God of War to support PlayStation VR?

God_Of_War_Kratos_VRPlayStation VR is fine – a relatively cheap gateway to the world of virtual reality with some unique games and content. Some are more quirky while others are more thorough like Battlezone and Farpoint, but what’s been missing is a true AAA, high profile game. God of War in VR could solve that. Kevin Joyce from VR focus:

 There’s been a number of projects brought to [Sony] Santa Monica, but many of them have just been prototypes from game jams. [sic]

[Sony] Santa Monica are working on something big. It’s a full-blown 2nd wave title for [PlayStation VR]. It’ll be revealed soon and I know it’ll go well with the core PlayStation audience, but I can’t say any more than that! 

The Creators on PlayStation Store helps you find content

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The PlayStation Store, and PSN in general, has come a long way since its HTML debut on PS3. Once a place of scattered content, now the PS Store is home to thousands of games with rich AAA games and countless indie titles. Now, that success is also causing some headaches, namely being able to spot new and unique gaming experiences. Timothy J. Seppala from Engadget:

 Sony is introducing curated lists of games from “the industry’s most creative minds,” dubbed The Creators. PlayStation’s head of worldwide studios Shuhei Yoshida has his picks listed, as does Rocket League studio Psyonix, Street Fighter’s Yoshinori Ono and the Final Fantasy XV team among many, many others. 

Sony to discontinue ‘Premium Standard’ phones, Xperia X and Xperia X Compact were spectacular failures

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Stop me if you’ve heard this before but Sony Mobile is once again shifting its strategy. Just a few years back, the company had an ambitious goal of becoming the world’s third largest smartphone maker, leaving only Apple and Samsung ahead of them. With that plan not working, Sony announced a major shift in July 2016 which would see them defocus on India, USA, China, and Brazil.

That of course didn’t quite work for them either, with sales declining dramatically, so Sony is once again going target more emerging markets with the likes of the Xperia L1, a budget smartphone. Ultimately, the plan is to leverage the brand in Japan, East Asia, APAC, the Middle East, and Europe with the hopes of differentiating their phones

 with technologies that only Sony can deliver, 

whatever that means. So the plan is to have more moderately priced phones to increase sales then, right? That’s why the Xperia L1 exists? Nope. Sony is also killing their mid-tier premium phones, which are not to be confused with mid-tier phones.

Expect lots more PlayStation, VR, and mobile games from Sony in 2017, new focus on PS Vue

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PlayStation doing gangbusters for Sony by now isn’t news so the following shouldn’t come as much of a surprise either. In 2017, we’ll see a ton more games from them on PS4, PlayStation VR, and mobile. The first two of course are a given and with E3 around the bend, I’m sure we’ll see plenty of new games for the ever chugging PS4 and VR, a market that’s in its infancy and one that Sony believes will exponentially grow in the years to come. Don’t be surprised to see Sony expand the capabilities of PSVR beyond gaming and push the headset in new directions though what they may be outside of entertainment is hard to see. It’s easy to theorize how VR can dramatically impact business but I’m not sure the tech is there yet.

As for mobile, though nothing new, it remains a highly profitable market to play in. Here is Bradly Shankar from mobilesyrup:

 perhaps most notably, Sony aims to develop a new audience by creating a new mobile content opportunity in Japan/Asia region. Sony plans to leverage its library of IPs and collection of developers alongside 3rd party teams to build a title portfolio in a wide range of genres and develop original IP. So far, Sony and Microsoft have not really dabbled in this market, while competitor Nintendo has had a successful rollout of a few mobile titles in the past several months. 

Sony’s Katsunori Yamanouchi brings global perspective to U.S. market

Katsunori_YamanouchiPreviously president of Sony Europe, Katsunori Yamanouchi will be attending NAB Show for the first time as president of Professional Solutions America, Sony Electronics as head of the division. With a new focus and a new role, Yamanouchi sat down with SportsTech for a short talk.

