Late last month Sony Network Entertainment President Tim Schaaff discussed the changing content delivery landscape and the intersection of consumer electronics, music and video content, and network services at MidemNet 2011. He was interviewed by Ralph Simon.
Most of Bravia TVs and Home Theater users are familiar with a little Qriocity icon on their TVs that brings video on demand service straight to your living room and today Sony has announced Music Unlimited joining Qriocity which has more than 6 million songs ready to be streamed to the eager ears. We have previewed the service at CES on a Bravia as well as on a VAIO PC and its streaming service looked very smooth, polished by a well done GUI. PlayStation users in the UK and Ireland were the first ones to have been playing with this service already and as far as US PlayStation population – expect to see Qriocity icon appear on your XMB menu soon as well. Sony also announced that this service will be coming to Android OS as well, however iOS was mentioned, time will show when it will be available on your iPads and other iDevices due to the new regulation that Apple announced earlier enforcing a rule in the terms of service for its App Store that requires subscriptions and content to be sold through an application at the same price or less than elsewhere online. Check out this interview with Sony Network Entertainment head Tim Schaaf brought to you by All Things Digital:
Subscription based streaming service is going to be $3.99 for basic streaming and $9.99 for premium allowing you to compile your own playlists and anytime access to its huge music library.
This is definitely not the only service that’s out there and we are sure most of your are familiar with Rhapsody and MOG as well as Slacker and Pandora streaming (that also appear to be a part of Sony Bravia Internet family), so how will this service take off and whether or not it will migrate to any Sony portable devices like Walkman. Your PSP is going to be the only portable device to enjoy this service at the moment, hopefully with new NGP and other Sony tablets that are still in the works we will see its vast adoption. On another note, we are positive that Sony learned a lesson or two from its unsuccessful launch of Connect as well.
Sony Online Entertainment announced the availability of its eagerly awaited online action game DC Universe Online (DCUO) at retailers worldwide for both the PC and the PS3. DC Universe Online is the first massively multiplayer online (MMO) game on PlayStation 3 for North America and the first MMO game based in the DC Universe, allowing fans to create their own superhero or villain while joining forces with their favorite DC Comics characters such as Superman, Batman and The Joker to aid in saving – or destroying – the planet.
To capture the true essence of the DC Universe and its iconic characters, Sony Online Entertainment tapped the top talent at DC Comics, including legendary artist and co-publisher of DC Comics, Jim Lee, who served as executive creative director for DC Universe Online and provided the art style for the game Famed DC comic book writers Geoff Johns and Marv Wolfman were tasked with establishing the back-story of the Universe and creating thousands of compelling story arcs, epic quests and action-packed in-game events. For example, players might be tasked with rescuing Batwoman from the fear gas that Scarecrow has unleashed in Gotham City’s sewers, or battle Power Girl as they work with Lex Luthor to create an army of mutants out of Metropolis citizens.
DCUO combines the immersive environments and fascinating story arcs of MMOs with fast-paced, physics-based combat to deliver more super-powered action than ever before. In the game, players can pick up buses, fly into the air and throw them at enemies, run up the sides of buildings to engage in melee brawls while shooting flames of fire from their hands, or cling to the side of buildings while using a grappling hook to pull flying opponents out of the sky – all while interacting with the iconic characters of DC Comics.
“DC Universe Online transforms more than 75 years of action and adventure into a fully realized immersive experience that brings players into the world of DC like never before,” said Jim Lee, executive creative director for DC Universe Online. “It has been a fascinating experience for me and the team to come up with entertaining and engaging ways to blend the MMO and comic book worlds.”
Rated T for Teen by the ESRB with the content descriptors Mild Blood, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes and Violence, DC Universe Online is available for PC and PlayStation 3 for the suggested retail prices of $49.99 and $59.99, respectively.
