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.
I 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:
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.
Putting the practicality of needing or wanting a camera on your Android Wear smartwatch or Apple Watch aside, it looks like Sony might be the first at developing a sensor small enough to a fit camera inside our wearable companions. Hillary Grigonis from Digital Trends:
The company says it’s the smallest one megapixel sensor yet and could help reduce the size — or increase the features — of smartwatches and other small, lightweight devices.
The sensor captures images at about 1,296 pixels at the longest edge, yet the sensor itself only measures two millimeters. That sensor is paired with a low-profile lens that measures 2.6 millimeters. The circuit that connects the camera to the rest of whatever tiny device it’s implemented in is also tiny — Sony reduced the number of conductor pins to 20 to shrink the connection down to 3.3 millimeters.
Another important milestone for the sensors are their low power consumption which, while important in mobile, is the difference between functional and not for wearables.
A fairly unknown party of Sony’s business to many is their professional lineup of equipment that’s mainly targeted at those in the broadcast community. From Bundesliga games to the biggest films to come out of Hollywood, there is a good chance that some Sony equipment was used. To that end, Sony is bringing to market a portable and shock resistant Thunderbolt 2 RAID drive which comes in a 4TB and 6TB configuration that’s meant to accommodate those shooting in 4K.
Sony’s expanding line of professional storage technologies now includes two distinctive, rugged and portable RAID (dual 3.5 inch HDD) products for ultra-fast data transfer on location in 6TB and 4TB capacities. Each new model has the transfer speeds and high performance needed for 4K production and deliver effective high-capacity content workflow options from the field to the studio.
Sony continues with:
I haven’t had a chance to write about it quite yet but if early reviews are any indication, the Sony Xperia Ear is a hot mess of a product which I’ll be covering soon. Regular readers will know that recently I’ve been banging hard on the AI drums and believe like mobile, which set the precedence in tech for a decade and dramatically shifted the power players of the world, AI will do the same for the next decade. To their credit, unlike with mobile, Sony is getting into it early and it will be some time before true market leaders are established. Till then, we’re going to get a bevy of products that incorporate voice and AI in one way or another.
Today’s news that Google Assistant is coming to Sony TVs and speakers is a big win for Sony in the short term. From Sony:
I’ve written extensively about a transformation that’s been happening at PlayStation where a division that was once responsible for just one console every few years is now one of the biggest pillars of Sony. One key reason for it is that PlayStation is shifting from just a hardware vendor – though this year alone, they’ve released more hardware than ever before, PS4 slim, PS4 Pro, and PS VR – to a company that’s rich with services. They include PlayStation Now, which gives you the ability to stream PS3 games on numerous devices, including PS4, PC, and countless 4K TVs and PlayStation Vue, Sony’s vision of what the future of TV looks like. And one key advantage that services have over hardware is the recurring revenue they produce. Where with a PS4 purchase, you only once plunk down $299 or $399 once and purchase a handful of games a year, with PS Now or PS Vue, you’re continuously generating revenue for Sony and investors are beginning to take note of that.
If you set your time machine back all the way to January 2014, you’ll remember that creditor giant Moody’s downgraded Sony’s credit rating to junk. While potentially trivial sounding, credit ratings go a long way towards helping companies secure loans and determine their rates. For Sony, with a less than stellar rating, you can be assured that they’ve been paying for every penny they’ve borrowed in order to to grow and turn around their business.
As Robert Fenner writes for Bloomberg, after years of shuttering divisions and pivoting their business, Sony is beginning to show signs of its former self.
In late summer, it was revealed that Sony was selling its battery business to Apple supplier Murata Manufacturing. Since 2010, the division had trouble staying profitable and has resulted in a $600 million write down in just the past three years for Sony. But things weren’t always this way and in the early 2000’s, the division was profitable and perhaps we now know why.
The European Commission has hit Sony, Panasonic and Sanyo with a €166 million fine after finding the three tech giants guilty of forging a cartel for rechargeable batteries.
But this tale gets so much more interesting, including being ratted out by Samsung! Oh my.
Just a fun followup on my last week’s mini rant against analysts and with no sense of irony, I introduce to you, a mysterious “Contributor” at Forbes.
In trading on Thursday, shares of Sony Corp (NYSE: SNE) entered into oversold territory, hitting an RSI reading of 27.6, after changing hands as low as $28.22 per share. By comparison, the current RSI reading of the S&P 500 ETF (SPY) is 62.5. A bullish investor could look at SNE’s 27.6 RSI reading today as a sign that the recent heavy selling is in the process of exhausting itself, and begin to look for entry point opportunities on the buy side. The chart below shows the one year performance of SNE shares:
What a difference a week makes. Where a week ago was all about the ‘now’ and finding the best deals possible in that given moment, this week is all about reflecting on the year we’ve had and the year that’s to come. On Thursday night, Allegra attended (and I watched live at home, in 4k!) The Game Awards – a night where we can honor those who’ve made the games we love possible. It’s easy to get wrapped up in what games are or aren’t and even easier to forget the talented people and the countless hours they put into creating these worlds. Those of you who’ve subscribed to our weekly newsletter can read more about my thoughts later today and see why I find the show so important.
The Game Awards aside, this weekend is also part of a new tradition created by Sony three years ago – PlayStation Experience, a mini E3-like convention that’s all about the fans. Once a year in December, Sony puts on a show where they unveil new gameplay footages, host panels with developers, and sell plenty of merch. A genius move on Sony’s part to enter the final stretch of the year and the ever important holiday shopping season with a hyped up and loyal fanbase. At its core, PSX is a show that’s designed with fans, not journalists or industry insiders in mind and it’s easy to lose sight of that when you’re on my side of the fence – that for many of those attending, they’re meeting their heroes and role models – and what a feeling it must be for them who aren’t surrounded by gaming/tech news 24/7 to go in and experience new titles and new tech like VR by the company that’s making them.
Some welcome news for 4K TV owners. YouTube is upping its game by offering 4K live-streams on YouTube, including for 360-degree videos at 60fps. This comes in addition to 4K HDR video playback that YouTube already provides. Just last night, The Game Awards were streamed across multiple platforms, including YouTube, and I watched in crystal clear 4K which made it a treat when they showcased Death Stranding running in 4K on PS4 Pro.
Sony makes a ton of products that the average person is aware of: PlayStation, TVs, Xperia phones (people sort of know about this), and other home accessories, but the company also operates in a lot of markets most aren’t aware of. Medical, ISP, insurance business, and yes, even the video surveillance market. In this case, Bosch and Sony are teaming up in an unusual but quite appropriate way where Sony will do what it does best – make hardware – and Bosch will use its name recognition and take over marketing – something Sony is terrible at.
When it comes to The Verge, I have a bit of love/hate relationship with their writing. Thanks to their size and reach, The Verge is able to attend any press event and get any their hands on any product they want to review. Mix that with some very smart writers and you have a combination that’s sure to provide some truly compelling pieces, yet I often find myself disagreeing with their takes. Yes their reach and access gives them interesting pieces that they can cover, but so many times, their take on the material seems convoluted and out of touch, not truly representing the real world.
This week’s newsletter will be blasting off in just a few hours so if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe. And as always, if you have any feedback, let me know in the comments section or on Twitter (@SonyRumors). The big focus of today’s piece is all about AI and Sony’s ambitions going forward. I’ve touched upon this a few times in the last few newsletters and various pieces written around the Xperia Ear, but with it now having officially launched worldwide, I felt it appropriate to revisit the subject.
Sony missed out on the mobile race like Microsoft did but with AI, they’re getting into it at a decent time – but is timing enough?