in theaters, from hardware to finished content. It seemed fitting to create versions of the animated logo in both 2D and 3D. But for us, this was an unprecedented challenge.
Jogano: In the animation process, I began by creating a traditional 2D logo sequence. This appears at the end of Sony TV commercials, for example, where time is limited. In just 1.5 seconds in Japan and about twice as long overseas, the animated logo had to convey our brand message concepts accurately and memorably.
I chose the dot in make.believe as the focal point of the image. The sequence opens with curtains of light emanating from the center. Dazzling rays in two colors symbolize the two concepts of make and believe. The image resolves into a dot, and then the brand message appears. The organization and images are simple, because it was intended to be used by many group companies. No matter what Sony business the logo promotes, it must convey the message clearly and consistently. For this reason, an animated logo that’s almost too simple was perfect.
The hard part was 3D optimization of the animation. Objects seem three-dimensional to us because of parallax, differences in focus, and other visual cues, but these cues are not available to us when the object is light. Is it even possible to make light appear three-dimensional? Fortunately, we could call on the resources of group companies Sony Pictures Entertainment and Sony PCL. These companies have extensive experience in 3D movie production and technical consulting. Adapting our engineers’ advice to suit our needs, we found a useful approach in design.
My solution was to sprinkle some points of light in the background (like a starry sky) and to add lens effects and rays of light. These objects become part of the image as a whole, making it look three-dimensional. 3D optimization was done at Sony PCL and checked using their 3D projection system. It was refined again and again, as we sought maximum effect from a minimal performance. Ultimately, I think we successfully retained the 2D appearance in an immersive 3D sequence worthy of the Sony name.
Nagahara: Some sounds are etched in our subconscious and move us more than visual images do—when we know intuitively what product or company it is, just by hearing the sound a product makes or an audio logo. Sony knows the power of sound, and besides our other design resources, we can develop sound design internally.
For the audio portion of our animated logos, Nobuhiro asked me to create “the sound of light” and “the sound of the two elements of make and believe.” Not very easy tasks. Manabu and I brainstormed about approaches to take in sound design.
It was insightful to consider the dot as a spark. To imitate a kind of ignition, the attack should be sharp, preferably with a serious edge. For the two elements of make and believe, it seemed simplest to combine two contrasting sounds.
Fujiki: We had to strike the right balance. Simply playing chords for the words would overwhelm the sound at the point of ignition. What could we add to single tones to link them? We sampled the sound of tapping or striking all kinds of things and created material on a synthesizer, until we had considered nearly 100 sound sequences.
In the end, we expressed the elements of make and believe with a set of sounds that includes both treble and bass components. We took a simple, pleasant treble component, added a bass component with impact as an accent, and layered this over the sound of the dot in the animated logo. A distinctive tone is used for the treble component, something between the tone of a musical instrument and the sound of striking crystal glasses. In audio logos, just playing single tones on a piano or synthesizer is not unusual. This time, we sought something different in sound design—something that’s simple but lingers in your memory.
Nagahara:The audio portion of traditional animated logos can be in stereo, but 3D animated logos deserve surround sound. People generally have fairly exacting standards in sound. Once you have been enjoying 3D video in surround sound, you’ll find it very strange if the experience is interrupted by a passage in stereo. Instantly, the 3D video realm collapses and you snap back to reality—the spell is broken.
To create a surround-sound version of the audio logo, we set up a special production environment in the design office. In brief audio sequences, it’s difficult to create the effect of surround sound. After trying various effects, such as rotating the stereo images, we decided it would be more natural and consistent with the original stereo sound source to have the stereo images simply spread out.
Maesaka: We also need to introduce the new make.believe brand message in print and other static media. This includes posters and concept booklets used internally as well as store signage, event displays, and other external media. My task was to adapt a dynamic logo to paper media without diminishing its impact or betraying the intentions of the original designers. To do it, I isolated the most symbolic elements in the traditional (2D) animated logo as resources for graphic design.
My creative palette consisted of curtains of light in two colors (representing make and believe) and the glow of the dot. But converting RGB source images to the CMYK color space for printing is not straightforward. The gamut is restricted, and it’s hard to reproduce the original colors in print. What’s more, paper properties, humidity at the time of printing, and other factors cause inconsistency in printed material. We paid close attention to the colors in our first internal posters, which set the standard for printing around the world. Our posters are created in about 40 languages. In printing, it takes a delicate touch to adjust hues, saturation, and contrast to match the original image.
And although we’re all members of the same corporate group, graphic design guidelines vary among Sony companies. Our goal was to coordinate these guidelines and ensure a unified message from the group. Anticipating how the Sony logo and make.believe should be combined in graphic design, we created simulations of the print ads, brochures, websites, product packaging, store signs, and all the other static media of group companies that incorporate the logo, all around the world. After feedback from our local companies, we refined the simulations as needed. It was hard work, as we repeated this process. But it all seems worthwhile now that we see the new logo gradually being introduced by Sony group companies.
Ikeda: Our logo work was not finished when we distributed the final materials to group companies. Ensuring that it’s used as intended in various areas, media, and scenarios, and that the concepts are conveyed accurately requires ongoing design governance. I’ve been working with the Group Marketing Communication Department (the make.believe project office) to manage overall project progress, help direct the establishment of logo guidelines, and even contribute to related copywriting.
What makes it difficult to establish guidelines is the fact that marketing conditions vary regionally and by group company. It would be easy to establish detailed rules on logo usage and prohibit all other usage. But because this would restrict creative expression, we wanted to avoid rules that were too strict. The guidelines we envisioned are not based on the logos themselves but on our brand message and the concepts involved. If there’s a way to convey the intentions behind our message effectively, that’s what we seek, and considering this possibility can inspire local creativity.
Toward this end, the department assessed local conditions by asking these representatives how we can express the new group message most effectively, and in this case, to cite any points to keep in mind. Their opinions were discussed by our make.believe working group, and in turn, our conclusions were documented. This process revealed that current guidelines needed to be refined, which slowed our progress. It was nerve-wracking to revise our guidelines so often. But ensuring flexibility in creative expression enabled unexpected, unique forms of promotion around the world, which are now seen at events and in stores.
Yamaguchi: Sony group companies represent an array of diverse cultures and marketing strategies. What enables us to understand and adapt to these conditions and speak with one voice (with a consistent message) is a team of in-house designers in close contact with top management. The make.believe logo project demonstrated the advantages we enjoy and was an excellent example of how affiliated departments and companies leverage our combined strengths.
The “Sonyverse” as I describe it touches so much in the electronic, film and tech world. But what you might find surprising is just how green a corporation Sony truly is.
For over 50 years, Sony has been developing cutting edge products and services that enrich and bring excitement to consumers around the world. As committed to innovation as Sony is, they are also committed to building a sustainable future. Sony’s goal is to create a cradle-to-cradle product life cycle.
By using recycled materials in production, building products that are energy efficient, and being a herald of product recycling, Sony recognizes the importance of showing consideration for our environment.