One 30-day game subscription is included with purchase of the game for new subscribers, with monthly subscriptions available thereafter starting at $14.99, with discounts for longer durations. For players of the PC version of the game, DCUO will be included in SOE’s all-in-one Station Access subscription (game software is sold separately).
DCUO will be available in North America on January 11, 2011 at Best Buy, Gamestop, Amazon.com, Wal-Mart, Target, Toys R Us and at other participating video game retailers. SOE put up some informative DC Universe game guides on their official website.
Sony Online Entertainment and LucasArts announced that Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures, a free-to-play family-friendly online virtual world, is now available for Mac. Clone Wars Adventures is an action-packed browser-based virtual world where fans can live out the thrills and excitement of Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated TV series on Cartoon Network.
“The demand for game content on the Mac platform has increased significantly, and we are excited to bring our games to this growing audience,” said John Smedley, president of Sony Online Entertainment. “Through our collaboration with TransGaming, Mac and PC players are able to play together seamlessly on both Free Realms and now Clone Wars Adventures, and we will continue to look for opportunities with future games to do the same.”
Clone Wars Adventures is the ultimate virtual destination for fans of the TV series where players go online to experience fun mini-games, daily activities, events, rewards, lively social environments, and competitions. Players can battle alongside their favorite Star Wars characters like Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi. It is updated every week with new content pulled from that week’s new episode.
In addition to weekly updates in Clone Wars Adventures, Mac players who log in today will experience the Star Wars holiday season: the Orto Plutonia for Life Day, which brings a host of holiday decorations to the virtual world. Players can collect Life Day Orbs from around the Jedi Temple for rewards or wear Life Day Robes and collect presents from the Gifting Tree. Clone Trooper nutcrackers, Clone Snowtrooper outfits, Droid garland and many more festive items will also be available for purchase in the Marketplace.
Sony Online Entertainment announced that four new actors have been added to an already impressive cast of voice talent for DC Universe Online (DCUO), which is set for release in early 2011 for the PC and PS3. The new cast additions include Arleen Sorkin (Batman: The Animated Series), Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Corey Burton (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Batman: The Brave and the Bold) and Dwight Schultz (The A-Team, Star Trek: The Next Generation).
“The addition of these actors to our existing cast reaffirms our commitment to gamers to deliver the most fun and authentic DC Universe experience possible,” said Sony Online Entertainment executive producer John Blakely. “They’re all experienced and talented performers and we’re excited for players to hear their work when they encounter them in the game.”
In addition to her career achievements as an actress, television host, writer and producer, Arleen Sorkin will again reprise her role as the Joker’s off-kilter girlfriend/henchman Harley Quinn, considered by many to be the most popular villainess on Batman: The Animated Series.
Wil Wheaton lends his skills to DCUO voicing Robin, the Boy Wonder. As author, blogger and champion of geek culture, his successful acting career began in 1986 with acclaimed roles in Stand By Me and Toy Soldiers. Recently he’s appeared on Criminal Minds, NUMB3RS and Batman: The Brave and the Bold as the voice of Ted Kord, the Silver Age Blue Beetle.
Joining the cast as the voice of Brainiac, Corey Burton began his voice-acting career over 35 years ago, studying the craft of radio drama with the legendary Daws Butler, the voice of Yogi Bear. As one of the last authentically old school “voice men” in America, the San Fernando Valley native has voiced sound alikes and original characters for hundreds of entertainment and educational productions.
With forty years of acting experience to his credit, Dwight Schultz voices The Flash in DCUO. Schultz is best known for his portrayals of ‘Howlin’ Mad Murdock’ from Stephen J. Canell’s The A-Team and ‘Reg Barclay’ from Star Trek: The Next Generation. His voice credits include many popular videogames, TV and film animation projects such as Vampire Hunter D, Princess Mononoke, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, and most recently, chef ‘Mung Daal’ from the hit cartoon series Chowder.
