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Sony Banking On High CE Growth

Electronics giant Sony, banking on a year of strong growth in segments, including HDTV, wireless networking for digital media and a content-fueled upgrade to newer notebooks and PDAs, Wednesday spelled out a broad 2004 product strategy.

In a packed news conference just before the opening of the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, executives of the Tokyo-based company said their own optimism is fueled by current double-digit growth in the United States as well as technological advances.

"The market for distributed A/V is really exploding," said Kunitake Ando, group COO for Sony. He predicted in the coming year, "high definition is going to gain real momentum."

Sony executives said the company was poised to deliver LCD-TVs with vastly improved definition; new performance in optical recording with a dual-channel, DVD recorder featuring 24X dubbing speed; wireless DVD systems for distributing audio and video; and "location-free TV," which, in a network, will send streaming audio from a central PC or device into a handheld viewing screen.

The company's press event opened with an eye-popping break-dancing performance by two-foot-high, Sony toy robots--with one robot telling the audience the routine was meant to display a variety of Sony technologies from motors that drive camcorders to memory sticks that can store programming commands.

The demonstration highlighted not just the high stakes involved in the $100 billion-a-year segment, but also an often "gee-whiz" flavor surrounding CES, which is expected to draw more than 100,000 attendees from around the world to Las Vegas this week.

Stan Glasgow, senior vice president of Sony's IT Products Division, said the company also will provide the channel and customers with significant upgrades to its Vaio notebook and desktop lines, as well as its Clie PDA product.

Sony's North American channel executives have said they are working to roll out a broad-based program for solution providers that would include its traditional IT products and also give resellers a greater entry into and incentives for its consumer electronics business.

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