 I moved to the U.S. a year ago and have learned a lot, as there are a couple of differences here. This is my 28th year at Sony, and I have always been on the professional business side. Twice I was with Sony Europe, and this is also my second time in the U.S. I also had a chance to cover Latin America so I have gained global experience, which is very helpful in understanding the different cultures and dynamics. 

Sony Xperia XZ Premium Dual offers a dedicated SD card slot

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Looking to get a Xperia XZ Premium, but worried about the new hybrid SIM tray trend? Fear not as the XZ Premium Dual offers a dedicated SD card slot. XperiaBlog:

 Sony Xperia France has confirmed that the dual SIM version of the Xperia XZ Premium (as well as the XA1 and XA1 Ultra) will be able to combine two SIM cards and a SD card simultaneously. 

For those unfamiliar:

Five years of Kaz Hirai at Sony in five charts

Bloomberg has put together an interesting piece, outlining the five years that Kaz Hirai has been at the helm of Sony with five different charts. Prior to Kaz Hirai, Sony was led by Sir Howard Stringer during a time that I like to refer to as ‘the lost decade’ during which competitors like Apple and Samsung were able to overtake the once-dominant brand. To help turn things around, Sony would promote Kaz Hirai to CEO in April 2012 and since then, he’s been able to double the company’s valuation.

 Hirai’s biggest accomplishment has arguably been the return to profitability in consumer electronics. The 56-year old has slashed costs in everything from televisions to smartphones while retreating from unprofitable businesses. But he’s also doubled-down on more research and development, a move that’s resulted in “fewer and better products,” according to Macquarie Capital analyst Damian Thong. 

If that sounds all too rosy, it’s because it is. Yes, Sony has been able to double its stock price, and yes, they are now profitable, but as the below chart shows, it’s not because they’re winning over consumers.

Interview with Kenji Tanaka, Sony’s global head of interchangeable lens cameras

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The gang at Dpreview recently had a chance to fly out to Sony’s Chonburi factory in Thailand where all Sony ILC cameras and lenses are assembled and chat with the company’s global head of interchangeable lens cameras, Kenji Tanaka. Of all the questions, perhaps the first one by Rishi Sanyal was the most telling: where Sony’s camera ambitions are headed.

 Our biggest focus is to increase the [existing] market, not to segment it. The overall market is decreasing, and it’s been a challenge to increase the market, overall. We believe we can do so by targeting professionals and enthusiasts. 

Sony Xperia XZ Premium coming to AT&T?

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Without a doubt, one of the biggest issues Sony faces in the US is a lack of carrier support which why their sales are nonexistent here. In recent years, that’s only gotten worse with Sony phones being mostly found on Amazon or Best Buy (just the online store) in unlocked variants, something US consumers aren’t accustomed to. According to a tipster, this could change and Sony Mobile could be partnering up with their old carrier, AT&T. Details are scarce at best and as always, take news like this with a grain salt. After all, Sony built a a custom model, the Xperia Z4v, for Verizon, which was canceled mere weeks before its release.

 Verizon will no longer be launching Xperia Z4v, however we are committed to supporting Sony Mobile’s product portfolio and will support existing products. Sony is a strategic partner as we continue having ongoing discussions together as part of our future portfolio. 

Sony 4K TVs will get access to Google Assistant with Android O

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With Google I/O concluding yesterday, it’s safe to say what was announced at CES 2017 is still on track for Google Assistant coming to Android TV. Here is Raymond Wong from Mashable:

 With an “OK Google” command, you can play shows, check the weather, search Google, control your smart home and more. And because Assistant is contextually aware, it can respond to follow-up queries without repeated “OK Google” prompts.

The limitation right now is you have to speak into a voice remote to activate Assistant, but in the future you’ll simply talk directly to your TV. Though he wouldn’t share specific details or partners, Prueter says Google’s already working with companies to build far-field voice recognition technology right into TVs. 

