Sony Corp.

Sony 22.5-Megapixel Exmor RS Image Sensor (IMX318) With Hybrid Autofocus Announced

Sony IMX318 Image Sensor

Some interesting news out of Sony today that the above headline doesn’t properly convey, due to size limitations. The better headline (which is directly from Sony) should read as:

 Sony Announces a New Type 1/2.6 22.5 Megapixel Exmor RS, the Industry’s First Stacked CMOS Image Sensor with Built-in Hybrid Autofocus and 3-Axis Electronic Image Stabilization 

So what’s all the hoopla about?

Sony Losing Apple as They Fall Behind on Dual-Lens Camera Production for iPhone 7+


One of the biggest eyebrow raisers from the Sony Q4 FY15 earnings report was the huge drop in Devices – down ¥75.3 billion compared to a year ago. For those unaware, Devices comprises mostly of Sony’s semiconductor business which supplies companies such as Apple and Samsung with components like batteries and camera sensors. At that time, I had heard from:

 a little birdie that Sony may have lost a major customer which could lend credence to the dramatic drop. 

Now it’s looking like my initial sources were spot on.

Sony Invests in AI Startup, Wants Them to Learn From Their Own Experiences


Mona Lalwani writes for Engadget about a new partnership between Sony and AI startup Cogitai to “build intelligent systems that will learn from their own experiences in the world.” Dr. Satinder Singh, co-founder of Cogitai which Sony has now invested in:

 We have a shared vision for where AI needs to go. The next wave will be ‘continual learning.’ It’s the idea that machine intelligence will continually grow as it interacts with the world. 

So what is continual learning?

Sony’s Prototype Projector Turns Any Tabletop Into a Touch-Sensitive Display

Future Lab, Sony’s US based R&D division which recently debuted a more realized concept N headphones that don’t need to go on your ear in the traditional sense to hear, is at it again with a projector that’s able to turn any ordinary tabletop into a computer out of Tony Stark’s lab. Nick Statt writing for The Verge:

The “Interactive Tabletop” concept uses depth sensors and motion tracking to know when objects are placed on the table and even bring storybooks to life.

Status of Sony Group Business Operations Affected by 2016 Kumamoto Earthquakes (Fourth Update)

Sony_ Kumamoto_Image_Sensor_Plant

Ever since a series of earthquakes in mid-April damaged Sony’s image sensor factory in Kumamoto, the company has been updating investors with the status of its factory which provides components for Apple’s iPhone. It seems that since their early May update, Sony has made significant progress towards fully restoring the factory.

 as of May 9, 2016, testing operations, which are one of the back-end processes carried out on the upper layer of the building, have resumed and other back-end processes, such as assembly, are also expected to restart sequentially beginning May 17, 2016. 

Sony Named World’s 76th Most Valuable Brand


Sony has been named the worlds 76th most valuable company according to the yearly list by Forbes, which ranks the top 100 companies. Leading the list is once again Apple with a brand value of $154.1B and $233.7B revenue. For comparison, the Sony brand is valued at $7.6 billion with a $59.3B revenue. To put that in context, Apple made $6.056 billion in revenue from software and services (iTunes & iCloud) just last quarter.

Sony Plans To Develop An Education And Testing Platform Powered By The Blockchain


Sony has been making a lot of long term strategic decisions lately, like helping Montclair State University build up their Communications and Media building which will be equipped with all Sony gear. Similar to Sony’s DMPC operation in Hollywood,

the Montclair State facility will be a training and educational resource, with cutting-edge 4K facilities available to students and production professionals in every aspect of the creative process. Sony will use the space to host business development events, conduct training and promote new technologies, establishing Montclair State University as a preferred environment for Sony’s introduction of new products, technologies and services relating to television, film, media and higher education.

Now Sony is placing another bet on education by utilizing the tech that powers bitcoin of all things. Jon Russell writes for TechCrunch:

Sony is one company looking to take advantage of the blockchain, technology that underpins cyptocurrency bitcoin, after the Japanese company announced plans to build a centralized platform for educational assessment and testing scores.

The Sony Global Education division of the company has developed technology that uses the blockchain to house educational data that can be securely shared with other services and third parties. Sony said it believes it could realize an entirely new infrastructure system with this technology, which it described as having the potential to be a central system for candidates and their test results, much like a universal education ID or a more official version of resume sites like LinkedIn.

From Sony:

For example, after taking an examination to demonstrate his or her academic proficiency level, an individual could direct the testing organization to share the test results with one or more third-party evaluating organizations. This would be a first if implemented on a system-wide basis.

More after the jump.