Sony Online Entertainment and TransGaming noted that Free Realms for the Mac is currently in development. Scheduled to release later this fall, Free Realms Mac users will play together in the family-friendly online world with the over 14 million existing registered players on the PC.
“There is no denying the overwhelming player demand for Free Realms on the Mac platform, of which we plan to deliver very soon,” said John Smedley, president of SOE. “For the first time ever, SOE is developing synchronous gameplay for Mac and PC players and we are thrilled to tap into TransGaming’s Mac development expertise to bring this functionality to fruition.”
Free Realms players on the Mac platform will experience consistent controls and functionality and will be integrated on the same game servers as PC players. Mac users will also have full access to the existing Marketplace and community forums.
“Free Realms offers a truly unique and captivating user experience that aligns with TransGaming’s focus on bringing new massive multiplayer online games to the Mac platform,” commented Vikas Gupta, CEO & President of TransGaming Inc. “Our strategic partnership with SOE has strengthened our leadership position in the enablement of family-friendly titles for the growing Mac community and offers Mac gamers an ever-increasing catalog of outstanding video game content.”
At the IBC Conference in Amsterdam, Sony Creative Software announced the most recent upgrade to Sony’s nonlinear HD video and audio editing application, Vegas Pro 10. The software application provides broad audio and video support for media ingest, editing and delivery workflows for a wide variety of professional production.
New features in the 32 and 64-bit versions of Vegas Pro 10 include powerful stereoscopic 3D editing tools. Additional features include enhanced closed captioning, broadened video effect support and new event level audio effects, as well as workflow and user interface enhancements. These updates will enable professional media creators to quickly produce and deliver compelling content for broadcast distribution, theatrical releases, YouTube 3D and prepare content for DVD and Blu-ray titles. Vegas Pro 10 should be available around October 11th.
Vegas Pro 10 Feature Highlights:
Stereoscopic 3D Editing: Vegas Pro 10 facilitates the creation of 3D projects by enabling users to import, adjust, edit, preview and export stereoscopic 3D projects with no additional tools or plug-ins. While fully compatible with the latest 3D TV technology, anaglyph viewing is also provided making it possible to preview in 3D on any monitor
Improved Closed Captioning: Improved support for closed captions enables broadcasters to preview captions in the Preview and Trimmer windows for increased accuracy and ease of editing. Other improvements include increased support for line 21 closed captions, HD-SDI closed captions, multiple closed captioning file types as well as the ability to export captions for Sony DVD Architect, YouTube, RealPlayer, QuickTime, and Windows Media Player
Expanded Multicam Functionality: Updated multicam feature provides a more robust editing and preview experience by offering the ability to view the multicam source clips and the full-screen edited program output simultaneously
Improved support for DSLR video: Performance improvements make editing video from popular DSLR cameras faster and easier
Track Grouping: This update offers a quick and easy way to organise and manage complex projects by grouping related sections of video and audio together for a cleaner working environment
Advanced Transport Controls: UI modifications offer more efficient access to important editing tools, providing a more intuitive workflow while improving overall productivity
Image Stabilization: New stabilisation tools greatly reduce jittery or ‘shaky’ video sometimes caused by hand-held recording
Video Plug-in SDK: Video Effects Plug-in Architecture: Vegas Pro 10 now offers completely new video effects plug-in architecture based on the Open Effects Association standard. This open, industry leading standard was created from the combined experience of the leading companies in the visual effects realm. The new architecture is accessed by a software development kit (SDK) which is more powerful and reduces the developer’s workload by automating UI – both of which will benefit editors by expanding greatly the available visual effects for Vegas Pro 10
GPU Accelerated AVC Encoding: Users with CUDA-enabled nVidia video cards are now able to encode to the Sony AVC format with improved rendering performance and speed
Device Support: Sony continues to add expanded device support with each new version including HD-SDI adapters, Sony NXCAM cameras, and broader support for DVD and Blu-ray optical burning drives
Audio Event FX: For more precise control over the placement of audio effects, Vegas Pro 10 allows editors to assign audio effects at the master output, bus level, track level and now the event level for greater flexibility when working with multitrack projects
Input Busses: Input Busses now enable editors to record, mix and monitor audio from external hardware devices
VU meters: The Vegas Pro Mixing Console view becomes even more powerful with the addition of VU metering
Track Meters: Track Meters provide direct feedback and a faster editing workflow throughout the record, edit and mix process
Qriocity is a network service platform that connects many of Sony’s network-enabled devices and allows consumers to enjoy high quality entertainment across multiple devices. Through Qriocity, Sony will deliver a variety of digital entertainment content and services that are “powered by Qriocity”, including video, music, game applications, and e-books over time, and through these services, and in combination with its networked devices, Sony aims to bring new and exciting entertainment experiences to customers.
