SRN Editorial

Sony Xperia Ear Commands

sony_xperia_ear_put_away

For those regularly tuning in, you’ll know that I’ve had a bit of an infatuation with the Sony Xperia Ear. Just a few pieces I’ve written on it include:

I think you’ll find each piece worthy of your time as they paint my concerns with the product and Sony in general. Now I fundamentally believe that this is a product category that Sony needs to be in. AI-driven devices will shape the next decade, make no mistake about it, but is it the Xperia Ear? I’m not sure it is. Besides a high price tag and lackluster marketing videos (so what’s new, a lot of you would say), the Xperia Ear appears to be severely limiting.

PlayStation Just Went from a Product to a Company

playstation_company_products

Since its Japanese launch on December 3, 1994, PlayStation, the now 21-year-old gaming division of Sony, has all been about making one thing: gaming consoles. Released on average every 5 years, Sony’s pattern with PlayStation by now is fairly predictable – release a console and follow through with a slim variant halfway through its life cycle. For Sony, the slim model has typically allowed them to give their aged console a smaller profile with improved internals for better efficiency such as power consumption and heat output.

Along with those external and internal shifts, Sony typically introduces the slim models at a lower price point as well, which allows the console to see a greater adoption with consumers. If we condense all this to a simplified 5-year timeline, on year 1, a new console is released and on year 3, we get the slim variant. Then for the next two years, Sony enters into heavy R&D mode as they work on creating a followup console – rinse and repeat for 4 generations and we get to where we are today.

Beyond the slim models though, and excluding Sony’s endeavors into mobile with PSP and PS Vita, PlayStation has always been a single product. This is in direct contrast to say iPhone which can span multiple models in a given year with robust accessories and services on top of it. Think of it this way, Apple’s services business, which includes App Store purchases, Apple Music subscriptions and iCloud, accounted for $6 billion in revenue in just the last quarter, let alone the monster money that they make from hardware like iPhone and accessories.

When you’re a single product, trying to achieve that type of success is not really possible and the future remains fairly consistent – release new hardware, improve internally, release new hardware, improve internally, etc. To that end, up until PS4 and really this past year, PlayStation was purely a product, but after the introduction of PS4 Pro in context with their actions of the past year, it’s becoming quite apparent that PlayStation is no longer a single product and instead, a well-envisioned company that reported a $3.21 billion in revenue during their most recent quarter.

Why PS4 Pro is a Brilliant Name

ps4_pro_box

One of the most overlooked aspects of any product is its name. In a bubble, what does a name like Walkman, iPad or Netflix mean? Not a lot, especially when the given product and service was initially launched, yet over the years, each mentioned name has become synonymous with the product and even category that they represent. For Sony, this was no different in late 1994 when the original PlayStation launched. Sure the two words connected help convey what the product would be but today, PlayStation has become an iconic brand that not only means something to consumers, but can almost help define a person.

Is Sony Hindering Xperia’s Photo Capabilities On Purpose?

Sony_Xperia_XZ_4

On Labor Day, I ran a little poll on Twitter to see what many of you thought of cameras found on Xperia phones. My question was simple – how do you find the camera on your Xperia phone to be? In hindsight, I should have been a bit more clear and perhaps asked ‘how do you find the image quality on your Xperia phone to be?’ but I think the majority who voted got the gist. As for the options readers could choose from:

  • Good
  • Bad
  • Competition is better

Since then, the results have been mixed at best. Only 50% found the image quality to be good while 17% found it to be bad and 32% thought competition offered something better. If you didn’t get a chance to voice your opinion, I’d love to know:


Update:

If you’d voted previously, please vote again as the poll mistakenly allowed you to vote for multiple options and skewed the results.

Sony Mobile Will Defocus on India, USA, China, and Brazil

Sony Mobile Hiroki Totoki

That sound you hear is the agonizing moan from millions of Xperia fans as they continue to wait for Sony Mobile to ‘get’ to North America and other small markets like China and India. I hear a few people live in each of those countries.

Why the Upgraded PS4 4K Is a Good Idea

PS4 4K with PS VR

With the news from earlier this morning that had Sony confirm the existence of the yet-to-be-titled upgraded PS4, I wanted to do a deeper dive on the subject matter that’s had some gamers riled up. Instead of following a traditional article narrative, I will instead tackle a few key points revolving around the advent of PS4 4K. So sit back, get comfy, and let’s dig in on why a PS4 4K is actually a good idea.

