Over the years, Sony’s sometimes made it easy to question their strategies and management. Whether it’s been missteps with trying to market proprietary technology (Betamax, Memory Stick) or betting heavily on the future at the expense of the present (PS3 platform), the technology giant has made bold, and sometimes bad, decisions. One thing is clear, however, Sony’s ambitions are huge; especially when it comes to our living rooms. Sony wants to be a hub in the wheel of connected entertainment. And that’s never been more clear than today.
In Europe, Sony has unveiled a Playstation peripheral that is both TV Tuner and Digital Video Recorder. The device, called Play-TV brings an added set of features to the already powerful platform. It is capable of not only receiving and recording television programming but also empowering users to move the recordings to their portable PSP. Record your TV show, take with them on the road, play your games, connect to the Internet, all through the same device.
There is no official plan to bring a similar device to the U.S. for now but it is safe to assume that’s eventually in the works. Europe will function as a test market.
The decision to go European was likely fueled, at least in part, by digital broadcast standards. Broadcasting in high definition requires special encoding of the television signal (as compared to standard broadcast TV). In Europe, that encoding is done using of an over-air (broadcast as opposed to cable or satellite) digital broadcast standard called DVB-T. In the U.S. we use a different, incompatible standard called ATSC. The pros and cons of the two are technical, but DVB-T has one advantage for Sony: it is similar and compatible with a third standard used in Japan. Focusing on Europe first will let Sony test a single product at home and abroad.
Expanding on Sony’s vision, and introducing the new device, David Reeves, president of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe noted: "PS3 already provides High Definition gaming, Blu-ray Disc movies, music, video, photo album, web browsing and Playstation Network support. With the introduction of PlayTV’s state of the art TV tuner and PVR functionality, PS3 is now the best choice of home entertainment hub for the whole family."
The battle for control of the living room is shaping up to be a hotly contested one. Game platforms from the PS3 to the Xbox 360 and Wii form one front. Traditional set top box and upstarts like Building-B form another. Mixed in are the wildcards of huge companies like Cisco (via Scientific Atlanta subsidiary), Motorola, Apple (via Apple TV) and Tivo (notably in partnership with Amazon).
Its far to early to handicap how the competitors will fare, the results are years into the future, but it’s shaping up to be one major battle.