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.

9 new titles come to PlayStation Now

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PlayStation Now, the streaming game service which is accessible on PS4 and PC, is gaining 9 new titles. As it stands, PlayStation Now gives you access to over 500 PS3 titles and it’s expected that PS4 titles will eventually make the list as well. Previously, PS Now was also available on PS3, PS Vita, and various Sony TVs and Blu-ray players but that came to a halt earlier this year. The reason? Likely those impending PS4 titles which likely required a little bit more juice than older consoles and TVs could handle. As for the new titles coming to PS Now, they include:

Netflix will no longer work on rooted Xperia phones

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If you’ve got a rooted Xperia tablet or phone and you’ve noticed Netflix isn’t working for you anymore, it’s not you. The streaming giant has announced a policy shift which makes their app inoperable on rooted Android devices. Jon Fingas from Engadget:

 Netflix has confirmed that its app is no longer visible on Google Play to anyone with a device that is “not Google-certified or [has] been altered.” A spokesperson tells Android Police that it’s all about a shift in copy protection. Version 5.0 of the Netflix app now leans entirely on Google’s Widevine digital rights management to prevent piracy, so it has to treat those modified devices as incompatible. The crackdown isn’t completely shocking, but it does create some issues.

There’s certainly an incentive for the shift in strategy: now that you can download shows, piracy is more of a concern than ever. In theory, it’s a bit easier to strip the copy protection from the downloaded copy of a Netflix series than it is to rip the stream. And when you root a device to gain more control over the operating system, you potentially have a better chance of circumventing that DRM than you would otherwise. 

May 2017 Android security updates comes to Xperia XZ, X Performance, X, and X Compact

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Man, if Sony keeps this up, it almost won’t be newsworthy anymore. Less than halfway into the month and Sony already has the May 2017 Android security update available for a handful of phones. From XperiaBlog:

 Xperia XZ and Xperia X Performance have seen their build numbers move from 41.2.A.2.199 to version 41.2.A.2.223 in this new software.

While, at the same time, the Xperia X and Xperia X Compact have seen their build numbers move from 34.2.A.2.47 to version 34.2.A.2.69. The Xperia X and X Compact remain on Android 7.0 for now. No other changes have been noted so far. 

Sony Xperia XZ Premium 960fps slo-mo showed off

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If you have friends who are willing to dance for you in a pond or have a lot of paint dust sitting around, the Xperia XZ Premium is going to be a hoot. That’s because one of the biggest features of the flagship phone is an all new 19-megapixel rear-camera dubbed The Motion Eye camera that

 records 960 frames per second for Super slow motion playback, revealing life’s hidden magic. The footage is four times slower than videos from other smartphones1, so all the drama and detail is uncovered. 

To show off what the camera is capable of, Sony invited a host of guests and had them wear lab coats and shoot a series of videos which you can see below: