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After the close of Digital Signage Expo, my colleague Steve Sechrist and I had a dinner of expensive (but excellent) Las Vegas hamburgers and talked as we wandered around the Forum Shops. We wound up at the Sony Store, nearly deserted late on a Thursday evening in early February.

We had leisurely conversations with the two young staffers, both of whom were pleasant, intelligent, and knowledgeable. We talked about the fact that the extensive exhibits of Sony Vaio computers would soon be gone, since Sony had just announced the sale of its PC business. We spent quite a bit of time sitting on a comfortable couch watching a beautiful Sony 84-inch, 4K TV that still carries an MSRP of $25,000. The staffer changed the programming for us as we discussed what we were watching. Then, the other staffer gave such a convincing sales pitch for a set of high-end, noise-cancelling headphones that I subsequently ordered a pair (from Costco at about 60% the price I would have paid at the Sony Store).

On Wednesday, February 26, Sony announced it would close 20 of its 31 remaining Sony Stores, including the one in the Forum Shops. It looks like our two young friends will be unemployed, along with 1000 of their Sony colleagues in the U.S. If this had happened a month earlier, I would still be using my 20-year-old Koss headphones.

Of more significance, did Sony make the right call in selling off its PC business? As financial analyst Richard Windsor (www.radiofreemobile.com) says at every reasonable opportunity, the future of consumer tech is in the media ecosystem, not in hardware that is commodizing rapidly, even at the high end. Richard’s question is, can you create a viable ecosystem around smart phones and TV sets without having support in the middle from tablets and PCs? Is this kind of segmentation possible, or is it necessary to provide a continuum of platforms to make an ecosystem viable?  We will soon see if Sony has chosen the right answer to Richard’s question.

Last year, Sony got a leg up on the competition in offering quantum-dot enhanced LCD-TV sets — which offer a significantly expanded color gamut and little additional cost — before the competition.  This year, Sony will have lots of company from competitors using the Color IQ element from QD Vision (as Sony does) and the quantum dot enhancement film (QDEF) made by 3M from quantum dots made by Nanosys.  It’s very hard to establish a hardware advantage in consumer electronics that lasts very long.

We’ll see if Sharp is an exception to that rule of modern consumer electronics.  Sharp is preparing a major promotion of their Quattron+  technology, which provides picture definition that is very close to 4K at about half the price.  The technology requires a pixel with at least four differently colored subpixels, and among consumer TV makers only Sharp offers that.  And, of course, Sharp has patent protection for its approach.  But there is more than one way to skin that particular multi-primary cat, and I’m told somebody has already done so.

Ken Werner is Principal of Nutmeg Consultants, specializing in the display industry, manufacturing, technology, and applications. You can reach him at kwerner@nutmegconsultants.com.


Posted by Ken Werner, March 6, 2014 1:29 PM

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About Ken Werner

Kenneth I. Werner is the founder and Principal of Nutmeg Consultants, which specializes in the display industry, display technology, display manufacturing, and display applications. He serves as Marketing Consultant for Tannas Electronic Displays (Orange, California) and Senior Analyst for Insight Media. He is a founding co-editor of and regular contributor to Display Daily, and is a regular contributor to HDTVexpert.com and HDTV Magazine. He was the Editor of Information Display Magazine from 1987 to 2005.