To achieve this, Sony has what it defines as Eco-Pillars. The three Eco-Pillars their environmental commitment is built on are as follows:
Products: Energy efficiency is the key element to Sony’s product line with eco-innovative features found in our products from televisions all the way to our mobile phones.
Process: How we make products is just as important as the products themselves. Sony is a strong participant in the EPEAT program™ and RoHS. We even use recycled material in both our packaging and printed marketing communications.
People: We are making it easier than ever for people to recycle their electronic devices with national initiatives such as the Rechargeable battery recycling program, Take Back Recycling program, and GreenFill.
Technological advancement is important to consumers. Newer technology at cheaper prices, that provides more functionality is a major consideration of the dollar conscious shopper. Consumers also challenge companies to be more aware of how corporations affect the environment they live in. They want businesses to take an active role in reducing the impact that have on the environment as they continue to drive product research and development. Sony is doing it’s best accept this challenge, not only by being eco-friendly, but by setting the corporate example.
By being aggressive to lower energy consumption of it’s products, reducing energy use and waste in daily operations and being holding themselves accountable to protecting the environment, Sony take’s it’s position on being green very seriously. Sony Electronics headquarters in San Diego, CA is LEED certified, which is a recognized standard for measuring the building sustainability of high performing “green” buildings. The headquarters features solar panels, has achieved a 48% reduction in typical water usage, and has a Green Housekeeping program.
Here are a few of the Sony’s Green Milestones:
Sony is the first consumer electronics company to use post-consumer plastics in mass production of products. We are currently using in excess of 2 million pounds of post-consumer plastics a year.
Sony is the first company to operate a product-refurbishing center.
Sony becomes a charter member of the EPA’s ENERGY STAR® program for energy-efficient consumer electronics and wins Home Electronics Partner of the Year award.
Sony establishes the Green Partner Environmental Quality Approval Program that eliminates harmful chemical substances from raw materials and components worldwide.
Sony launches partnership with Waste Management, Inc for electronics recycling events and national collection depots throughout the US. As of December 2008, Sony has collected over 6,500 tons of consumer electronics through dedicated consumer collection events.
Creating cutting edge products, doesn’t mean they have to be cutting edge when it comes to energy consumption. For example the Bravia VE5 Series exceeds ENERGY STAR® 3.0 requirements by at least 50%, the majority of VAIO computer models are ENERGY STAR® 5.0 compliant and have received either EPEAT Gold or Silver rankings, and as of 2008 Sony Blu-ray disc players have achieved 21% less power consumption in playback mode and 43% reduced power consumption in standby mode.
Sony has a clearly defined process that outlines how they are able to determine if they initiatives to be green are meeting with success. They focus on three separate and distinct areas as I will outline below.
Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) is a system that helps consumers select products based upon their impact on the environment. Sony is a committed partner of this program with over 254 EPEAT registered products.
Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) is an important compliancy. The RoHS directive restricts the amount of certain materials such as lead and mercury used in electronic products All Sony VAIO computers have PVC-free exterior product casings and packaging.
Established in 2002 to encourage suppliers to produce components with minimal environmental impact, the Sony Green Partner certification, referred to as “upstream management,” is accomplished through complete traceability of all steps in the manufacturing process, from raw material procurement to finished goods delivery.
Sony has also set a goal to maintain product safety in shipping, yet at the same reduce the overall size of packaging. 80% – 90% post-consumer recycled content is used in packaging for products produced in Japan or China and 30% post-consumer recycled content packaging is used in packaging produced in San Diego, CA. We also use non-VOC vegetable oil-based ink in all Japanese made units. On the inside of the box, all Sony-created documentation uses 85% post-consumer recycled content.
An an industry leading move, Sony started the first ever national recycling program entitled the “Take Bake Recycling Program”. At no charge, consumers are allowed to recycle electronic products as well as packaging at over 270 drop off centers cross the US. Since 2007, over 17 million pounds of electronics have been collected. To find a drop off center in your area, click here. To go along with the Take Bake program, Sony also started the Green Fill recycling service. It’s the first in store style drop box solution. If your looking to recycle cameras, alarm clocks, navigation systems, or any other smaller electronics, this is the the location for you. Look for the kiosk above at your local electronic store.
And if you have Sony batteries, drop them in a box at any Sony Style store and they will do the rest.
The commitment to go green is a directive that comes from the top and is here to stay. At CES 2009, CEO Sir Howard Stringer spoke about seven imperatives for creating the ultimate user experience. At the end of the speech, Sir Howard’s concluded with his 7th imperative, his commitment to go green.
In this article I only scratched the surface of everything Sony is doing to be green. To find out more head over to www.sony.com/green.
So the next time you think of Sony, along with thinking of things like the PS3, Blu-ray or 3D TV, hopefully you will think of Eco-Innovation as well.
Handycam is a Sony brand used to market its camcorder range, and was launched twenty five years ago in 1985 as the name of the first Video8 camcorder, replacing Sony’s previous line of Betamax-based models. The name was intended to emphasize the “handy” palm size nature of the camera, made possible by the new miniaturized tape format. This was in marked contrast to the larger, shoulder mounted cameras available before the creation of Video8, and competing smaller formats such as VHS-C.
Sony has continued to produce Handycams in a variety of guises ever since, developing the Video8 format to produce Hi8 (equivalent to S-VHS quality) and later Digital8, using the same basic format to record digital video. The Handycam label continues to be applied as recording formats evolve, into realms such as HD video recording (1080i) and large capacity hard disk drives (240GB) and flash media (64GB) with incredible features.
The Handycam begins with the CCD-M8, introduced in 1985.
The Beta video cassette, the predecessor to the 8-millimeter video format, was intended for use in integrated camera/recorder devices right from its inception. In the early 1980′s, when shoulder-supported video cameras weighing more than two kilograms were the norm, the size of the next generation was decided on first with the condition that the camera must be operable with just one hand. Since the 8-millimeter cassette was one quarter the size of the Beta cassette, the camera should be reduced in size by a comparable amount. That line of thought led to a final size that was equivalent to two Beta cassettes.
With this demanding size requirement as a goal, the CCD-M8 became a reality only after much trial-and-error development.
In addition to being the first camcorder to break the one-kilogram weight barrier, the CCD-M8 was also the first to emphasize easy operation. The user had a choice of three focus settings and two white balance settings, and then it was just a matter of pressing the record button to shoot. It was record-only device, and playback was to be handled by a separate playback deck.
The “one-button” concept introduced in the CCD-M8 led the way for the significant advancements in automation technology that followed.
The flagship HDR-CX550V model, released in 2010 on the 25th anniversary of the Sony Handycam, inherits outstanding features and performance acquired through two and a half decades of evolution. convenient, practical features such as “active” image stabilization that works effectively even while zooming, an Intelligent Auto mode that automatically determines which of 90 possible scene settings are ideal for the scene you’re shooting, and one of the highest performance lenses available in the field – Sony’s 29.88mm G Lens (35mm equivalent for movie shooting) – deliver not only excellent image quality, but an unprecedented shooting experience in wide angle as well. And users who want maximum creative capability will be delighted by a range of new manual features, including aperture priority and shutter speed priority modes.