4 Sony Devices Find Their Place on the ’50 Most Influential Gadgets of All Time’ List


From TIME:

 Think of the gear you can’t live without: The smartphone you constantly check. The camera that goes with you on every vacation. The TV that serves as a portal to binge-watching and -gaming. Each owes its influence to one model that changed the course of technology for good. 

This list couldn’t have come at a better time as Sony celebrated its 70th birthday on Saturday and what a 70 years it’s been. I don’t say this lightly when I say Sony is the closest any company has come to matching and perhaps even exceeding the influence that Apple has had on our lives. While the last two decades might be dominated mostly by Apple, Sony’s influence throughout the years cannot be ignored.

From changing how we watch TV with the Trinitron to how we entertain ourselves with Walkman and PlayStation – Sony has forever altered our lives with their rich products. Even today Sony is challenging the notion of how we view photography by being a champion of E-mount cameras and taking on once dominant competitors Nikon and Canon.

 Some of these, like Sony’s Walkman, were the first of their kind. Others, such as the iPod, propelled an existing idea into the mainstream. Some were unsuccessful commercially, but influential nonetheless. And a few represent exciting but unproven new concepts (looking at you, Oculus Rift). 

After the jump, the four Sony products that made the 50 most influential gadgets of all time list.

Sony Turns 70 Years Old Today

Sony has officially turned 70 years young today, a milestone seldom reached by tech companies. Founded by Akio Morita and Masaru Ibuka on May 7th, 1946, the company was originally called ‘Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo.’ Seeing how the name would be hard to pronounce for Western countries, a key area to expand to if Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo were to become a global brand, co-founder Akio Morita would rename the company to Sony, as a mix of two words.

 These were the Latin word ‘Sonus’ which is the root of sonic and sound, and ‘Sonny’ which was a common American term in the 50’s for a boy.  

Come 1958, Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo would change to Sony. Despite their downs, Sony has had a long history of creating industry and in fact culturally changing products like the Trinitron televisions, Walkman, and PlayStation to name a few. Throughout that time, Sony has become synonymous with quality hardware and was in fact an inspiration to the late Apple founder, Steve Jobs. That’s why it may surprise you to learn that the first product out of then Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo was not in fact electronic or at least not in the way we would think about electronics today. Instead, it was a rice cooker.

  Masaru Ibuka’s (later Sony co-founder) first step into the world of consumer electronics was an electronic rice cooker. You may be wondering why you’ve never seen this in the market. Unfortunately that’s because the device consistently either undercooked or overcooked rice. It seems the ability to cook rice was an important factor in a rice cooker and so the product failed to be a commercial success… 

Perhaps not for their 70th but when Sony celebrates their 100th anniversary, how wonderful would it be for them to release a limited run rice cooker? I know I’d buy it. With no shortage of Sony products in my household, I’d instead love to hear from you and see what some of your Sony products of the past have been and what you most look forward to from the company in the coming years.

Sony Xperia XA Ad – It’s Like Getting an Engagement Ring? On a Bus…?

Sony Xperia XA Ad

I’ve often argued that one of the biggest challenges facing Sony is their lack of advertisement and that they make some fantastic hardware, only to forget to tell others that it exists. The launch of the upcoming Xperia X family, which consists of the Xperia X, XA, and XA Performance, will be a pinnacle moment for the company. Not only is the new lineup here to replace the Z5 family, but it’s also the first time Sony’s had a chance to build a new phone from the ground up in some time. Gone are any ties to a predecessor as engineers were allowed to craft something from scratch and hopefully set the foundation for Sony Mobile going forward.

Luckily for us, Sony has heard the cry and put together an ad for the Xperia XA. Unlike other videos we’ve posted which are meant to boast a device’s technical prowess, this 30 second spot is a full on ad – but one that frankly makes me yearn for the good old days when Sony didn’t make ads for their devices. I simply cannot tell you how terrible and dry this ad is. It’s as if everybody got together in a board room, somebody asked “what makes people feel touchy wutchy” and somebody yelled out “a engagement!” because they were just engaged, and the meeting was adjourned. From there, the ad team put together the most empty shelled take on engagements while shoving a product in there to sell. What was ultimately created was the ad you’ll soon see.

I’m reminded of a scene from the upcoming Ghostbusters trailer (which is from Sony Pictures) where Leslie Jones is forced to slap a ghost out of Melissa McCarthy, yelling “the power of pain compels you.” It’s just that Sony is Melissa and I’m Leslie.

The Power of Pain

I cannot tell you by how much this ad misses the mark by feeling emotionless, clunky, and dry. Oh yea, and there is something about a phone in it too. The Sony Xperia XA ad is after the jump.