Today at the IFA 2010 show in Berlin, Sony announced plans to introduce “Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity”, a new, cloud-based, digital music service. Available by year’s end, “Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity” will give music lovers access to millions of songs stored and synchronized through the cloud. “Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity” will initially be available across Sony’s 2010 models of network-enabled BRAVIA TVs, Blu-ray Disc players, Blu-ray Home Theater systems, as well as PlayStation 3 computer entertainment systems and VAIOs and other personal computers, and will become increasingly available on a range of Sony’s portable devices.
“Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity” brings together the features cited as most important by music enthusiasts. With access to a huge library of songs through the cloud, users can discover new music through channels personalized to their tastes on multiple devices and without the requirement to manage digital music files. The convenience resulting from this new consumer music experience will further enhance the value of music, thus creating new opportunities for the industry. Details of the service plan will be announced in the future.
“We are excited to offer our customers high quality, cloud-based entertainment experiences across many of Sony’s network-enabled devices,” said Kazuo Hirai, President of Networked Products & Services Group, Sony Corporation. “Services ‘powered by Qriocity’ will revolutionize the way that users play, listen, watch, share, communicate, learn, discover and create their digital entertainment content.”
Sony has detailed an incoming update to its existing Reader Library software, which will soon be known as Reader Desktop Edition (for OS X and Windows). There is also word that a Reader Mobile Edition app is coming soon for Apple iPhone and Google Android-based smartphones, enabling users to synchronize their reading among multiple devices. This is most certainly a response to Apple’s iBook and Amazon’s Kindle app which has proven to be a popular strategy for those companies. These free Sony applications, available later this year, will offer an intuitive digital reading experience with an elegant interface and access to Sony’s Reader Store for browsing and purchasing content. Reader Desktop Edition also includes the ability to easily manage content for the non-wireless Reader models.
Hello fellow readers, here is a scoop of information about Sony Innovation get-together that occurred in NYC. I’d say this is a pretty rare opportunity that bloggers and Sony enthusiasts who attended the event got to experience at the Sony USA Headquarters on 550 Madison Ave. This gig was hosted on the 35th floor at the Sony Club which is not open to public eyes. Mind you the 34th floor is the Chairman’s floor, where sir Howard Stringer’s office is located, I’ll share more about that part at the end of this post.
When one enters the building, a grand lobby greets its visitors outfitted with a number of Sony Bravia TVs mounted on the wall next to each other. I proceeded to the elevator which takes you to the next level where every employee passes security check each morning. From there you take another elevator and the world of Sony Corporate offices is spread out on each floor.
After we reached the 35th floor we were greeted by the catering staff with finger food and lots of drinks available. But since we are mostly interested in the products we went into special room that was set up with products and Sony specialists waiting to answer any of your questions.
So what impressed me among the Sony gadgetry that I got to play with you may ask? Since I was hoping to see a Google integrated Bravia TV and maybe something new in the VAIO area, and as you know that did not happen, I got to spend some time with the Sony employees and have a good candid talk with some of them about current, past and upcoming products. One of them even mentioned in a polite but fun way that we “blew the embargo” when we posted a story on the not yet released Sony readers. But we would not be a Sony Insider site if we don’t share some of the juicy info from time to time, don’t you agree?