Despite the impressive list of features and functions provided by the HDR-CX550, it features a remarkably compact design that is at the same time solid and substantial, befitting its role as the representative of 25 years of Handycam evolution.
It is sometimes necessary to adopt a new system in order to record the best possible image quality. In such cases, the first model is likely to be relatively large and be designed to serve the high-end market. The second model, however, will retain the same features in a significantly smaller, easy-to-use design.
Size comes first. To miniaturize to suit Sony customers’ needs, they design from the outside rather than the inside.
The first Handycam, the CCD-M8, was designed from the outset to be about the size of a Beta videocassette. That size goal was attained, and a weight of only one kilogram was achieved for the first time.
By setting and relentlessly pursuing specific miniaturization goals, impressive size reduction has been achieved in the Handycam line. The CCD-TR55, released in 1989, was widely known as the “passport-size Handycam” based on the concept of travel. It was designed to be small enough to fit in a handbag and be taken anywhere. Here’s a weird advertisement I found for the TR88 from ’89:
A miniature drum mechanism had already been developed for the preceding product, the CCD-V88, but further miniaturization was necessary using the same basic technology and newly developed miniature lens. One problem was that the CCD-V88 had a number of protrusions that made it seem large, which were eliminated by implementing an internal microphone for the first time ever. The problem of mechanical noise being picked up by the microphone was overcome by applying noise-canceling construction methods.
Miniaturization means higher circuit density, which can lead to heat buildup within the device. These and other problems were effectively overcome, resulting in groundbreaking miniaturization in “passport size” Handycam that successfully popularized the travel-camera concept.
The same approach to miniaturization was applied in the DCR-PC7, the successor to the first DV camcorder, and in the HDR-HC1, the second-generation Hi-Definition camcorder.
Image stabilization has become an indispensable feature in both still and video cameras. The evolution of image stabilization technology in Handycam camcorders goes back 18 years.
Hand shake is a fundamental problem when shooting video, and camera manufacturers have come up with a variety of ways to reduce it.
One method adopted by another manufacturer was electronic compensation based on image recognition. This type of electronic compensation became so popular that image stabilization was expected in all video cameras thereafter. However, it suffered from a few drawbacks, such as not working while zooming, and sometimes misunderstanding subject movement for camera shake.
The first image stabilization system incorporated in a Handycam employed a prism in front of the lens, the angle of which was minutely adjusted to compensate for shake. This was Sony’s optical active prism stabilization system, introduced in the CCD-TR900.
The active prism system was subsequently employed in high-end models as well, but was quite large and not suitable for use in compact models. A new type of electronic image stabilization was there fore adopted in order to maintain the compact dimensions and light weight of the Handycam line.
Electronic compensation was added to the existing specialized gyro sensor that was being employed to directly detect shake, and the resultant system was introduced in the compact CCD-TR2.
Image stabilization was then required for still images captured by compact models as well as moving images. To effectively achieve that requirement, a compact lens with an internal compensation element was devised to allow lens-shift stabilization (DCR-TRV900).
In 2003, the New Torino (Turin) Project was kicked off, with the goal of achieving even greater image stabilization performance before the Torino Olympics.
Research was focused on reducing the size of the active prism system so that it could be implemented in home video camcorders. This resulted in the development of a dedicated microprocessor (BONOBO) and a new precision optical stabilization lens system that were released in the HDR-UX7.
The name of the project was changed, and it became a permanent operation that pursued image stabilization development full time.
A major advancement was achieved in the HDR-XR520/500 with an Active Mode that provided improved stabilization at the wide end of the zoom range, and allowed stable images to be shot while walking with the camera.
Once shooting while walking became possible, the rolling shake caused by body sway while walking became an issue.
A gyro to dedicated to roll detection was added, and roll compensation was achieved by using the BIONZ image processor. This system was released in the HDR-CX520/500.
Sony product engineering defers to design, and design is never compromised solely to satisfy engineering criteria. Design and ease of use are both refined to the highest possible degree.
The same applies to Handycam design.
Handycam is specifically designed for handheld shooting, but the way that has been implemented has been modified over time with the introduction of new technologies and features.
The compact Handycam made it possible to shoot handheld, in contrast to its bulkier shoulder-supported predecessors. This made it necessary to find the most practical, comfortable position for the viewfinder for that style of shooting. The viewfinder extended from the side, toward the rear of the camera, and is a location that remains standard to this day.
When LCD viewfinders were introduced, it was necessary to modify the way tehy were mounted for optimum viewing. At the time it was normal to hold the camera with both hands while viewing the LCD, but by placing the LCD screen in a flexible flip-out panel it became possible to shoot comfortably with one hand while viewing the screen, significantly enhancing ease of use (CCD-TRV90).
The next goal was to make the camera slim enough to fit in a pocket. This resulted in a thin vertical design in which the lens and flip-out panel do not overlap.
One of the major differences between still and moving images is sound. When a video is played back, the sounds of the city or friends talking help bring the original moments back to life. Great care is taken to ensure that Handycam camcorders offer the best possible sound.
The best-selling passport size CCD-TR55 had monaural sound. Stereo sound was a development goal for the second-generation passport size CCD-TR75.
Because of the compact size of the camera, the spacing between the left and right microphones was too close to achieve effective stereo sound. This problem was overcome by using the time difference between the sound arriving at the two microphones and by giving the microphones more directional pickup characteristics.
Another problem that had to be overcome was that nearby sounds would interfere with sound from a distant subject. The solution was to once again use the time difference between the microphones to implement a “zoom microphone” function that was linked to the camera’s zoom lens (CCD-TR900).
When DVD disks were adopted as a recording format, the 5.1 channel sound capabilities of the medium were too appealing to ignore. In order to provide even more realistic, spacious sound to match the video images, more microphones were added and precise computation of the time differences between those microphones made it possible to deliver stunning 5.1-channel surround sound in the DCR-DVD403.
The evolution didn’t stop there. In the HDR-SR12, further refinements in computation capability made it possible to achieve 5.1-channel zoom microphone operation linked to the lens.
A lens that precisely captures the scene. The image sensor – the camera’s electronic “eye” that converts the light captured by the lens to electronic signal. The processing engine that generates the final image from the signal supplied by the image sensor.
Handycam image quality is dependent on these three basic components. Development of CCD image sensors was initiated in 1970, and after overcoming countless problems and obstacles, the cutting-edge CCD sensor was implemented in the very first Handycam, the CCD-M8.
The fact that “CCD” became a part of the product name attests to the important role this advanced component played in establishing the Handycam line.
As semiconductor production technology advanced, CCD sensors gradually became smaller: starting at 2/3 type and progressing to 1/2-type, and then 1/3-type.
The general understanding throughout the industry was that the performance of CCD sensors would inevitably decline as the size was reduced, but Sony firmly believed that performance could be maintained or even improved despite the miniaturization.
