Sony's Claim To King Of All Media

A model displays Sony Corp's "PSX," a gadget that is being billed as a crossover between a video-game machine and a DVD recorder at an electronics show in Makuhari, east of Tokyo, Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2003. The PSX is about the size of the PlayStation 2, and is set to go on sale in Japan late this year in two versions with a 160 gigabyte hard disk drive that can record about 200 hours of DVD, and the 250 gigabyte version that records 325 hours of DVD.
Sony Corp. showed off its PSX, the beefed up PlayStation 2 video-game machine that also works as a DVD recorder, analog TV, digital photo album and music player and goes on sale in Japan late this year for just over $700.

The offering from the Japanese electronics and entertainment giant underlines the intensifying competition in the industry to sell the idea of home digital entertainment that introduces computer functions from the office into the living room.

The PSX, slated for sale next year in the U.S. and European markets, took center stage Tuesday at the Sony booth at CEATEC Japan, an annual major electronics show near Tokyo, where Sony's rivals are also showing off their wares.

After decades of setting global trends with hits such as the Walkman, Sony has lost a bit of its shine lately, falling behind Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., of the Panasonic brand, in DVD recorders and Sharp Corp. in flat-panel TVs in global market share.

Sony chief executive Nobuyuki Idei was cautious about the prospects for the PSX and refused to give a sales target, although he called the PSX one of Sony's main new offerings.

"We want to sell as much as possible," he said. "We want to create a new genre."

The PSX, which is about the size of the PlayStation 2, will sell in Japan late this year for 79,800 yen ($720) for the version with a 160 gigabyte hard disk drive that can record about 200 hours of DVD, and 99,800 yen ($900) for the 250 gigabyte version that records 325 hours of DVD.

The PSX, which also comes with an online game connection, faces competition from digital TVs, which are expected to gradually take off in Japan with the expansion of digital broadcasting in December.

Products powered with Microsoft Corp.'s Windows XP Media Center software will also offer similar functions such as a DVD player, digital photo catalogue and video games from a single remote.

Sony is banking on the popularity of the PlayStation 2 — which has sold 60 million worldwide, beating Nintendo Co.'s GameCube and Microsoft's Xbox — to give itself an edge in the DVD recorder market over rivals in the electronics sector that don't have a game unit.

The idea of a single machine that has a bit of everything seems logical and attractive to consumers.

But analysts say the game machine and audiovisual equipment don't necessarily go together because the life cycles of AV machinery are so much shorter, requiring constant upgrades.

"The markets don't match," said Kazumasa Kubota, analyst with Okasan Securities Co. in Tokyo. "The PSX may sell in numbers when it first goes on sale, but it'll be tough to keep the sales going."

Kubota said Sony lacks a clear strategy and has fumbled in other new products such as the CoCoon, sold only in Japan so far, which links to the Internet and records TV shows. Sony has not even released sales figures for CoCoon.

Sony's profits tumbled 98 percent to 1.1 billion yen ($10 million) as sales dipped 7 percent in the first fiscal quarter through June compared to a year ago.

By Yuri Kageyama