Let’s talk a little about Bravia, I spent a good amount of time discussing 3D, OLED and what Sony is doing in order to gain more share in this competitive market. I mentioned that I believe for 3D to take off, people need more 3D content which is pretty scarce at the moment. Sony rep gave a good response and analogy on how HDTV was also a slow starter and it took some time for it to be adopted and be available to the users. So with 2011 around the corner, let’s hope consumers will be flooded with 3D content from providers as well as Bluray 3D offerings. There is a good possibility that Sony may even consider streaming 3D content through its Bravia Internet Video service available now on all Bravia sets. To which I would say, go for it! Bring us 3D downloadable content from PSN or Qriocity services.
The upcoming Google integrated Bravia is going to be interesting and the sets are being assembled and shipped as we speak. So stay tuned for the announcement and availability this fall. This joint effort of Sony and Google has been praised on techy blogosphere and Sony is very excited about it. I believe if this is done right and most importantly user friendly, it will be an amazing product. I cannot say enough that well-done GUI and Internet features implemented within Bravia would make it or kill it. After asking about design, whether or not it’s going to be 3D ready, I got an answer that this new Bravia is going to be different. The rep felt like it is a good term to describe this upcoming TV, so we will see it and be judges of that.
The new NX810 models were displayed at the event and the 60 inch model drew some attention of course. Its slim design and 3D demos running definitely make the experience fun, but those folks who are neat-picky as far as PQ and want their blacks to be black may still want to wait until Intelligent LED Backlighting reaches the 60 inch mark. For some reason Sony has not yet come up with such a monster and I know many AV enthusiasts are disappointed and jumping the ship to Vizio and Sharp or Samsung 65” plus 3D LCDs. Shortage of panels was one of the main culprits this year.
As far as new monolothic design, I wanted to mention that I like it, but I’d say it’s OK though. I think when XBR10 series were released last year, it was already designed with this monolithic approach in mind as the screen was flush. XBR10 was also a beautiful set. I just think that something is still missing in the design department of the current models and they seem to be just plainly beautiful not striking enough in my opinion (the HX909 model I own is cutting close to being a beauty with its optional aluminum stand it is sitting in, but the panel itself is still on the thick side, I know I am very picky).
The NX810 are available in 46, 55 and 60 inch full HD resolution of course, all models share Dynamic Edge LED Backlighting with local dimming, Motionflow Pro 240Hz (watch the vid below where we discuss difference between 240Hz vs 480Hz).
The Sony NEX-VG10 was another product that drew attention of many. The interchangeable and first of its kind in the world camera will be available this September. There were also TX9 and a pair of NEX-3,5 as well as presentation of several 3D pictures taken by those Cybershots.
Anyways, check out the videos that will be posted soon (they are being uploaded).
As I mentioned in the very beginning the floor below the event was the Chairman’s floor and at that point I did not know that, I needed a lil break and I walked the marble stairs that led to the 34th floor, and as I wondered around, I passed the conference room outfitted with 2 Sony professional monitors where most likely videoconferencing takes place with Tokyo. As I proceeded further, I spotted Bravia HX909 hanging on the wall and a number of pictures and after talking to a lady sitting there, I realized that it was sir Howard’s office! Of course, he was not in, but being in the area where a lot of Sony decisions take place was pretty awesome! I also got to talk to one of the Sony Club employee who has interfaced with Mr. Stringer on many occasions and that the CEO is a real true English gentleman with an awesome sense of humor.
All in all, it was a remarkable event and I was happy to catch up with a couple of my good Sony friends – Sukhjit – the social media butterfly that has a huge passion for Sony and loves what she does there, Marcy Cohen and Jon Piazza.