That belief came to fruition when the CCD-TR75, implementing a 1/2-type precision CCD in a camcorder the size of the CCD-TR55, proved to be a huge success.
But as further miniaturization of CCD image sensors was pursued, power consumption became a problem to the point that it became necessary to adopt a different structure that had superior power characteristics: the CMOS image sensor.
Dynamic range limitations were overcome, and the CMOS sensor became more widely accepted.
In 2007, Sony developed the original Exmor CMOS sensor which by converting the analog electronic signal to digital format within the sensor chip itself, it achieved significant reductions in both noise and power consumption.
Then came the back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor that achieved twice the sensitivity of conventional miniature sensors, allowing high quality video to be captured even in low light (HDR-XR520/HDR-XR500).
The history of image sensors is also the history of man’s quest to shoot the most beautiful, vibrant images possible.
At the same time, it is generally understood that image quality is largely influenced by the recording format. Image resolution is limited by the format used.
The first Handycam used 8-millimeter videotape. But as CCD performance improved, the limitations of the recording format became a bottleneck. An improvement was achieved by switching from metal tape formulations to vapor-deposition Hi8 tape that offered the highest recording density at the time.
The next step was direct recording of digital video data to DV tape. The first consumer camcorder to use the DV format was the DCR-VX1000.
Miniaturization progressed rapidly, resulting in the first and highly acclaimed DV-format passport-size camcorder: the DCR-PC7.
The DV format was further refined in the HDV format that allowed Hi-Definition recording. Camcorder recording quality had leapt to a new level.
Capable of 1080i Full HD movie recording, the HDR-HC1 was the industry’s smallest digital Hi-Definition camcorder at the time, and became a massive hit.
Currently the AVCHD format provides ten times the resolution of 8-millimeter video. But that level of performance was not attained in one leap. It has taken time and the numerous small steps outlined above.
Deciding what to shoot and how to shoot it has always been up to the shooter, but in order to make it easier to achieve outstanding results it was necessary to make the camera capable of automatically optimizing shooting parameters to match the subject.
It was particularly important to ensure that faces were captured properly.
Emphasis was placed on face-detection performance with the goal of producing the world’s first face recognition system for video shooting.
Although the production schedule was extremely tight, the BIONZ image processing engine made it possible to effectively detect faces.
The problem was, what to do next?
Sony was ahead of the competition in providing variable skin color, focus, and brightness parameters.
We also assigned a higher video bit rate to the face area, effectively suppressing noise that can occur around the facial outline.
The overall result was face detection performance that was good enough to be incorporated in the HDR-SR12: the world’s first camcorder with face recognition.
And then, while shooting movies of his one children, one of Sony’s engineers had the idea that it would be great if he could capture photographs of their smiling faces at the same time.
Hardware design was initially considered, but the solution was more quickly achieved via software design.
The Smile Shutter feature was first released in digital cameras, and then in video cameras in the form of a Dual Rec feature that allows simultaneous recording of moving and still images. In this contest, the Smile Shutter feature made it easy to capture the most natural, charming smiles.
Current Handycam camcorder include an Intelligent Auto (iAuto) that is capable of discerning four elements – face, scene, shake, and indoors/outdoors – and automatically selecting the ideal shooting parameter settings from 90 possible combinations so that optimal quality can be easily achieved in just about any situation.a
The Playstation Portable (officially abbreviated PSP) is a handheld game console manufactured and marketed by Sony Computer Entertainment. Development of the console was announced during E3 2003, and it was unveiled on May 11, 2003 at a Sony press conference before E3 2004. The system was released in Japan on December 12, 2004, in North America on March 24, 2005, and in the PAL region on September 1, 2005. 17 million units of the PSP system have been sold in the U.S. to-date.
The PlayStation Portable is the first handheld video game console to use an optical disc format, Universal Media Disc (UMD), as its primary storage medium. Since 2005, more than 245 developers have created software titles for the platform since launch. To date, users can choose from more than 520 software titles available in the U.S. on UMD and more than 300 titles on the PlayStation Network. With award-winning first-party software titles including God of War: Chains of Olympus, Gran Turismo, LittleBigPlanet, Resistance: Retribution, and SOCOM: Fireteam Bravo, and triple-A third-party franchises such as FINAL FANTASY (Square Enix, Inc.) and Grand Theft Auto (RockStar Games), the PSP software library features a variety of titles from every major publisher.
Access to PlayStation Store was introduced to PSP owners in 2007 and has since helped to establish PlayStation Network as the premier destination for downloadable gaming and entertainment content. Today, PlayStation Network offers PSP owners tens of thousands of digital entertainment choices, including over 20,000 movies and TV episodes, “minis,” digital comics, original programming, as well as more than 300 games, many of which are exclusive.
PSP hardware has continued to evolve from the original PSP-1000 system, which boasted a best-in-class, 4.3 inch high-resolution LCD display, more than 125 games at launch, and built-in wireless communications. In 2007, SCE released the PSP-2000 system, which was 33 percent lighter than the original model. In 2008, the PSP-3000 system debuted, which featured an enhanced LCD screen with five times the color contrast ratio of previous models. In fall 2009, the PSP go system was made available in North America, becoming the first and only all-digital, full-game handheld entertainment system on the market.
Sales of the PSP have (with cyclical exceptions) lagged behind its main competitor, the Nintendo DS. Nevertheless, the console is “the most successful non-Nintendo handheld game system ever sold.”
In another unfortunate turn of economic events for Alabama, Sony announced last week that they are closing down their Dothan-based Sony Magnetic Products, Inc. after 33 years of being in business. Established in 1977, the facility manufactures Sony’s professional, consumer and data storage magnetic tapes, print media products, as well as coating material for optical disks. The closure wasn’t really a surprise to the 320 full time employees working there. Workers have been flexible with their schedules in recent times to keep the plant viable. The company runs some departments 24 hour a day, but operations had declined from seven days a week to four or five over the last several years. Operations will be phased out starting in April 2010, with the closure planned to be completed by September 2010.
Spokesperson Elizabeth Boukis, Public Relations Manager for Sony USA, said “this strategic business decision is designed to strengthen Sony’s cost-competitiveness by consolidating production.” Boukis said employees will receive severance and other benefits as the operation of the plant ceases. In regards to job transfers, she said all employees who have been given notice “are encouraged to find out about job openings within Sony Electronics and at other Sony companies by reviewing current internal and external job openings.”
I found a great historical perspective of the plant, courtesy of the Dothan Eagle, which describes how the Mayor (Grant) of Dothan, Alabama at the time convinced Sony to put the plant in his state instead of Florida:
Grant was instrumental in getting the electronics giant to re-evaluate its decision to open a plant in Florida, after reading about Sony’s plans in the newspaper.
“We found out they were looking to locate in Tallahassee, but they were having trouble with the property rezoning in their location,” Grant said. “We called Sony and they said they were not interested in going anywhere but Tallahassee. We begged them to come up here.”
