AsiaD's concluding today, but we've got a couple of big hitters left on the schedule. Kicking things off this morning -- yeah, it's morning, we're in the future -- is Sony's Executive Deputy President, Kazuo Hirai, and we're guessing he'll be shooting it straight regarding the PS Vita, those nasty "outages" and whatever else he feels like keeping us abreast on. Join us after the break for the blow-by-blow!
8:59PM And that's a wrap! Thanks for joining us here for this one, and we'll have more coming as AsiaD continues!
8:59PM Kaz: "What I can say is that your point is a good one. Now that I'm responsible for *all* of the consumer products with a Sony label, one of the organizational changes that I've made is to create a new group of people from each of the different business units. They are tasked with looking across the entire spectrum (particularly networked products), and ask 'What is the experience we need to provide as a suite of Sony products?' How do we implement that into products? Unfortunately, since this is a hardware business, we can't change things overnight. But we've started embarking on that as a business. There's huge commitment throughout this company to break down barriers of different business units. That's an ongoing discussion, but we want to bring to light the power of our product portfolios. We should take advantage of our wide product offerings."
8:56PM A dear friend and peer, Joanna Stern, is up with a question: "What is Sony's plan to make all of these devices that Sony sells works together, software-wise?"
8:56PM Kaz: "No question, it's a declining market. But we're still planning to bring some serious innovation to our P&S camera line. He's suggesting that more features will be coming to P&S cameras -- "something extra" -- that smartphones of this day won't have. "We're doing a lot of things internally to drive that market as much as possible."
8:54PM Kaz: "Stay tuned! We sell image sensors to various partners. The technology and the differentiation that we have comes into play..." Walt's asking if Kaz is still optimistic about a point-and-shoot market despite the cameraphone revolution.
8:53PM Walt's suggesting that with the iPhone 4S camera, "I can't imagine wanting to tote around my point-and-shoot camera."
8:52PM That's huge news! The Xperia Play will be getting a few friends from non-Sony companies! Here's hoping they hit pre-Christmas, or at worst, CES 2012.
8:51PM Kaz: "This isn't an ecosystem where we want to keep everything within the Sony family, that's the beauty of Android. We're in discussions with non-Sony companies to bring them onboard. We'll make those announcements when it's time to go public with it. This is not just for Sony devices."
8:50PM Our own Richard Lai is up, asking about other manufacturers getting a PlayStation-certified label.
8:50PM Kaz: "When we launch the Vita, we'll have new franchises, and mid-cycle, you'll see sequels. But I think every generation of new console brings about a new wave."
8:49PM Kaz is talking about gaming design innovation, particularly in Japan. "We're mid-cycle, and we usually get this notion that creativity is in decline because all we have is sequels." He's suggesting that this happens every single time that a major gaming console gets 3-5 years old.
8:48PM And that's the interview! Time for Q&A from the crowd.
8:48PM Walt's suggesting that the browsing speed on the Tablet P and S, which Kaz is extolling, isn't nearly as great as Silk on the Kindle Fire. Kaz says Amazon won't show him one yet -- ha!
8:46PM On that note, Kaz is busting out the Sony Tablet P, a device we know well 'round these parts.
8:45PM As we said, went nowhere. No clues. No hints. Just masterful question dodging.
8:45PM Kaz: "The Sony Ericsson management team and the Sony team just have to work closer together. Now, because it's an integrated user experience between phones, TVs, etc., we're making SE more integrated in the decision making process."
8:44PM This is going nowhere, sadly.
8:44PM Walt: "Does it make sense for Sony to have it's own phone brand?"
8:44PM Walt's pushing back on the SE buyout business, but Kaz reiterates that he's not going to comment on speculation.
8:43PM Walt's asking Kaz to opine on China. Kaz: "They're a force that we have to keep an eye on. We'll do business with them. They'll do business with us. When talking about content, they will have to step it up and understand the value in delivering that whole package."
8:42PM Kaz: "A great example is the TV. A TV is a TV is a TV, yes. But there are some local tastes / requirements that differ from place to place."
8:41PM Back to the "doing business in Asia topic!"
8:41PM Kaz is responding to a question on "Why did you help Apple?", by saying that every major company helps another. Samsung, Sony, Apple -- they all buy components, etc. from one another. It's no big deal, vaquero.
8:40PM Kaz: "At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how much of the experience is in the cloud. You need a device in your hand to experience it." Kaz just confirmed that "after we incorporated our newest camera sensors into our own CyberShot products, we sold that sensor to Apple for the iPhone 4S."
8:38PM Walt: "We're doing our first conference here in Asia, and it's obviously a huge player on so many levels for things you do. Talk to me about the opportunities and challenges of operating in Asia as an Asian company, compared to being an American company. We're still in a place where a lot of software driving is coming from America."
8:37PM Kaz: "Let's look at the Xperia Play -- those are manifestations of that strategy. Those are the kinds of things we need to work on so it's a seamless experience for the customer."
8:36PM Kaz: "I won't comment on that speculation, but what I can say is this -- after April, the latest management change at Sony... one of the things I've done is said that the SE component is a hugely important part of our strategy going forward. We have to work in lockstep with SE, and we have to understand what each other is trying to do, from marketing and everything else. It needs to be seen as a seamless offering."
8:35PM Kaz laughs. He think it's high-larious.
8:35PM Walt: "There are some stories out there that you are in the process of discussing the buyout of the Ericsson piece, so you can have a robust Sony-branded entry in this universe."