Sony Unsure If There Will Be a ‘PS5′ is Much Ado About Nothing & the Future of PlayStation

Sony_PlayStation_Family

The number one question I get asked when I’m stopped in the streets is what I think about comments made that there might not be a PlayStation 5. But instead of getting into whether I actually get stopped in the streets to be asked questions about the future of PlayStation, let’s instead start off this topic as frank as possible. Will there be a successor to the PS4? Of course there will be. Sony isn’t leading with the PS4, only to abandon it in the near future. Heck, there is already a successor of sorts in the pipeline in the form of the PS4K/PS4 Neo. Refresh models aside, one of the major pillars of Sony now is PlayStation which continues to be a major revenue and profits driver for the company. It would be pretty silly to abandon that, right? It’s as if Apple is pondering if there will an iPhone 7 or iPhone 7s. Of course there will be until something eventually replaces it.

So who would have made such an outlandish comment? None other than PlayStation president Shuhei Yoshida at a private dinner with Lorne Lanning during DICE. Here is Eddie Makuch who spoke with Lanning and wrote about his meet for Gamespot:

Lanning:

 What does the PlayStation 5 look like? 

Shu:

 You mean if 

Lanning:

 Whoa. Are you willing to say that on stage? 

Shu:

 Yeah, it’s an if. 

What an outlandish statement to be made by PlayStation’s president right? Except that it’s actually not – but don’t worry, I’m not contradicting myself.

All Future Sony Mobile Phones to Fall Under Xperia X Branding

Sony_Xperia_X_Chapters_2

This is something I’ve been banging on for quite some time now and it looks like my hunch on Sony’s future phone strategy is materializing. In a recent media briefing in Asia, Sony took to the stage to not only to outline the history of their mobile division, but to also give clues as to where things are going. Sony currently sees three chapters in their mobile history.

Sony Mobile Doing Much Better Than Rivals HTC, LG, and Even Samsung

If you’re a tech company, the last space you likely want to enter – if you haven’t already – is the hyper-competitive smartphone market, and if you’re already there, chances are that you’re hurting. Bad. That’s because, short of Apple and (kind of) Samsung, nobody is making money. Look no further than Sony’s 2015 mobile efforts – where all we read about is how low sales volume are compared to rivals Samsung, HTC, and LG, let alone Apple – so surely Sony needs to exit mobile, right?

(Please note that you can click on all charts for a higher resolution version)

Wrong. We’ve heard time and time again from Sony CEO Kaz Hirai that their primary focus is on premium devices and not volume – a sentiment that’s very different from most Android makers – and they’re on to something.

In theory, Sony’s strategy makes sense because, the more expensive a handset, the higher the profits on it (usually). If you’re selling a phone for only $200, there isn’t a whole lot of room for profits when you consider R&D, components, marketing, and other factors like licensing. The trouble is, Android makers are now going down the same path PC makers did a decade ago by going to war with a race towards the bottom and in turn, leaving no profits in the market.

This is worrisome for a few reasons. Charles Arthur writes:

That’s a decline of 90m, even while the overall smartphone market has grown from 704m (of which 501m were Android) to 1.43bn (of which 1.16bn were Android).

But your objection is probably the same as mine: isn’t the decrease in those sur-$500 shipments because the price of high-end Android handsets has fallen? The price you have to pay to get something with the same qualities as the $500-or-more Android flagship is lower than it was in 2012.

This is almost certainly true – but it isn’t much compensation for those struggling to expand their sales and seeing average selling prices (ASPs) fall. 

That last part is absolutely crucial, and something that many fans miss as all they see is this large pie owned by Android.

 if you keep selling the same number of phones at lower ASP, your profit will inevitably fall off a cliff as fixed costs such as staff and administration weigh you down. 

 

As we’ve seen, Sony’s units shipped have been on a steady decline with them barely registering 30 million units sold in 2015. As a comparison, Apple and Samsung do that in a quarter.

Just look at the above chart to see the sales difference between Apple, Samsung, and LG in Q4 2015. Though Sony is only surpassing HTC and Microsoft Mobile in sales, they are far ahead of the game – and even besting LG when it comes to profits despite their 2-1 sales lead. A lot more details and charts after the jump.