Grant said Sony officials did come and he took his personal motor home and loaded it up with city officials representing utilities, engineering, fire, police – virtually every city department – to answer any questions Sony representatives had. But none of the properties officials showed was acceptable to Sony, Grant said.
“I realize we needed something stronger. I called Governor Wallace and asked him to call the president of Sony in Japan and ask him to locate in Dothan. We knew they were having a hard time in Tallahassee.”
George Wallace made that call, at 3 a.m. local time. Sony officials from Japan came in the spring of the year in 1974 or 1975.
“They flew in here and we picked them up in the motor home. We couldn’t speak Japanese and they couldn’t speak English. As we rode down the road, the president asked me through an interpreter what people do after work, on weekends and for vacations. I answered him what I thought people did, and then he asked to go to a golf course.”
The motor home turned from Montgomery Highway down Cherokee to the Dothan Country Club.
“We walked over to the ninth green and he saw all the azaleas and dogwoods in bloom and he said, ‘We come to Dothan.’ We went back to the motor home, took him back to the airport and he went to Naples to play golf.”
Sony officials wanted the plant located “in a nice neighborhood” with lots of trees, so they built the plant adjacent to Chapelwood.
The plant opened at its current location on West Main Street in 1977 with an anticipated 1,200 employees, but by the time it was set to open, Jimmy Grant, who was mayor at the time, said Sony had already expanded and had 2,000 employees on the payroll.
The plant has had multi-million dollar expansions twice in the past 11 years. In 1999, Sony completed a $34 million expansion, involving a new metal evaporation process for producing computer date storage products. In 2003, the Dothan plant invested $8.8 million and planned to add about 80 jobs over a three-year period as part of company requirements to produce two new products – a data storage LTO (linear tape open) and a digital video cassette media.
The workforce has declined steadily since the ‘90s and the company has reconfigured itself as consumer interest has driven market changes. According to an official statement, the Dothan plant currently manufactures professional, consumer and data storage magnetic tapes, print media products, as well as coating material for optical disks.
The Dothan plant just started its print media component in January, as a 30-day trial.
Merely two hours after I got off a plane and arrived at CES 2010, I sat down in a private meeting room with Stan Glasgow, COO/President of Sony Electronics USA. The interview took place about a hour before the CES 2010 press conference. It was the first time I’d ever interviewed someone on this level, and while mainstream press enjoy such exclusives, these types of interactions are still relatively new for bloggers. It didn’t take long for Stan’s warm demeanor, infectious smile and cool personality to make things comfortable and soon enough we were laughing together during some of his answers – it had turned from an interview into a simple conversation. It became quickly apparent to me how this is one of the best businessmen and speakers I’d ever encountered, and why he is perfect for the title he currently holds. Read on and you’ll learn some interesting things about Stan’s path to his current position, his daily routine, predictions for 2010, his favorite Sony product, how the BRAVIA Internet Video Link service is coming to the PS3, and no new OLED in 2010.
SI: Why don’t you tell us how you got started at Sony, and eventually became the Chief Operating Officer and President today?
Stan: I had built a company, Capetronic Computer Products Holdings Ltd., a global display manufacturing company primarily centered in Asia with factories in Taiwan, China, Thailand, and in California. I started that company in the beginning of computers with the original Apple Macintosh, the original PS1, and worked with Steve Jobs, Rod Canion and other beginning people (in computing). I helped design and and build power supplies, deflection technology, and other products for them. Eventually I took Capetronic public when it was close to a billion dollars.
I had worked with Capetronic for close to 20 years, and was 46 at the time; I hadn’t spent much time with my family. I said, “Now is the time to truly retire.”
I got bored in about three months – the retirement lasted about two and a half years. I wasn’t good at retirement. I started doing some consulting work with several Asian companies, and said to myself, “At this point in my life, I am not motivated by money anymore, but I am motivated to work with great people, and to make a significant contribution that would excite me personally.”
With this in mind, I thought about all of the companies I had worked with in my career, and Sony came to the top of my list since they have great people. I had the fortune of having meetings with Akio Morita and other people on that level over the years. I called up people I knew inside Sony, and asked “Can I help you guys? Consulting? Anything?”
So they gave me a consulting deal in display marketing, and I did that for about six months and after that they wanted me to formally join, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to work again. I said, “Let me think about it,” and we negotiated for several months. The salary they offered was about a tenth of what I used to make. It wasn’t a money thing – so we negotiated a little more and I finally joined Sony and took over as VP of Display Marketing in June 2001; it was in the transition phase between CRT and LCD. I was very happy doing that.
I did that for about a year – meanwhile, Hideki (Dick) Komiyama (seen above accepting the Best Mobile Handset Award at the 2008 Global Mobile Awards) came over from Japan to take over the President and COO role at Sony Electronics USA. Dick and I worked together at my prior company; I bought products from Sony, and negotiated some deals with them. He took a look at me and I took a look at him, and it was like old friends of course.
He said, “What are you doing for the company?”
I said, “I am running display marketing for you.”
He responded, “That’s ALL your doing at this company?”
I said, “I don’t need a senior position anymore in my life.”
The next thing I knew I was SVP of Information Technology Division, running VAIO and several other products at the time. Less than a year after that, the move took place from Park Ridge, NJ to San Diego, CA and Dick asked me to take over consumer sales. It was typical – I get a call on a Friday, and on Monday I take over the new job. I got a call from Dick again on a Friday in 2006 and said he was, “leaving back to Japan and take another position, and everyone wants you to take over.”
I said to him, “Dick, I don’t really know this time if I really want that in my life right now.”
He said, “Just do it and help us out.” So I did, and that’s how it happened.
What is the average day for you like at Sony, from start to finish? I understand it varies greatly, but if you can, something detailed for our readers.
Every day is very different. I have a program – every night, I plan out what I want to accomplish the next day – it takes me ten minutes, and is not a huge exercise – I know the tasks, certain e-mails I haven’t responded to, or projects I need to check on and follow-up. I build all of that into it, and then I get interrupted constantly; emergencies, phone calls, and whatever else goes on – Sir Howard will call..
The day usually starts very early, I get up at five and take a walk; I used to run most of my life, but at my age I don’t run anymore – the knees don’t hold up to well, so I walk for about 45 minutes to a hour. At 6 o clock, I get ready, and I’m in the office from 7:00 to 7:15. I start my day – I originally try to get through e-mails very quickly (several hundred per day). Joan, my main assistant helps me as well as Debbie in Park Ridge, who starts earlier. They sort out the junk, and things they can take care of. I dig into my e-mails, and get that going – I speak to the East Coast initially, because no one is in our office that early. And then the office starts coming in at 8:30 to 9:00, people start rolling in.
Generally, meetings are heavily booked; 50% of my schedule is already in meetings. Some of that is due to SOX, and the new rules we have where I have to be involved on at least a monthly basis, in all major activities of the company. It has to be formal and documented and in meetings – every step of the way. I get the complaints about so many meetings, but a large portion of them today are not done because we want to do them, or because we think they’re 100% necessary..they’re done because there is compliance issues now. We’re going to be changing accounting systems in the future to a new worldwide system, rather than the US system we have today. That will also make us do some further changes. I think they’ll be better though – those changes.