Dolby Vision Blu-ray discs coming from Sony Pictures soon

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A big surprise from CES 2017 was Sony’s support for Dolby Vision, a feature that was secretly built into their TVs as far back as fall of 2016 with the release of the Z9D which was then activated via a future firmware update. With the Z9D, X930/940E, and A1E supporting the format, the next obvious answer would be for Sony Pictures to support the format. Via flatpanelshd:

 The first two confirmed Dolby Vision UHD Blu-ray releases are Universal’s Despicable Me 1 & 2. We are still waiting for Warner Bros and Lionsgate, which were announced as the other two launch partners by Dolby at CES, to detail their launch plans. 

As for Sony Pictures:

PS4 gains Sudden Strike 4, an RTS

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I grew up playing RTS games from a handful of World of Warcraft games to just about every iteration of Command & Conquer you can think of. Unfortunately as we’ve moved towards a more twitch finger friendly era of gaming, RTS games have been mostly left behind, minus a few games here and there like Civilization. Now, you can add Sudden Strike 4 to the list of modern RTS games that are coming to Mac, PC, and PS4.

1-Megapixel Sony IMX382 can track moving objects at 1,000fps, helps bring vision to AI?

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To say Sony has been on a roll with their camera sensors is to say that that PS4 has been a modest success for the company. Already this year, we’re seeing the company flex their expertise by introducing slow-motion video on their upcoming Xperia XZ Premium at 960fps and their IMX390 sensor which was developed with self-driving cars in mind. Now, Sony has another sensor to introduce to the world: the IMX382. As PetaPixel points out, the IMX382 is

 an industrial sensor that can recognize and track objects at an insane 1,000fps.

The newly announced IMX382 is not destined to wind up in your smartphone, point and shoot, or ILC… it’s too small. At just 1.27MP, it was designed specifically for industrial use in factories, where it’ll spot issues with assembly line products more efficiently than anything else out there.

That’s because Sony built circuitry right into the sensor stack that can recognize and track moving objects accurately at 1,000fps 

Here’s a video of the sensor in action:

Xperia Ear Open-style CONCEPT is destined to fail

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Somehow I missed the Xperia Ear Open-Style CONCEPT (why are we yelling?) being unveiled at MWC 2017. As the name loudly suggests, it’s still a concept product but it’s meant to be another iteration of the Xperia Ear, which is already in production and was met with less than stellar reviews. Here’s Billy Steele from Engadget with a general overview:

 This new version of Xperia Ear uses “open-ear” audio tech Sony developed inside it’s Future Lab incubator program. Essentially, the wireless earbuds let noise from the outside world in while you’re wearing them. This probably sounds like a bad idea to most, but the feature will help keep you safe on a run or allow you to hear colleagues while listening to music and receiving app notifications in the office.

Details are scarce on the internals for now, but we do know that the combination of two spacial acoustic conductors and driver units beam sound directly in your ear canal. The earbud’s speaker is circular with an open center to allow those environmental sounds to come through. It will be interesting to see how well this new design stays in place as the controls components are housed in a casing that wraps under your ear and sits behind it. Like the previous version, this Open-style Concept will feature Sony’s Agent virtual assistant that’s capable of recognizing both voice cues and head gestures to lend a hand with activities. 

Sony, for its part, describes it as

Asus is also done with Android Wear, Verizon LG Watch Sport canceled

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More ammo for the narrative that Sony was extremely smart to pull out of the wearable market years before its competitors. Chaim Gartenberg from The Verge:

 Asus is reportedly ending development on its ZenWatch line of Android Wear smartwatches, according to a report today from Digitimes that cited sources in Taiwan’s supply chain. 

As Chaim notes, Asus was at best able to sell between 5,000 to 6,000 units a month which surely doesn’t justify the product’s R&D, let alone all the other costs which are associated with bringing such a product to market. This goes to show that if these are the best numbers Asus could muster up, Sony’s numbers likely were much worse as they never promoted their lineup in the same way.