Sony’s Online Service Tries to Build Brand Loyalty

sonySony’s new online service connecting the whole range of its gadgets to downloadable content like movies and games should help build brand loyalty, a top executive said Friday.

Executive Vice President Kazuo Hirai said the service, set for launch next year, highlights an advantage that Sony has over rivals like Samsung Electronics Co. and other manufacturers that don’t produce their own content. Sony’s business empire spans gaming, electronics, movies and music.

“That’s the kind of combination that I think is not seen anywhere else,” Hirai said in an interview at Tokyo headquarters. “That I think is where our core competence lies, and that’s a differentiator for Sony.”

The online service will include games, movie downloads and other interactive entertainment, which will be accessible on Sony products, such as Bravia TVs, Cyber-shot digital cameras and Reader electronic books. But Kazuharu Miura, analyst with Daiwa Securities SMBC in Tokyo, said it was unclear whether online services will boost gadget sales.

“I understand what Sony is trying to do, and that’s the best way to showcase its strengths,” he said. “But whether that will really get people to buy a Sony camera or a Vaio computer all depends on what Sony does with the online service.”

Hirai said Sony already offers streaming video, comic delivery and a news service, but could expand into any of the gamut of services available for personal computers, such as fitness and financial services.

Sony is targeting annual sales of 300 billion yen ($3.4 billion) from its networked services businesses and 350 million network-connected products by the fiscal year ending March 2013. Sony’s service for PlayStation 3 video game machines, which began three years ago, has attracted 33 million users. The new service will be expanded to other Sony products.

In outlining a turnaround strategy Thursday, Chief Executive Howard Stringer flagged network services as a major area where Sony hopes to grow, as well as 3-D TVs, new displays, electronic books and batteries for cars.

Sony is expecting its second straight annual loss for the fiscal year through March 2010 — hurt by sliding prices, the global slowdown and the absence of blockbusters products like Apple Inc.’s iPod or Nintendo Co.’s Wii.

It has fallen behind in liquid-crystal display TVs to Samsung of South Korea and Japanese rival Sharp Corp. Sony is hoping to be profitable in that business by the fiscal year ending March 2011.

Hirai, who oversees games and network services, acknowledged Sony’s units didn’t communicate well in the past to coordinate their strengths. That has changed under Stringer, he said. Stringer appointed a new management team earlier this year, including Hirai.

Hirai said the planned service was a chance to one-up rivals at a time when products are becoming commodities, with prices being the big way to compete.

“We want to increase the value, or the brand loyalty of our Sony products. There is no question about it,” he said.

Sony has a long way to go before a full recovery. The maker of the Walkman portable player expects a 95 billion yen ($1 billion) loss for the fiscal year through March 2010 — marginally better than the 98.9 billion yen loss the previous fiscal year, its first annual loss in 14 years.

Movies & TV

A ‘Venom’ sequel is on its way, and Spider-Man could play a role

'Venom' screenwriter Jeff Pinker confirms that a follow-up to Sony's Spider-Man spin-off is in the works. Could a certain friendly neighborhood webslinger join the action? Pinker says that it's "not impossible."
Home Theater

Netflix vs. Hulu vs. Amazon Prime: Battle of the streaming giants

Trying to figure out which subscription streaming service to use while sticking to a frugal entertainment budget? Check out our updated comparison of the big three: Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and Hulu.
Photography

These are the best action cameras money can buy

Action cameras are great tools for capturing videos of your everyday activities, whether it's a birthday party or the steepest slope you've ever descended on your snowboard. These are the best money can buy.
Home Theater

Looking for the best 4K Ultra HD TVs you can buy? Here are five great options

If it's time to upgrade your old 1080p to a new 4K model but you don't know what to look for, fear not, as we're here with a list of the best 4K Ultra HD TVs to help make your buying process as easy as possible.
Computing

Does Qualcomm's latest laptop processor hold up against Intel's Core i5?

Qualcomm has been nipping at Intel's mobile CPU heels for years and now it might finally have overtaken it. To find out whether it's new SoC can hold its own in mid-range computing, we pitted the Snapdragon 8cx vs. Core i5.
Photography

Not just for Lightroom anymore, Loupedeck+ now works with Photoshop

Loupedeck+ can now help photographers edit in Photoshop too, thanks to physical controls for swapping tools, running actions, and more. The photo-editing console expanded to include Photoshop in the list of compatible editing programs.
Computing

Turn your Raspberry Pi into a Steam streaming hub with Valve’s Steam Link app

Valve's Steam Link app is now fully supported by Raspberry PI hardware, meaning that just about anyone with a few dollars to spare can build their own Steam streaming box in a matter of minutes.
Computing

Amazon takes $300 off Intel Core i7 Surface Pro 6 in latest sale

If you're looking for savings on the Surface Pro 6, Amazon is the place to shop. It currently is discounting the Intel Core i7 variant of Microsoft's latest 2-in-1 by $300, though no Type Cover is included.
Music

Here's our head-to-head comparison of Pandora and Spotify

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.
Computing

Our favorite Chrome themes add some much-needed pizzazz to your boring browser

Sometimes you just want Chrome to show a little personality and ditch the grayscale for something a little more lively. Lucky for you, we've sorted through the Chrome Web Store to find best Chrome themes available.
Computing

Don't keep typing the same thing -- learn to copy and paste with these shortcuts!

Looking for useful Windows keyboard shortcuts? The most common are the cut, copy, paste and undo shortcuts compatible with all kinds of tasks. They can save you an awful lot of time if you learn how to use them.
Computing

Latest Facebook bug exposed up to 6.8 million users’ private photos

An API bug recently left an impact on Facebook users. Though the issue has since been fixed, some of the apps on the platform had a wrongful access to consumers photos for 12 days between September 13 and September 25. 
Computing

You can now get a Surface Laptop 2 for $800 at the Microsoft Store

Along with deals on other variants, starting configurations of Microsoft's Surface Laptop 2 are now going for $800 online at its retail store, cutting $200 from its usual $1,000 starting price. 
Computing

Need a monitor for professional photo-editing? These are the very best

Looking for the best monitor for photo editing? You'll need to factor in brightness, color accuracy, color gamut support and more. Fortunately, we've rounded up the best ones for you, to help you make an educated purchase.