So the day is interesting – it usually ends somewhere between 6 and 8 PM, half the nights I probably have dinner with somebody, such as guests in town, or some customers, or something. Then the phone calls from Japan will start – because they’re waking up. So that’s a typical kind of day.
How often do you travel to Japan for Sony in an average year? Tell us about your most recent trip there.
Because of the economic meltdown, it was more over the last year. About a year and a half ago they made me group executive of the Sony Corporation. That gets me involved in a little more activity in Japan than I was previously. I probably go about 6-7 times a year, for about a week to ten days. Maximum is two weeks. Usually in a week I can get everything accomplished.
Tell us about your most recent meeting with Sir Howard Stringer, or the Sony Board of Directors in Japan.
Let me tell you a funny thing that just happened – we had CES all programmed for this press conference, and there’s always timing issues of people, etc. We have Taylor Swift performing – she’s on a deadline because she has to get to LA tonight for the People’s Choice Awards. She was sorta at the end of the program, but the program was running long and we were trying to figure it out, so we had to turn the whole program on its ears. Sir Howard was working on it out there, and we ended up changing everything instantly – they’re all rewriting it right now. Poor Dave (Migdal, SVP of Corporate Communications), he’s going crazy.
Howard is very engaging, decisive – he really understands the world of entertainment, PR, and communications better than anybody I’ve ever seen or worked with in my life. It’s very cool. The interactions with the Senior Japanese Executives – they’re good. These are a whole different group than we’ve ever had before, they’re younger, they’re a lot more aggressive. Good backgrounds – it’s much more fun now than it was, quite honestly. They’re willing to try new things, and really be open to ideas. It’s a lot of fun.
The other thing I do that’s really interesting is we have an advisory council, where we look at the future of Sony. For some reason they’ve asked me to be a part of that, I don’t know why I was selected – I don’t ask questions anymore. I go to the meeting, and there’s some interesting people – Louis Gerstner (the Ex-CEO of IBM), Nobuyuki Idei (the past chairman of Sony), past chairman of IKEA, Peter Peterson and some of the outside directors of the board are on this advisory board – we look at future business opportunities, what major things we could do, we have people come in and present to us, and it’s fun being a part of that.
In November 2009, Sony held an investors/analyst meeting in Japan that outlined a new Sony Online Service, where any Internet connected Sony product could access a vast library of applications, music/video content, services and the ability to buy products. Sony labeled this as a new business model, and said that it would create TV’s that would “evolve even after point of sale.” Can you please tell us your thoughts on this evolution, and what your impressions were of it so far?
I think we’re making good progress – to date, I believe we have 33 million users of the Playstation Network. We’re beginning to port that network to other Sony products. We’re doing BRAVIA Internet Video Link – which is more of a streaming service than a downloading service. We’ve got that growing at a fantastic rate in our televisions right now, we added it to Blu-ray players, and we’re adding it to the PS3. We have two different delivery systems of content now ongoing. I think consumers will make the choice what’s easier for them, and then we have to also understand the business models of each of them and decided which is better for the company also. That is ongoing and going very well.
What does make.believe mean to you?
To me, it has a couple of meanings – the main meaning is that we have not had a worldwide project, a worldwide branding effort inside Sony in probably decades. Every region does its own advertising promotion, we’ve had a few things certain regions have done, other regions have not done. It was time to unite the company, from a branding perspective. Make.believe is an interesting way to do it because it gives our engineers the ability to look at creating consumer experiences that are very unique. It gives us the ability to rally our people around something new, a tag line that’s simple, yet very inspiring. The more we can personalize that for consumers in addition to our own people, I see that being a huge win for Sony around the world.
It’s got multifacets that people inside the company to rally together, getting our technical community a little more active – they’re a good community, and I’m not putting them down, but activating them because that’s a core resource of Sony.
What are your major consumer electronic predictions for the second half of 2010?
I think the adoption of 3D may be a surprise in the second half. I think the excitement of Avatar, it’s success, and the 13 other 3D films slated over the balance of the year. I believe that 3D is going to take off possibly more quickly than we’re all thinking. That could be a surprise. I think a product like Dash could be a surprise product. The Reader and our strategy of being totally open, and not having a proprietary type of software system and the fact that we’ve got a broad line moving forward positively being strong in the second half. I believe Blu-ray, now that it’s got a 3D spec, now that the prices have calmed down, I see that potentially surprising us in the second half. I like some of our digital imaging projects, I like Transfer Jet technology, I like being able to proximity – just by putting two cameras together and move pictures from one to another. And eventually move that technology to Televisions, VAIO’s, and other products.
There could be a hope that the US economy is a little better than we think in the second half.
How many 3D channels do you predict there will be by the end of 2010?
I’m aware of one network slated for 2011, one slated for 2010 – this is not easy stuff. This is complex, we don’t have it all figured out yet. I think ESPN’s going to be a pioneer in the world of sports in figuring out camera placement and what to do there. I think it’s going to take some time. I don’t think we’re going to have a lot of broadcasting of 3D in 2010; I think it will start heavily in 2011. We’ll have some that begins, but I don’t think it’s going to be pervasive.
The theatrical side is moving well, but now we’re working on the TV side of this, broadcasting, and the personalized content, getting camcorders that work in 3D, getting digital still cameras that can take a 3D picture. There’s a lot of work to be done there.
What is your favorite Sony product of all time (perhaps one you used when you were younger)?
I would have to say only because of my interest and engineering background in TV, I think the 55″ BRAVIA XBR8 that we introduced about 18-24 months ago was the best LCD TV in the world at that point, and remains the best LCD TV in the world. We did a very special type of back-lighting technology in that product that was super expensive – it was Triluminos, 3 color back-lights, directly into the back of the screen’s back-lighting. A lot of the LED back-lighting today, nearly all of it is Edge-lit, so you’re using LED’s, but you’re firing across the back of the screen and you’ve got some uniformity issues, hot spots, and cold spots. That 55″ XBR8 sits in my main family room, it’s the TV I watch most of the time, and I still gawk at how good that picture is. It was a strong seller; we’re running out of it right now, and we didn’t anticipate the final demand as well as should have because it’s a really expensive product.
Sony is releasing several 3D capable televisions featuring a new Monolithic design – what would you say to the consumer who is skeptical about this new line of 3D display products?
We’re offering consumers an option, I’m not sure how companies many are doing what we’re doing – we’re fully integrating 3D TV’s to 60″ that we’ll sell. We’re also selling a line of 3D capable TV’s, with basically no increase in price. You can add the emitter later on, and the glasses later on. So we give the consumer the option of buying a capable set that they can then make the investment later on to bring it up to full 3D.
Many television manufacturers added support for SkypeHD, and Toshiba promised some sort of video communication for its TV’s. Can we expect Sony to offer this capability as a BRAVIA add-on in 2010?
Can we expect to see 3D Cameras (point and shoot or DSLR) from Sony in 2010?
