Every year the TV industry has a Next Big Thing to show off at CES: 120Hz technology in 2008, LED backlighting in 2009, 3D and IETV in 2010, Smart TVs in 2011. 2012 better have something truly compelling in store, as the last couple years of "innovation"--particularly the 3DTV category--have led to a decline in TV sales. Enter Sony CEO Howard Stringer, who recently gave the Wall Street Journal two illuminating comments on the state of the TV industry and Sony's decade-long struggle with a money-hemorrhaging television division.
Stringer sees Apple as a threat--or an inspiration, depending on how you look at it. Stringer said he had "no doubt" Steve Jobs was working on a game changing TV set. Stringer told the Journal he "spent the last five years building a platform so I can compete against Steve Jobs. It's finished, and it's launching now."
What could Sony's TV department have in mind to shake up the TV business? Stringer says a "tremendous amount of R&D" has been going into a "different kind of TV set" that we can only hope has nothing to do with Google TV. Logitech publicly called Google TV a $100 million mistake, and there's no way Google's web TV platform helped Sony move many televisions. Whatever it has planned next, it better be something new.
Hopefully Singer's "different kind of TV set" doesn't amount to passive 3D or "even more apps!" The TV industry faces a difficult problem in keeping sales up year after year--CRT televisions sat in living rooms for decades without replacement. While computers and phones tend to come and go every few years, TVs are considered long-term purchases.
How can Sony rebrand the HDTV experience? Making thin and vibrant full-array LED sets affordable won't be feasible for a number of years, but we can dream. Perhaps the better question, assuming Stringer was right about Steve Jobs, is what does Apple have up its sleeve?