Why CES 2017 was Sony’s best

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One of the topics I despise the most after any show, be it CES or E3, is who “won” – as if there is some award given to the company that shouts the loudest or has the shiniest new thing. Well, I digress, I guess there is – show after show, news publications, blogs, and online personalities crown differing products as “best of show,” “best in class,” “most innovative” and so on and companies hoard them as much as possible to shout out how good their new box is. But to believe in that is to believe in the hype bubble that is CES and luckily Sony smartly didn’t play into that hand – let me explain.

Sony MWC 2017 keynote date and time revealed

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I’ve been talking a lot about what we may and may not see at MWC 2017 during the past week without knowing exactly when Sony would take to stage to reveal their latest mobile products. Now Sony Mobile has made their plans for Mobile World Congress official which will see them take to stage on Monday, February 27th at 8:30am CET. As always Sony Mobile will livestream the event, likely directly on their blog and on Ustream which nobody else on the planet uses but hey, what do I know?

Sony comments on the future of indie games on PlayStation

Florian_HunzikerSome time around July of last year, Adam Boyes, then head of Vice President of Third-Party Relations at Sony Interactive Entertainment, announced he’d be departing from PlayStation in order to get back into game development which is how he originally started out his career. Since that time, his role has remained vacant for a good reason: Boyes brought so much to PlayStation and specifically PS4. With him at the helm, Sony saw a palpable growth of indie developers wanting to bring their titles to PlayStation.

After nearly 6 months without a head, Sony is officially filling in the position with former Harmonix COO, Florian Hunziker, who shared his thoughts on how he wishes to utilize his role at the company:

Facebook paid nearly $3 billion for Oculus, nearly $1 billion more than initial announcement

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Holy. Shit.

Facebook has paid nearly $3 billion for Oculus and they’re still getting their ass kicked by PlayStation VR which costs a fraction and has a far higher marketshare. Patrick O’Rourke tackles the story for mobilesyrup:

 Zuckerberg visited a Dallas, Texas courtroom to testify in the ongoing lawsuit against Oculus by video game publisher Zenimax, which claims the Rift is based on technology John Carmack — who at one point was working for ZeniMax and Oculus at the same time — created while still working for his previous employer.

Facebook revealed that it paid a total of $2 billion USD for Oculus when the transaction was initially announced in 2014. Now, according to Zuckerberg’s testimony, Facebook actually paid an additional $1 billion for the company that consisted of employee retention packages and goal targets. This means Oculus paid a total of $3 billion for the virtual reality headset manufacturer. 

Developers Guerrilla Cambridge close studio

Guerrilla_CambridgeI somehow missed this news last week but Guerrilla Cambridge, the highly talented crew behind RIGS for PlayStation VR, is closing up shop. Robert Purchese writes for EuroGamer:

 Sony is closing Guerrilla Cambridge, the developer of PlayStation VR game Rigs Mechanized Combat League. The studio was formerly SCEE Cambridge, and was in operation for 19 years.

Guerrilla Games’ main studio in Amsterdam, where PlayStation 4-exclusive Horizon: Zero Dawn is being made, will not be affected. 

According to Sony:

Sony Xperia Z6 Tablet on the way at MWC?

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A tipster sent a piece by James Peckham from Tech Radar India about the possibility of an Xperia Z6 Tablet being released at MWC later this year. In it, James writes:

 Sony released the Xperia Z5 at the tail end of 2015, but its last slate was the Xperia Z4 Tablet a whole generation earlier, and more recently Sony has shown little interest in either tablets or the Xperia Z range, with new Xperia X and Xperia XZ handsets launching instead.

So we’ve been due a new slate for quite some time.

The Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet was a great attempt, topping our list of the best Android slates , at least until the Google Pixel C and Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 arrived. But there’s plenty that Sony can do better, especially with so much time having passed, so we’ve made a check list of what we’d like to see to help them out. 

That’s all well and good, but the piece seems to entirely dismiss what’s been happening in the Android tablet space. In late October, I wrote a piece called

and the gist of it is that Android tablets, as far as Google and its OEM partners are concerned, is a dead market with little being given to the OS to better utilize the additional screen space. With next to no support from Google and a severe lack of native tablet apps, consumers never really flocked to Android tablets and in return, OEMs mostly abandoned it. What follows in the piece reads more like speculation leading up to a product that is typically updated yearly.

Mid-range Sony G32XX phones in 2017 could have 4GB RAM

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At MWC in Barcelona, Sony will likely unveil two mid-range smartphones with specs that could put some flagship phones to shame. Codenamed G32XX, little is known about them so far though some specs have made their way to benchmarking site AnTuTu. As always, specs like this should be taken with a grain of salt but if true, Sony could have some juicy phones on their hands.

