Ina Fried

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Sony Plans a 4K Fest for CES

Sony may not use the term “4K” 4,000 times during its CES press conference and keynote. But it will surely come close.

Phil Molyneux 4k cropped

The electronics giant is betting heavily on the next big-screen technology to help reestablish Sony’s name as the kind of brand that consumers aspire to buy.

“We’re [going] after the premium consumer out there,” said Sony Electronics president Phil Molyneux.

The terms 4K and Ultra HD refer to screens of varying resolution, but that represent a significant step over today’s high-definition displays. The first such displays and cameras have been on the market for awhile, but it will take some time for them to be affordable and widespread. (For more on 4K and other emerging TV technologies, check out this piece that my colleague Lauren Goode did from last year’s CES.)

Sony already has televisions and video cameras with that resolution, and it is planning to expand into other areas, likely 4K smartphones and computers.

“It’s clear people will want to generate their own 4K content,” Molyneux said in a briefing with reporters on Sunday. As for specific new products, Molyneux said we’d have to wait for CES.

Molyneux said Sony is also working hard to drive down prices for the TVs and camcorders that can capture and display 4K content.

The move to try to tap 4K as a means to gain back its reputation as an aspirational consumer brand could be a smart play.

“The focus on 4K may not create a huge number of sales out the gate, but what the complete set of 4K solutions does do is help reposition Sony as a premier provider of high-quality video,” said Bob O’Donnell, who recently left IDC to form Technalysis Research, his own research and consulting firm. “They’ve lost some of their prestige to Samsung and Apple over the last few years, and this can help them reestablish themselves as a technology leader.”

One area where the Sony name has been particularly dormant in the U.S. has been in smartphones. Despite some big promises after having bought out its joint-venture partner, Ericsson, Sony has yet to regain significant share, in part because few carriers are heavily subsidizing or promoting its devices.

“We’ll have some good stuff to share around smartphones at CES,” Molyneux said, insisting that Sony isn’t giving up on its efforts to crack the U.S. market. “We recognize the U.S. is a terribly important market,” he said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story referred to a specific resolution for 4K. Ultra HD and 4K can have several different resolutions. Sony’s 4K televisions, for example, have a resolution of 3,840 pixels by 2,160 pixels.

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— Gitesh Pandya of comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”