Sony chief Sir Howard Stringer teased at an event Thursday morning that his company might have a foil to the rumored Apple TV breakthrough. He explained at the Wall Street Journal meet that that Sony, too, was working on a major reimagining of the TV. While not dropping clues of its nature, he had "no doubt" Apple's late co-founder Steve Jobs had been working on the concept, something that Sony would now be countering.
"There's a tremendous amount of R&D going into a different kind of TV set," Sir Stringer said.
He presumed that it would take anyone, including Apple and Sony, a "long time to transition" to a new concept.
Sony has so far been mostly in step with other TV makers in building some basic Internet features into its TV but still using the familiar remote control scheme and a general lack of digital media awareness. Its standout effort so far has only been its Google TV lineup, which has sold poorly so far.
Sir Stringer was aware of the current lack of progress in the entire industry, since it led to commoditized hardware and a difficulty making a profit. Sony's TV group recently reorganized into three teams to get a clearer focus and possibly saving costs. "We can't continue selling TV sets [as we have]," he said. "Every TV set we all make loses money."
It's not clear what Sony would do to alter its TV strateg. Google TV 2.0 is significantly upgraded, but might not necessarily change any of its current position and now can't rely on Flash as a factor. An interface redesign of its own is the next most viable option. Apple's work is potentially a breakthrough, as Jobs had said he had "finally cracked" the answer to developing a TV with a very simple interface. Most have interpreted this to mean Siri.
Regardless of the new TV, Sir Stringer believed that Sony now had the ingredients in place to take on Apple, having spent five years making an ecosystem to "compete against Steve Jobs." That included not just TVs and PCs , but also smartphones and tablets. He saw companies catching up to Apple on the iPhone in time but that they needed to have "seamless" integration for that to happen.
"The beauty of the iPhone is it's really well organized," he said.