Sony introduces Dolby Atmos DN1080 receiver

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CES 2017 saw Sony unveil a host of goodies for home theater enthusiasts, ranging from TVs to sound bars and receivers. The big takeaway from Sony at CES was Dolby, in that they are bringing support for Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos. To that end:

Having heard the ST5000 sound bar in person, I can definitely tell you that for a majority of consumers, they’ll simply be blown away by the sound quality and if you can manage to find content in Dolby Atmos, you’ll swear that there are hidden speakers installed. Still, some need a bit more firepower and flexibility, which is where the Dolby Atmos DN1080 receiver comes into play. From Simon Lucas at What Hi-Fi:

Android Wear 2.0 will launch in February, but don’t expect a SmartWatch 4 from Sony

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In a little less than a month’s time, Android Wear 2.0 will be launching for wearables from the Android camp. The software was originally set to launch in Fall but for unknown reasons was delayed and once it does launch, it’s still unclear what wearables will be eligible to receive it. Patrick O’Rourke writing for mobilesyrup:

 It’s believed that negative feedback from the final preview developer build forced the company to hold back Android Wear 2.0’s release. Now, however, a recent notice sent out to developers indicates that Wear 2.0 will launch at some point in the next few weeks.

The notice was specifically sent out to developers with apps using Wear’s legacy APK installation mechanism. Wear 2.0 features an on-watch Play Store with support for standalone application that don’t require a phone companion app. Apps that have not been updated with new support will not show up in the Wear 2.0 store when it launches, according to the email sent to developers. 

Another not so good Sony Xperia Ear review

Sony_Xperia_Ear_1_CES2017Prior to its release, IBT had a chance to spend some time with the Sony Xperia Ear, the assistant-driven headset, and when released, didn’t have many positive things to say about it other than some apps like Maps tend to work well with it.

 Directions also work quite well. Ask for directions to Manchester and the Ear will ask if you want to travel by car, public transport or walking. Give your answer and within a couple of seconds the directions appear on your phone. 

Ultimately they concluded with

 Xperia Ear is simply frustrating. It lacks any form of wow factor and doesn’t offer any real benefits over talking to Siri or Google Now through the headphones you are already using. The Ear would probably look good on the set of a sci-fi film, but in the real world it just doesn’t make sense. 

Now Cherlynn Low from Engadget has released her take on the wearable and it’s not looking good for Sony. For those who like their dessert first, Cherlynn writes:

Sony & Numskull launch PlayStation VR headset stand

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If you love your PlayStation VR and want to showcase it instead of just shoving it in a cabinet when you’re done gaming, the following is just for you. Sony and Numskull have teamed up to design an official PlayStation VR headset stand.

 Display your VR headset the best way with this stylish officially licensed PlayStation VR Headset Stand. This high-quality build obsidian headset stand comes with an adjustable metallic base with engraved logos, and a velcro tie to manage your VR headset cables. 

According to Numskull, the headset stand offers:

Android 7.0 Nougat could be headed to Xperia Z4 Tablet, Z3+, and Z5 soon

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Nobody, including yours truly, thought that Sony Mobile could get their house in order and release Android updates in a more timely manner but the latter part of 2016 began to prove critics wrong. In early Fall 2016, Sony announced that outside of Google, they wanted to be the first OEM to bring Android 7.1.1 to their fleet and they did exactly that at the beginning of January.

Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton stepping down, joining Snapchat

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Not a lot of details on this story yet but Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton (pictured right) who oversees Sony Pictures among other things is stepping down to join Span Inc., the company behind Snapchat. This is a big shift for Sony as Lynton was the man with a plan to help transition Sony Pictures into a healthier state.

I’m not sure about all the dots yet but there’s been a lot of rumble around Sony Pictures as of late with the division either going under the watchful eye of Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Andrew Houseor perhaps being up for sale with CBS’s Leslie Moonves showing a lot of interest. I’m sure as the day and week progresses, we’ll find out a bit more about why Lynton decided to jump ship to a tech company though I doubt we’ll find out the real fate of Sony Pictures quite yet.

AI and robotics to become a key pillar of Sony

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Long before LG, Panasonic, and others got into the robotics business, Sony was not only doing heavy research in the field, but also had a fully functional consumer product: AIBO. Sure, compared to technology today AIBO’s functionality appears basic, but for its time, the fact that AIBO could walk around the house, have minimal interactions/reactions, and even allow for things like logging in via a computer app and see from its perspective were fairly advanced.

Still it’s hard to blame Sony for eventually dropping the venture. Today, we take a lot of the tech at our disposal like vast availability of Wi-Fi, 4G, and computer miniaturization for granted, which no matter how much money Sony poured into AIBO, would not have been available in the early 2000s. To put the rapid pace of computer miniaturization, which is a necessity for robotics into context, the Apple AirPods, which house their custom W1 chip  are actually more powerful than the original iPhone. Now take the leap of computing power and add to it modern and more nimble operating systems with cloud connectivity and we can begin to see a far more advanced AIBO which is clearly what Sony is aiming for.

Future Xperia phones could offer an OLED display

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After CES 2017, it’s hard to write off the prospects of OLED displays coming to any of Sony’s product lineup. The biggest challenge with OLED has always been creating them in high volume for larger sized products like TV at a profit, making the introduction of them to the Xperia line a far easier task to achieve. With Sony clearly having mastered and learned a lot from creating the A1E OLED TV which provides beautiful contrast and wizbang features that prevent onscreen burnage which is far more relevant for mobile devices with static UI, the idea of future Xperia phones getting an OLED display isn’t as far fetched as it was 6 months ago.