NBC to Utilize Sony Broadcast & Production Equipment For 2016 Olympic Games in Rio


One of the most delightful things about attending CES is that Sony has the ability to show off sporting events like the World Cup and Olympics in glorious, uncompressed 4K. 4K over the airwaves is already next to non-existent and when you can get it, be it from satellite or streaming services, chances are that it’s gone through multiple layers of compression before it ever hits your screen. But when you’re at CES, Sony can just bring you that 4K content in the most pure way possible and boy does it dazzle. Not so coincidentally, all that footage is captured on various professional Sony cameras and other related production equipment and the 2016 Olympic games in Rio won’t be any different.

NBC Olympics crews will use more than 100 Sony cameras to capture footage at event venues and record athlete arrivals, interviews, press conferences and other assignments that require studio and portable recording and capture. NBC Olympics will also use Sony’s HDC-4300 4K high frame rate camera system for HD replays and the PWS-4500 XAVC server to capture and store high speed HD content from the HDC-4300.

Hopefully one day soon we’ll have access to all the beautiful footage that’s captured via these Sony cameras because a sporting event in beautiful 4K and a proper sound system is like nothing you’ve ever witnessed before. Unless it’s golf – then it’s just people wacking away at a ball every 30 minutes. After the jump, the full breakdown of Sony gear used in this year’s Olympic games.

Status of Sony Group Manufacturing Operations Affected by 2016 Kumamoto Earthquakes (Third Update)

Sony_ Kumamoto_Image_Sensor_Plant

In mid April, a series of earthquakes struck Japan, resulting in a disruption of Sony’s image sensor factories which are used in iPhone. With one factory fully shut down and another running at less than optimal, Sony was forced to postpone their earnings result for the fiscal year so they could better assess the situation. Now Sony has released their latest status reports though things are nowhere near conclusive.

 With aftershocks continuing and employee safety the foremost priority, inspections of the facility and the development of a recovery plan remain ongoing 

As always, business aside, I’m hoping for the best by those affected by this. The full report regarding the Kumamoto earthquakes is after the jump.

Sony Q1 2016 Earnings – Gaming & Media Up, Electronics Flat, and Components Down

(As always, keep in mind that these charts are fairly wide and created in very high resolution so simply click on them to enlarge)

The more I look at Sony’s Q4 FY15 earnings report which comprises of how they did in Q1 2016, the more hopeful and cautious I am of the company. In short, I find the direction Kaz Hirai is pursuing to be the correct one for Sony at the time. The question which remains is if Sony can execute his vision at a quick enough pace and transition to the next phase which is being a more lean and robust company with hopefully better selling devices on the market. That is outside of PlayStation which continues to do gangbuster numbers. Otherwise for Sony, it’s a tale of lower sales but higher profits, thanks to their more premium lineup which offers better margins.

If you look at the above chart, you’ll notice that excluding entertainment endeavors which in my mind comprises of PlayStation, Sony Pictures, and Sony Music, most of Sony’s electronic businesses were down compared to a year ago’s quarter. I’ve already discussed in length what’s been happening at Sony Mobile which you can read about here. However as the chart below shows, despite a drop in sales, Sony’s prospects on each division is improving, including their troubled mobile division. In fact Sony has posted a 666.5% rise in pretax profit for its full fiscal year.

Across nearly all core electronics business, Sony has seen a rise in operating income, even if they’re still posting negative numbers. The reason Financial Services dipped is mostly due to stock market volatility which has been in full affect the entire year. As Sony put it:

 Increases in the amortization of deferred insurance acquisition costs and the provision of policy reserves, primarily driven by a significant decrease in interest rates and the deterioration in the stock market 

For comparison, Apple each quarter has ‘lost’ more money due to currency volatility than companies like Facebook actually make. Context is king, right? Otherwise, as I said earlier, it seems like most of Sony’s businesses are humming right along the path set out by Kaz. However, let’s not forget about the elephant in the room – that division right in the middle – Devices. As you can see, compared to a year ago’s quarter, Devices is down ¥75.3 billion. It’s as if that division fell off of a cliff. For those unaware, Devices comprises mostly of Sony’s semiconductor business which supplies companies like Apple and Samsung things like batteries and camera sensors. According to Sony, the large negative number is in part due to:

Deterioration in the operating results of the camera module business

Deterioration in the operating results of the battery business

Increases in depreciation and amortization expenses as well as in research and development expenses

I’ve heard from a little birdie that Sony may have lost a major customer which could lend credence to the dramatic drop. Otherwise it’s hard to equate their reasonings and that number but for now, all we have is Sony’s vague statement on the matter. For those wondering what percentage of the company each division of Sony comprises, wonder no more with the chart below.