I can’t answer that. You can see them, but when, I don’t know.
Can we expect any new OLED televisions from Sony in 2010?
We’re working on all sorts of prototypes, but I don’t see production of product in 2010. There’s a wonderful 3D OLED prototype here at CES; that’s the real way to do 3D and TV – because you’ve got direct transmission, rather than back lighting and all the other reflective ways of doing it. But getting it to be commercially reasonable in price, we’ve got a long way to go. That’s the whole problem in OLED, great technology, great feature set, but it’s really hard to get the costs down. Smaller form-factors are easy to do.
Thanks to COO/President Stan Glasgow for sitting down with us and entertaining our questions, and a special thanks to the Sony Corporate Communications team.
The PlayStation brand is a line of video game consoles created and developed by Sony Computer Entertainment, occupying the fifth,sixth, and seventh generations. It has become one of the largest investments Sony has ever gambled on (well, except for the whole pre-Pascal Sony Pictures Entertainment thing) and its been what I consider to be an enormous part of the overall Sony experience. Countless consumers, in almost one way or another, have used a Playstation product. It’s funny to think though that the brand itself turned fifteen years old on December 3rd – it doesn’t seem that long to me. Happy Birthday! Check out SCEI’s cool Playstation 15th anniversary site (JP).
The original PlayStation, released in December 1994, was the first of the ubiquitous PlayStation series of console and hand-held game devices, which has included successor consoles and upgrades including the Net Yaroze (a special black PlayStation with tools and instructions to program PlayStation games and applications), “PSone” (a smaller version of the original) and the PocketStation (a handheld which enhances PlayStation games and also acts as a memory card). It was part of the fifth generation of video game consoles, competing against the Sega Saturn and the Nintendo 64. By March 31, 2005, the PlayStation and PSone had shipped a combined total of 102.49 million units, becoming the first video game console to reach the 100 million mark. It was an enormous success and a giant leap from the Nintendo, Sega, etc experience most of us had fed on for nearly a decade.
Released in 2000, 15 months after the Dreamcast and a year before its other competitors, the Xbox and the Nintendo GameCube, the PlayStation 2 is part of the sixth generation of video game consoles, and is backwards-compatible with most, if not all, original PlayStation games. It has also been released as a media center configuration and also, like its predecessor, a slimmer redesign. On November 29, 2005, the PS2 became the fastest game console to reach 100 million units shipped, accomplishing the feat within 5 years and 9 months from its launch. This achievement occurred faster than its predecessor, the PlayStation, which took “9 years and 6 months since launch” to reach the same benchmark. It is the most successful console in the world, having reached over 140 million units in sales as of July 20, 2008. I haven’t seen a number since 2008 of how many its sold overall but I imagine it must be up sharply because it only costs $99 as of March of this year..or less.
It is the most popular console in the series, but the PS3 most certainly has the capacity to reach similar figures. It’s hard to tell if Sony will ever stop manufacturing the PS2, because theoretically they could bring it to retail by 2012 for less than (the equivalent of) $50 today easily..
Released on November 11, 2006, the PlayStation 3 is the third and current iteration in the series. It competes with the Xbox 360 and the Wii in the seventh generation of video game consoles. It introduces the use of the Sixaxis wireless controller along with other features, such as Blu-ray Disc and being also to see in Full High-definition resolution. It has access to an online store that sells games, movies, and other multimedia content. The PlayStation 3 is most certainly the most varied unit of the home consoles, by being offered in 20 GB, 40 GB, 60 GB, 80 GB, 160 GB, 120 GB, and 250GB configurations, with the last two being the current models. As for December 5th, 2009 Sony has sold 27.3 million PS3′s according to vgchartz.com.
Of course there was several Playstation Portable (PSP) units -
Released in March 2005, the PlayStation Portable (PSP) was Sony’s first handheld console. The console utilizes an new proprietary optical storage medium known as Universal Media Disc (UMD), which can store both games and movies. It contains 32MB of internal flash memory storage, expandable via Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. It has a vast library of games and movies available to play on UMD and also can download games off the Playstation store. The first major hardware revision, the PSP Slim and Lite was released in September 2007, with a further revision adding additional features (such as a microphone and upgraded screen) being released in October 2008. As of December 5th 2009, 53 million PSP units have been sold according to vgchartz.com.
The PSP Go was released in October 2009. It differs from the original PlayStation Portable in several ways, most notably the absence of a UMD drive, with all content having to be purchased and downloaded from the Playstation Store. The PSP also adds Bluetooth functionality, and uses smaller Memory Stick Micro cards rather than the PRO Duo. It retains the same brilliance in display like the regular PSP but its display is slightly smaller. The PSP Go is 43% lighter and 56% smaller than the original PSP.
What’s your favorite Playstation moment of all time? Mine was probably beating Metal Gear Solid 1..
Walkman is a Sony brand originally used for portable audio cassette, and is now used to market Sony’s portable audio and video players as well as certain Sony Ericsson phones. The original Walkman introduced a change in music listening habits by allowing people to carry their music with them, a revolutionary concept for its time. The device was built in 1978 by audio division engineer Nobutoshi Kihara for Sony co-chairman Akio Morita, who wanted to be able to listen to operas during his frequent transpacific plane trips. The original Walkman was marketed in 1979 as the Walkman in Japan, the Soundabout in many other countries including the US, Freestyle in Sweden and the Stowaway in the UK. Morita hated the name “Walkman” and asked it to be changed, but relented after being told by junior executives that a promotion campaign had already begun using the ‘Walkman’ name and would be too expensive to change.
My familiarity with the Walkman brand is probably obvious to some of you who have been following my words for a while in my past ventures (Minidisc Community Forums and ATRACLife). Watching this video brought back many memories – what about you? Whats your favorite Walkman?
To better familiarize our readers, David Migdal is the Vice President of Communications at Sony Electronics Inc, handling all consumer and professional products including HDTV, Digital Imaging, Blu-ray, etc. as well as overseeing the company’s social media efforts. He is a results-oriented corporate communications executive with demonstrated strength in strategic planning and tactical execution, media relations and consensus-building skills. David also provides counsel to senior management and has clear understanding of how communications supports business objectives.
SI: Why don’t you tell us how you got started at Sony, and eventually became a VP today?
David: I was originally hired to help support the launch of DVD and the roll-out of our first HDTVs. There have been two constants in my career that have helped me advance: Working with a sense of urgency and being flexible. These traits were instilled in me while working in the newspaper business earlier in my career and have certainly helped me in the corporate world.
SI: What is the average day like for you, from start to finish?
David: The best part about working for Sony is there is no “average” day. In the environment we operate in (the consumer electronics industry) change is endemic and any routines we’ve had have evolved to meet the changing environment. For example, Sony’s communications department is now a part of our marketing group, and in order to make this integration work, the channels of communication had to be widened and enhanced. There are now daily conversations taking place between the two teams, and that’s a routine I embrace.
