Sony QUALIA 016 - the smallest yet
A product line aimed at early adopters of new technology will initially focus on electronics, later expanding to other parts of Sony's business
Sony has unveiled more details about its Qualia product line, which is designed to bring cutting-edge technologies to real-world products, but which has remained somewhat ambiguous so far.
The company said initial products, arriving in August, will include electronics such as monitors and digital cameras.
The consumer electronics giant announced late on Monday in Tokyo that the first products of the Qualia project will be available in Japan beginning 24 June. The Qualia line, which started in May 2001, will be made up of high-end consumer electronics products meant for the affluent consumer. They will be sold only through Sony stores initially and will be available in Japan, with European and US availability to be determined.
Proposed Qualia products are reviewed by Sony's Qualia committee, which is made up of company chief executive Nobuyuki Idei and chief operating officer Kunitake Ando along with the heads of the company's various business units. The executives will review the products for functionality, specifications and ability to elicit strong responses from consumers. The new line is meant to drive innovation for features and products that can be used in other parts of Sony's various businesses.
"By pushing the envelope, we hope that innovations will trickle down throughout the Sony line," said company spokesman Greg Dvorken.
Business realities sometimes prevent truly innovative products from hitting the market, but in the case of Qualia products, engineers will be given more flexibility to develop a product, Dvorken said.
The Qualia idea will likely be applied to other parts of Sony's business, but it will begin in electronics -- the company's largest revenue contributor and the department that took the hardest fall in the company's disappointing performance in the last fiscal year.
During its fiscal year-end earnings call in late April, Sony Electronics' Tokyo-based parent reported disappointing results, causing its stock to drop more than 20 percent in the course of a couple of days to a 52-week low. The company cited the decrease in the sales of Vaio PCs, as well as CRT televisions, as some of the reasons for the electronics business' results.
"This is a good time for Sony to be getting new and exciting products out the door," said Susan Kevorkian, an analyst with research firm IDC. "They have to play to their historical strengths, innovation and marketing."
Kevorkian added that the company seems to be falling behind in product innovation and cited the portable digital audio space as an example. The company pioneered the Walkman, but it has taken a back seat to others, such as Apple, which developed the popular hard drive-based iPod player.
"Cool technology is never enough in and of itself, it still has to appeal to the segment you're targeting," said Kevorkian.
Sony has 17 Qualia products in the pipeline, but it announced four late on Monday.
On 24 June, Sony will release the Qualia 015, a 36-inch color monitor that will sell for 1.3 million yen (about £6,700), and the compact Qualia 016, a 2.11 megapixel camera that will sell for 380,000 yen. The Qualia 016 camera will measure 2.7 inches wide, 0.9-inch high and 0.7-inch deep and will use the company's Memory Stick Duo removable flash memory format. The Qualia 015 monitor offers improved images through the use of filters.
On 1 August, Sony will release the Qualia 004 -- a 6.2 megapixel digital projector for 2.4 million yen. And on 11 August, Sony will release the Qualia 007 Super Audio CD System high-end audio system for 800,000 yen with 700,000-yen 100W speakers. The Super Audio CD format offers better audio quality by cramming more than twice as much data onto a disc.