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Sony sees another major breakthrough

By C.M. Mortimer Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Sony Corp. says high-definition television is the medium of the future, and it is betting that two new models using its new microdisplay technology will break as much new ground today that its Trinitron television did 37 years ago.

"Yes, I think so. We're in need of a new display technology, and we think the time is right," said Dr. Shun'ichi Hashimoto, general manager and leader of the team in Tokyo that developed the technology.

Hashimoto made his observation yesterday at the Sony Technology Center-Pittsburgh in East Huntingdon and Hempfield, Westmoreland County, where Sony rolled out a pair of new TVs based on its latest technology --- called Silicon X-tal Reflective Display.

The new models will be manufactured at local Sony complex, which employs more than 2,300 workers.

Sony, the world's second-biggest consumer electronics maker, desperately needs to hit a home run with its new products.

Last month, the Japanese electronics, music and movie conglomerate was disappointed by falling profits in its electronics business, which accounts for about 70 percent of its revenue. Sony's television business lost $347 million in the second quarter, and the slump forced Sony to slash its full-year net income forecast by 88 percent.

Sony expects to unveil a new business plan next month to revive its consumer electronics unit.

"The question we have to ask ourselves is what does the consumer think? We have to figure out how to help customers make the proper choice," said Gregory D. Gudorf, vice president of Sony's TV Marketing Group, Home Products Division, in San Diego, Calif.

Sony is betting its new Silicon X-tal Reflective Display (SXRD) technology will give it the same competitive edge in today's flat-panel television market as its Trinitron technology delivered in the traditional cathode ray tube market that is now in decline.

The new technology will be "competitive" with Texas Instruments' digital light processing (DLP) technology that uses micro-mirrors to shine light at a chip, according to one electronics trade industry expert who attended yesterday's event. Sony invited more than 30 reporters and trade industry journalists to a briefing on the new technology and products.

"SXRD is a step up from liquid crystal display (technology), which makes it competitive with DLP technology," said Mike Wood, editor of Digital TV, based in Woodland Hills, Calif. "Different technologies have different places in the market. It depends on what you need. In the end, all that matters is picture quality."

Separately, Sony Technology Center-Pittsburgh yesterday shipped the company's one-millionth rear-projection Grand Wega television, which has been primarily manufactured at the local plant since 2002.

The new SXRD models, in 50-inch and 60-inch screen sizes, feature high-definition and high-contrast -- and represent the next milestone in the evolution of high-definition television. "Because of resolution and picture quality, it can be suitable for the next generation display device," said Dr. Hashimoto.

Sony expects to have the capacity to manufacture about 1 million television sets to sell worldwide by the end of the year, said Shigeo Saito, director-general manager of Television Product Planning in San Diego. "We have been making constant improvements over the past few years," he said.

Sony expects to start shipping the units next month, carrying prices ranging from $4,000 for the 50-inch screen to $5,000 for 60-inch screens.

The local television manufacturing plant will need about 150 new full-time workers, and about 700 seasonal workers, said spokesman Michael L. Koff. Sony Technology Center-Pittsburgh currently employs about 2,300 full-time workers and up to an additional 1,400 seasonal and temporary employees.

Sony milestones

1968: Sony launched the first Trinitron color television, incorporating its unique Trinitron CRT (cathode ray tube) technology, using a single-electron gun, three-beam aperture grille picture tube that created a vertically flat screen for a brighter and more detailed picture.

1976: Sony unveils the largest color television set, a 32-inch model.

1998: Sony introduces the industry's first flat-screen CRT direct-view set, the FD Trinitron Wega in 32-inch and 36-inch models.

2001: Sony unveils the world's largest flat screen CRT, a 40-inch FD Trinitron Wega.

2003: The first flat screen, 30-inch liquid-crystal-display (LCD) Wega is introduced
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