Apple’s Strong Stance on Privacy and Why Sony Must Follow

Sony_Security_Camera

Earlier today, Apple CEO, Tim Cook, wrote one of the most important declarations you’ll likely hear from a company or politician in some time. At the heart of the debate is our privacy which seems to be shrinking every day in our ever-connected and digital world. Ever read those terms and services when you sign up for an account? How about the amount of data a company like Google is mining from you? There is a reason Android is ‘free’ and offered to each vendor – and the same goes for Gmail, etc.

The US government vs. Apple

The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers. We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.

This moment calls for public discussion, and we want our customers and people around the country to understand what is at stake.

The Need for Encryption

Smartphones, led by iPhone, have become an essential part of our lives. People use them to store an incredible amount of personal information, from our private conversations to our photos, our music, our notes, our calendars and contacts, our financial information and health data, even where we have been and where we are going.

All that information needs to be protected from hackers and criminals who want to access it, steal it, and use it without our knowledge or permission. Customers expect Apple and other technology companies to do everything in our power to protect their personal information, and at Apple we are deeply committed to safeguarding their data.

Compromising the security of our personal information can ultimately put our personal safety at risk. That is why encryption has become so important to all of us.

For many years, we have used encryption to protect our customers’ personal data because we believe it’s the only way to keep their information safe. We have even put that data out of our own reach, because we believe the contents of your iPhone are none of our business.

The Threat to Data Security

In today’s digital world, the key to an encrypted system is a piece of information that unlocks the data, and it is only as secure as the protections around it. Once the information is known, or a way to bypass the code is revealed, the encryption can be defeated by anyone with that knowledge.

The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that’s simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks — from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable.

The government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers — including tens of millions of American citizens — from sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals. The same engineers who built strong encryption into the iPhone to protect our users would, ironically, be ordered to weaken those protections and make our users less safe.

A Dangerous Precedent

The implications of the government’s demands are chilling. If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data. The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.

Opposing this order is not something we take lightly. We feel we must speak up in the face of what we see as an overreach by the U.S. government.

Now, what if you read this entire memo with a slight twist?

More from Rene:

Make no mistake, what is being asked of Apple should horrify not just those in the U.S. but around the world. Nothing made can be unmade. Nothing used once will only ever be used once. The moment after an easy way to brute-force passcodes exists we, none of us, will be safe. A few criminals may be more easily investigated, but catastrophically more people will be subject to unlawful searches, hacks, theft, blackmail, and other crimes. Everywhere.

Read Cook’s letter again, but substitute the FBI for Chinese Intelligence. Imagine China, soon to be a bigger market for Apple than even the U.S., making this demand so they can more easily track and prosecute those they claim to be criminals. Then imagine it being used by governments at war with their own citizens. Now do it again, but this time with Russia’s FSB. Or once more with the NSA.

Imagine when it falls into the hands of everyone from organized crime and terrorists to lone hackers and criminals. Imagine falling asleep while the person you just met sneaks into the other room, replaces the software on your phone, and slips out with your every picture, password, message, and location. And if caught, they’re just fine — they used the same back door to replace the software with a underground version eliminating the back door.

After the jump, how this all related to Sony.

Sony Ships 8.4 Million PS4 Units in Q3 FY15

PS4_Q3_FY15_Sales
Just last week, Sony reported their Q3 FY15 earnings report to some good results. While Mobile continues to struggle (which you can read a more in depth take here), the over all health of the company continues to improve (you can again get a more in depth view of the entire company here). The one division of Sony that continues to post gangbuster numbers is PlayStation, thanks to the ever continuing momentum of the PS4.

In Q3 alone, which spans between October 1st and December 31st, Sony shipped a staggering 8.4 million PS4 units. This brings PS4 lifetime sales to nearly 36 million. At this pace, Sony should have no problem clearing 50 million units sold by year’s end. For context, Xbox One has not hit 20 million units sold yet.

More after the jump.

Putting the Sony Q3 FY15 Earnings Results in Context

To better get a sense of the Sony Q3 FY15 earnings results, I’ve put together a few charts alongside official information to give you a better sense of how the company is doing. In short, things are much better compared to a few years ago and even last year when the company posted their first profit in nearly a decade. Sony Mobile, despite pumping out the fantastic Xperia Z5 family, continues to struggle. You can read more in depth about Sony Mobile and their results here.

A quick heads up. All charts can be clicked on to viewed in much more detail.