8:34PM Walt's suggesting that Sony's not a huge deal in the smartphone universe, even with the partnership with SE today. "I'm not trying to be mean here, but I don't think that Sony Ericsson is a big-deal brand in the smartphone universe."
8:33PM Kaz: "Based on initial reactions we've received, the Vita is enough of a differentiated product. In Japan, there was an actual line just to pre-order the thing." Walt's wondering why people would ever line up to pre-order things. Heh...
8:31PM Walt: "You aren't worried that the PS Vita won't have happen to it what happened to the 3DS?"
8:31PM Kaz: "A lot of people will want the PS3 experience on-the-go." Also, Kaz clearly has a Tablet P on his person. Perhaps we'll get into that next!
8:30PM Walt: "Some serious gamers will adore physical controls, but zillions of people are playing games on touchscreen devices. You expect those people to turn around and buy one of these? Who is the audience?
8:29PM Kaz: "We still need physical media. We're in business in so many countries, and in some nations, making it all available through the internet is too big a challenge. It'll cost $299 for the 3G model in the US, and $249 for the WiFi model."
8:28PM Walt: "Does it use physical media?" Sigh -- we're just repeating stuff at this point.
8:27PM Kaz just busted out the PlayStation Vita -- nothing we haven't seen here before, but here's hoping for more deets. Ships in December in Japan, "early next year" elsewhere.
8:26PM Kaz: "That's why we started PlayStation Suite, to bring original PS games to these platforms. PS Suite runs on Android smartphones, and some phones will be PlayStation-certified," to ensure that we're part of that growth segment."
8:25PM Walt: "But, does Sony make games for these platforms? Do you benefit?"
8:25PM Kaz, talking about those challenges: "Whether we're talking about iPods, iPads or Android smartphones, they've had an impact on traditional videogames. No question about it. Some of it's positive -- a lot of people who may buy one of those devices, they decide to get into gaming because they end up with one of these devices. The gaming industry as a whole gains customers this way."
8:24PM Walt: "We've seen an explosion of handheld gaming on non-typical gaming devices, like smartphones." He's talking up the iPhone and iPod touch specifically, which have clearly had a mondo impact on the gaming side. Kaz looks like he's never seen, or heard of, an iPod. Curious.
8:23PM Kaz: "We talk about ten-year life cycles, and we still have the PS2 as an active PS2. When you eventually look back at the PS3 -- which I expect to last ten years -- I think it'll have a higher install-base than any of the current systems."
8:22PM Kaz: "We have a much larger install base [compared to Xbox] in Japan, and I think that's also true now in Europe. The fact that we packed so much into the PS3 at the start -- which was a disadvantage up front due to the high price -- has helped in the long run. I don't have the numbers in my head right now regarding the US."
8:21PM Walt: "Where do things stand between you and Xbox, and that competition?"
8:21PM Kaz: "I think a lot of companies are going to try to get into this space. How we did it, apart from TV, was PlayStation. With the PS3, we provide so much more than gaming content. We have an integral place in the living room."
8:20PM Walt: "Sounds like you expect Apple and some of these guys to enter!"
8:20PM Kaz: "We have our own record label, our own studio. There are other ways of leveraging the assets that we have. Additional outtakes that may be exclusive to Sony services... but no, we're not going to shut out other companies from having access to Sony Pictures and Sony Music."
8:19PM Kaz: "Everyone is embarking on their own strategy so that they own their own space in the living room. It's a very competitive market. I have to worry about the content that *we* can bring. How easy is the UI? How great is the experience? Content deals are content deals, but by and large, you'll do the same deals with the same kinds of providers."
8:18PM Walt: "How much do you worry about that?"
8:18PM Walt's suggesting that these unorthodox TV players may come in and steal thunder with their ecosystem and software sauciness.
8:17PM Walt's suggesting that Apple just *has* to be mulling some sort of major TV entry. Mocks the whole "hobby" thing regarding the Apple TV. Kaz is smiling brightly.
8:16PM Walt: "How concerned are you about Google and Apple in the area of smart TVs?"
8:16PM Kaz: "If a consumer picks up a VAIO or PS3... the first an second thing you do is plug it into a TV, and then into the internet. In the case of TVs, the consumer is still trained to hook it up to the old-fashioned cable (coax). We need to ensure we have compelling content on our own services to connect their television to the internet."
8:15PM Walt: "TV now becomes more like a computing device, and suddenly you're in a world that's more similar to PlayStation than a traditional TV set."
8:15PM Kaz: "There's a chicken-and-egg problem as well with Smart TV apps. You need a lot of horsepower in televisions to run 'em smoothly, and that obviously impacts the cost of those sets. You need more expensive components. Do you have the content for people willing to pay the premium? You have to take a leap."
8:13PM Kaz: "We think gaming will drive major adoption... initially."
8:13PM Kaz: "One of the drivers of 3D will be videogames. It appeals to a younger demographic -- game content isn't based on live footage, so it's super easy to tweak content to make it not feel unnatural. Gamers are willing to try new things, so they will be a driver."
8:12PM Kaz: "Well, the jury's still out there. It depends on how much content is out there. The easiest way is through broadcast, and that's another challenge. Getting people to deliver the content."
8:11PM Walt: "Let's talk about TVs. I get the impression that it's a tough moment in the television business. We already had the surge of people buying into HD, and 3D didn't really work..."
8:11PM Kaz: "If we sell it to a consumer, and it's got the Sony name on it, it's under my responsibility. CyberShots, the network service, PlayStation, VAIOs..."
8:10PM Kaz it out! Looking sharp, we might add. Walt's asking him what his actual title is these days.