Sony Gives PS3 a Shot of Adrenaline: Movies and a Twirling Globe

Sony’s Blu-ray won the battle of high-definition DVD formats, but its PlayStation 3 gaming console has been losing the war over networked home entertainment. That will change this summer, promised Kaz Hirai, president of Sony Computer Entertainment, during a Tokyo press conference announcing new PS3 services for the U.S. market.

Sony will roll out on-demand movies and TV shows for download via the PS3’s broadband-enabled PlayStation Network. It will also launch Life With PlayStation, offering news headlines and weather information with a spinning-globe user interface reminiscent of Nintendo’s Wii News.

The company will announce pricing and other details, including when the services will become available in Europe and Japan, in July.

Late to the Movie Download Game

Sony has been promising a video download service through its PlayStation 3 since last summer, but has watched as rivals Microsoft and Apple have eclipsed its plans with their own on-demand entertainment download offerings — Xbox Live Marketplace and Apple TV, respectively.

Xbox 360 and Apple TV owners can now stream HD movies into their living rooms — even though Sony and the Blu-Ray DVD player built into every PS3 outlasted the now-obsolete HD-DVD format.

“These things are hard to do,” Michael Gartenberg, vice president and research director at JupiterResearch, told TechNewsWorld.

Sony had promised deals with companies like Real Networks and AOL for its previous generation console, the PlayStation 2, and never delivered, Gartenberg pointed out.

“It’s not surprising, and the challenge that each of these companies is going to have is getting out there and working in these new formats before consumers become entrenched in something else. That’s why you’ve got this land grab going on,” he said, referring to the struggle over dominance of the living room waged by Sony, Microsoft, Apple and, recent entrant Netflix, with its Roku media player.

Sony’s Next-Gen Challenge

Sony has lost more than US$3 billion on the PlayStation 3 since its launch, but additional networked services and cost-trimming will bring the PS3 business unit to profitability by March 2009, said Hirai.

“Sony said the things they needed to say,” Gartenberg remarked. “What Sony has found in this generation was a Microsoft that was much stronger than it had been the last time around. It came to market a year ahead (with the Xbox 360) and didn’t squander that year. At the same time, it’s facing a revitalized Nintendo, which was the last thing everybody was expecting. All of this is putting tremendous pressure on Sony.”

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