Of course, my colleague who leads the corporate/employee communications side of the house (VP John Dolak) and I have daily, sometimes hourly, conversations and that’s something that I enjoy as well.
Yes, there are some recurring weekly and monthly meetings, plenty of discussions involving social media, and some big trade shows and press events in certain months, but other than that, my schedule is wonderfully varied.
SI: Tell us about a memorable conversation with a high ranking Sony official, such as Howard Stringer, etc.
David: There have been many throughout my tenure here, but I’ve always appreciated those that bring a human element and sense of humor to light.
Case in point: During the rehearsals for the launch of our OLED TV at CES, I had written some comments for Sir Howard Stringer and wanted to go over any edits he had before the press event. We were sitting together backstage, incorporating some of his edits onto the TelePrompter, and he mentioned with a laugh how OLED sounded like it was the name of a Viking warlord. Yes, a Viking warlord. He asked me what I thought (I thought it was witty and on the mark) and we swiftly incorporated it into his comments.
That was memorable.
SI: How often do you have meetings with the rest of the corporate communications team? How do they usually go?
David: We have a weekly all-hands meeting and also meet on an as-needed basis. I attempt to keep all meetings as brief as possible and make sure they have a purpose. Some times they are issue-oriented, other times they focus on basic information sharing and brainstorming. But the name of the game is communicating….we’re all professional communicators, after all.
SI: Corporate communications as a role has become much more significant and professional in nature. Gone are the days when corporate communication merely meant ‘wining and dining the client’ – it has now emerged as a science and art of perception management. You started with Sony back in 1998. How has the company changed since then in that regard?
For starters, when I started with Sony Electronics in 1998, standard issue gear was a pager and a laptop (not made by Sony, by the way).
Now, from the way we interact with the media and distribute information, to managing trade shows and press events, as well as the social media revolution, everything we do has changed. Fundamentally, we are better listeners now than we’ve ever been. We hear what our customers are saying; and when the media has a gripe, we hear that, too, and engage accordingly.
Public relations in 2009 is evolving and Sony is keeping its eyes WIDE open. Our social media efforts are, in my opinion, some of the best in class. Our outward facing events have also received praise from the media, especially those that embrace the “Sony United” concept, where two or more Sony companies combine forces to tell a compelling story. That wasn’t happening when I first started and it’s something my colleagues and I have worked hard at making commonplace.
Without a doubt, making “Sony United” work has been one of the most gratifying—and enjoyable– aspects of my career at Sony.
SI: What blogs do you read every day?
David: I read the vast majority of the major (and some of the minor) CE and national media websites and blogs. The sad truth is I really don’t have the time to dig down as deeply as I would like.
SI: What’s one thing you’d like to say to bloggers who unfairly criticize the company?
David: Everyone has the right to their opinion and fairness is in the eye of the beholder. I understand it’s not in vogue to praise large corporations these days. Come to think of it, I’m not sure it’s ever been. But it’s our job to listen to what’s being said and choose to take some course of action or not. When you’re a company as large as Sony, criticism comes with the territory. We’re not perfect, but on balance, we’re still a strong, highly respected company and a powerful consumer brand.
One of un-scientific tools I use to gauge the company? A personal, social barometer. When I meet someone for the first time and tell him/her that I work for Sony, I look for their reaction. Almost universally, the reactions have been favorable.
SI: What’s your favorite Sony product (new or old)?
David: I thought the SCD-1 (SACD/CD player) was nothing short of spectacular in terms of design and performance. In same vein, my current favorites are our ES series Blu-ray players and our Internet-enabled BRAVIA LCD TVs. I have my eye on the new X-series VAIO as well. I’m not that enamored with “bling” but the gold model is a beauty.
SI: When Senior Vice President Rick Clancy retired from Sony earlier this year, you wrote a blog post on the Sony Community Blog entitled, “Sony’s Online Voice,” where you proclaimed that “Sony’s online voice is changing.” With promise of greater topic coverage, the Sony Community Blog is more diversified and stronger than ever. With the recent power play of hiring Sukhjit Ghag (Sony’s new social media evangelist), it seems that she has given new life to the blog and its direction. Her presence is unlike anything I’ve ever seen at Sony before. What was the process like to create her position? What is it like to work with Sukhjit? Do you think that we will see bigger, more dynamic changes in Sony’s online voice with her hire?
David: “Power play” is right on the money, Chris. Hiring Sukhjit Ghag was an interesting endeavor and one that speaks to our penchant for being creative and innovative. Instead of following a traditional corporate path to identify, select and ultimately hire a new social media evangelist, John Dolak and I spoke to several well-respected members of the media and analyst community and asked them for suggestions. We returned to San Diego with a list of about a dozen names and began our due diligence. We ultimately hired Sukhjit and look to her as part of our larger social media team (managed by Marcy Cohen) to keep the blog and related activities moving forward. I like what I see so far; she has a lot of energy and passion for social media (especially vlogging) and it’s simply a matter of time before she masters Sony culture. I would continue to keep an eye on us in the social media space….we’re on a good roll that’s only going to get better.
SI: Sony has been facing tough competition in their television line in the USA from companies such as Vizio and Samsung. Do you see Sony gaining market share in this area in 2010? Can we expect even more aggressive marketing campaigns? What will it take for Sony to become #1 again?
David: I do see us gaining market share in the near term. We recently launched our new “panel of experts” advertising campaign and with a new TV line planned for the near term, as well as the promise of 3D, I like our chances. What you’ll see in 2010 is an energized Sony TV lineup; one with innovation, design and performance clearly in the forefront.
SI: I’ve noticed something strange with Sony product releases. Sometimes Sony Europe releases a product that never leaves that region. Another example is when we exclusively covered the new 64GB NW-A847 OLED Walkman from Sony Japan, which hasn’t been announced elsewhere. When I contacted Jennifer Martin, Internet Communications Specialist at Sony, about the Walkman she said there “there are no plans to launch this model in the US.” What’s worse is that the interest in this new Walkman in the USA is very strong, and people are disappointed there is no further information about it ever coming here. Is it frustrating when there isn’t a simultaneous launch worldwide with such high-profile products? Can you tell us why Sony chooses to do this, especially with products that would make sense here?
David: We are collaborating on global product introductions, but without sounding too pedantic, let’s just say the world is big place. Certain regions have certain needs and have to address certain demographic segments that don’t line up with others. We’re obviously not the only company that does this, but to your point, I’m all for a consumer getting what he/she needs from Sony, no matter where it is initially introduced. It’s just not as simple as it sounds.
SI: Recently, Sony Electronics in the U.S. has had a few chances to show off products first then the other countries catch up, such as you did with the most recent VAIO X, L and CW series at Guastavino’s in NYC. Did you work with Sony Japan to secure that exclusive launch? What is that process like?
David: The business units and other groups in the U.S., and other regions for that matter, are in constant contact with Japan and decisions are often made based on where the product introductions make the most sense in terms of impact.
SI: Any hints about CES?
David: Wear comfortable shoes.
Thank you for taking the time to do an interview with Sony Insider, Dave!