So, let’s start from the beginning again. For its Q3 2015 financial results, Sony posted a net income of 120.1 billion JPY ($1 billion) on total revenue of 2,580.8 billion JPY ($21.5 billion). That’s up 33.5% and 0.5% year-on-year. Operating income came in at 202.1 billion JPY ($1.7 billion), an 11% rise on the previous year. In short, Sony achieved $1 billion of net profits for the three months to end in December.

As you can see from the chart above, Game & Network Services (read: PlayStation), Sony Pictures, Sony Music, and the company’s Financial Services have been on the rise. Mobile is obviously hurting and in doing so, dragging down their ever-so-profitable Devices division where image sensor sales are accounted for. Here’s how the different divisions within Sony add up.

More info and charts pertaining to the Sony Q3 FY15 earnings results after the jump.

A Closer Look at the Sony Mobile Q3 2015 Results

Earlier today, Sony reported their Q3 2015 results which were mostly up, thanks largely in part to their entertainment divisions, PlayStation and Sony Pictures. Mobile continues to be a struggle for Sony (and most other smartphone makers) and in turn, resulted in another quarter with losses. The only bright side was that operating revenue grew by 133% to $201 million for the division. That’s due to Sony working hard at reducing the number of phones they offer while ensuring that the models they do sell are more premium, and in turn, more profitable per unit sold. According to Sony:

 a shift to high value-added models, as well as reductions in costs including marketing, research and development 

was the key reason for the higher operating revenue. Ultimately though, because of their focus on more premium models, there was

 a significant decrease in smartphone unit sales resulting from a strategic decision not to pursue scale in order to improve profitability 

which resulted in a revenue decline 14.7% to 384.5 billion JPY ($3.2 billion).

More details on the Sony Mobile Q3 2015 results, including more charts after the jump.

Sony Misleading Consumers With Their AX53 4K Handycam Balanced Optical SteadyShot Claims?

Sony AX53 4k Handycam with Balanced Optical SteadyShot

If you look at the above photo which reads

 The performance packed into the top-class 4K Handycam® is peerless. Balanced Optical SteadyShot™ and Fast Intelligent AF achieve exactly the images you aim for. A new microphone structure captures ambience that’s all-surrounding. You can even play with time in motion or gain control of pro-style/manual functions. The possibilities and pleasures are endless. 

what would be your takeaway from Sony’s newly-announced 4K Handycam that I previewed at CES? Or how about this

which reads

 The short movie below shows the camera shake compensation effects of Balanced Optical SteadyShot (right) and optical image stabilisation (left), respectively. 

I don’t claim to know everything there is to know about Sony but even I, who should hopefully be a little better versed in the company and their products, thought, when reading their page about the AX53, that it offered 4K video recording with Balanced Optical SteadyShot.

Except it doesn’t, despite the words 4K being plastered all over the page and the improvements of image stabilization being touted left and right. More after the jump.

Why the Future of PlayStation is in the US and Not Japan

PlayStation HQ in San Mateo

As you might have heard by now, Sony Computer Entertainment and Sony Network Entertainment are being fused together under a new company called Sony Interactive Entertainment LLC. This is important because until now, Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) has been in control of all PlayStation-related hardware and software (games) while Sony Network Entertainment (SNE) has lead services like PlayStation Vue and PlayStation Store. Now under SIE, Sony will be combining the two divisions and bringing them under one headquarters in San Mateo, California.

Under the new company, there will be some leadership changes as well with Andrew House leading things as CEO and President. According to House:

“By integrating the strengths of PlayStation’s hardware, software, content and network operations, SIE will become an even stronger entity, with a clear objective to further accelerate the growth of the PlayStation® business. Along with our business partners, SIE will develop pioneering services and products that will continue to inspire consumers’ imaginations and lead the market. We will work hard to maximize corporate value by coordinating global business operations across San Mateo, Tokyo, and London by leveraging local expertise.”

While there will be offices in Tokyo and London, the majority of R&D, as well as decision making, will be done out of California. The two remote offices will lead localization efforts which are ever so important, for instance, in Europe, a region that consists of several different countries, languages, and policies. But that aside, the real story here is that after two decades, PlayStation is leaving its country of birth and coming to North America. Nostalgia aside, this is actually a good thing for Sony, the future of PlayStation, and gamers. A lot more after the jump.