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Wednesday, September 04, 2002
Sony unveils Net-connected hard-disk Video Recorder


Japan's Sony Corp gave a fresh peek on Wednesday into its strategy for linking consumer electronics to the Web, unveiling a Net-connected video recorder that can seek out and record TV programs it thinks its owner would like. The device, which uses a hard-disk drive instead of optical discs or magnetic tapes, will be the first of Sony's "Cocoon" line of products that aim to become an alternative to the PC for accessing Internet content.

"Until now our home network strategy has been PC-centered, but in the broadband era, in addition to the PC, we'll have non-PC gateways such as audio-video products and mobile terminals," Sony President Kunitake Ando told a news conference.

"The TV will change fundamentally," he said.

The recorder includes a 160 gigabyte hard-disk drive, able to record 15 hours of high-definition TV or up to 100 hours of standard quality programs, with a possible expansion to 320 gigabytes.

Hooked to an always-on broadband Internet connection, it accesses programming information online and records TV programs that match preferences selected from among 44 keywords.

It can also analyze previous choices and items stored on its hard disk to discern a user's tastes and automatically record programs that fit that profile.

It apologizes if the user rejects its selections.

Sony will also offer a service, for a fee, that lets users set the machine from a cellphone to record a TV program.

The product will be rolled out in Japan on November 1 but the company has not decided when it might be put on sale overseas.

JAPAN FIRST

"We did the same with the Vaio: We create momentum in Japan, and then take it abroad," said Koichiro Tsujino, head of Sony's Network Terminal Solutions Company.

He said this strategy would let Sony take advantage of Japanese interest in hot new technology, which is stronger than among highly price-conscious U.S. consumers.

And indeed, the Cocoon machine won't be cheap: Sony expects it to retail for about 130,000 yen ($1,110) and has targeted initial production of 5,000 units a month.

Sony has outlined a strategy of opening four home gateways to the Internet: TVs, PlayStation 2 ( news - web sites) game consoles and mobile phones, as well as the PC.

Unlike Sony's Vaio PCs, Cocoon does not use Intel Corp microchips and Microsoft Corp software, which have taken the lion's share of profits in the PC sector.

Cocoon uses the freely available Linux ( news - web sites) operating system and a microprocessor based on reduced instruction-set computing technology developed by MIPS Technology Inc

Future products may include DVD recording or other functions, but for now executives were stressing the advantages of hard-disk drives, which hold up to eight times more data per square inch than a digital versatile disc (DVD).

They also said Cocoon goes a step beyond digital video recorders using technology from TiVo ( news - web sites) Inc, which Sony has licensed.

A company spokeswoman cited broadband connections and greater disk storage capacity among Cocoon's advantages.

Details of the product strategy were not enough to halt a slide in Sony's shares, which followed the rest of the market in a slide to new lows for this year.

Sony ended Wednesday trade down 3.19 percent at 4,850 yen. ($1=117.13 Yen)


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