Way more details on each division from the Sony Q1 2016 earnings report after the jump.

Sony Profits Up 666% While Revenue Slightly Dips by 1.2%


It’s earnings time again and as a whole, things are going well for Sony as evident by the:

 666.5% rise in pretax profit for its full fiscal year 

This can be mainly attributed to the strong performance of PS4 and Sony’s ability to cut costs within its mobile division. All of this has led to:

 income before taxes for the year ending March 31 came in at 304.5 billion yen ($2.81 billion), a big rise from the 39.7 billion yen recorded during the same period last year. Operating profit rose 329.2% to 294.2 billion yen, its largest figure since fiscal 2007 

Looking at things more closely, mobile is still a business that’s struggling for Sony but losses did narrow to:

 61.4 billion yen from 217.6 billion in fiscal 2015 

Ultimately that operating loss of ¥61.4 billion ($544 million) was 57.4% bigger than the company predicted a year ago but that’s mainly due to Sony choosing profits over scale which has also led to a revenue dip of 20% compared to the year prior. Kazuo Hirai:

 If it means that we’re selling less number of phones going out the door. We’re fine with that so long as we have a profitable business, and we’re really on our way to being profitable in that regard 

Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight is more optimistic about Sony Mobile’s future. While what he has to say isn’t wrong; it’s up to Sony to be able to capitalize on future opportunities, especially now that they’re more lean than years past and the division hasn’t shown the same foresight as PlayStation to garner the benefit of the doubt. Ben Wood:

 Sony Mobile has embarked on some aggressive cost reduction over the last 12 months. This has seen it exit markets such as China, India and the U.S. as well as reducing its headcount. Now the business unit has more stable financial position to build on as it looks to driving a return to growth 

It’s no secret that gaming continues to become a more critical division of Sony and PlayStation did little to disappoint. Operating income for the Games division rose 84.3% to to ¥88.7 billion ($785 million) and an 11.8% improvement in sales. Both software and hardware sales for PS4 were up year-over-year which is helping offset the predictable decline of PS3 sales. PlayStation VR will also go on sale later this year but I’m doubtful first year sales will have a large impact on the bottom line as larger consumer interest in VR has yet to be determined and it’s unclear how profitable each VR headset is for Sony. However, if VR does take off, Sony is well positioned.

More after the jump.

Sony and Montclair State University Bring Touch of Hollywood to East Coast


Sony has been making some interesting strategic decisions lately.

In a move that will bring Hollywood’s newest technology to New Jersey, Montclair State University has entered into a strategic alliance with Sony Electronics, one of the world’s and the state’s technology leaders. The agreement puts into place a long-term plan to enable the University’s communication and media students to gain real-world experience and get a high-tech preview of their future careers. The University’s new School of Communication and Media building, currently under construction on the 252-acre, suburban New Jersey campus, will provide a facility where Sony will offer industry professional training similar to what is offered at its Digital Motion Picture Center (DMPC) on the lot of Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, California. Slated for completion in spring 2017, Montclair State’s new School of Communication and Media building will have the distinction of being one of the most extensive 4K studio and production facilities in the country located on a university campus. It will include studios and classrooms, as well as a theater outfitted with Sony laser projectors, studio cameras, production switchers and monitors. The strategic alliance between Montclair State and Sony, however, extends far beyond the equipping of this new state-of-the-art building.

Though they won’t be yielding any fruit from this in the short term, Sony is empowering a creative community that will learn and create on their equipments. Particularly in Hollywood, we see it time and time again where directors and talents champion things they grew up with like the love for 35mm film that J.J. Abrams & Quentin Tarantino share. This loyalty also extends to where they’re likely to set up shop which could allow Sony Pictures in the feature to more easily scoop up talent.

Similar to Sony’s DMPC operation in Hollywood, the Montclair State facility will be a training and educational resource, with cutting-edge 4K facilities available to students and production professionals in every aspect of the creative process. Sony will use the space to host business development events, conduct training and promote new technologies, establishing Montclair State University as a preferred environment for Sony’s introduction of new products, technologies and services relating to television, film, media and higher education. Additionally, Sony will enable Montclair State communication and media students to attend the annual National Association of Broadcasters conference and will create internship, mentoring and training opportunities for them. Sony technologies are also used by professionals in a range of b-to-b applications and markets, including live event and sports production, faith, government, education, and healthcare.

More after the jump.