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Sony uses movie studio to press ultra-HD advantage

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Ryan Nakashima

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"That's something we bring exclusively to our customers" ... Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai.

"That's something we bring exclusively to our customers" ... Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai.

Sony is finally pressing its advantage as a conglomerate that owns both high-tech gadgets and the content that plays on them by being the only electronics maker to offer ultra-HD TVs and a way to get movies to the new super clear screens.

Ultrahigh-definition TVs, which quadruple the number of pixels of current high definition technology, have been the talk of the Consumer Electronics Show so far. But only Sony has offered a content solution to go with them.

Sony's 4K XBR LED televisions.

Sony's 4K XBR LED televisions.

With 84-inch ultra-HD set it launched in November, Sony threw in a tablet and computer server that has 10 movies preloaded on the device — for $US25,000. The movies came from the library of Sony Pictures or its subsidiary Columbia Pictures, such as The Amazing Spider-Man and The Karate Kid.

On Monday, Sony unveiled 55-inch and 65-inch ultra-HD sets that will sell in the second quarter of this year for an undisclosed price believed to be below $US10,000. The Japanese electronics maker said it would launch a download service mid-year in the US so buyers of the smaller sets would have access to movies in the clearer format.

For now, it will offer the same 10 movies from its library for download.

Monopoly is played on the Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon Table PC. Click for more photos

Consumer Electronics Show 2013

Ultra-HD televisions, phablets and water-resistant phones - these are the highlights of the Consumer Electronics Show 2013 in Las Vegas. 

After unveiling the service, Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai said the ultra-HD movies could be made available to other makers such as Samsung and LG later. The company is eyeing co-ordination with other movie studios, but not immediately.

"That's a key differentiator from a Sony perspective that really speaks to the advantage of what we have in terms of both the electronics business and the content business," he said. "For the time being, that's something we bring exclusively to our customers."

Sony is betting big on ultra-HD, and is a leading supplier of high-end cameras that shoot in the format, which renders moving images at a resolution of 3840 pixels wide and 2160 pixels tall. That is twice the length and width of high definition, resulting in four times as many pixels, or more than 8 million.

The company also makes projectors that show movies in so-called 4K, and Hirai said anyone who has been to the movies lately has probably experienced it first hand without realising it.

Getting these higher resolution files to home televisions is no small matter. A Blu-ray disc format has not been created yet and broadcasters are years away from offering TV signals at the higher resolution.

Sony representatives said buyers of its 55-inch and 65-inch TVs may be asked to buy an ultra-HD server separately, although a final decision hadn't been made. It is also unclear how much downloadable movies will cost.

The company said it would offer Blu-ray discs that are mastered in 4K but compressed to fit on a current Blu-ray disc. The TV's embedded technology presents the compressed movie at close to 4K resolution, but not quite as good as when they are played from the 4K media player.

But with all new technologies, there were glitches.

Hirai had an embarrassing moment on Monday when he introduced the world's first ultra-HD TV using organic light-emitting diodes (OLED), only to see the screen go blank as the computer running it had an error.

"This revolutionary TV combines the world's largest OLED display with dazzling 4K resolution, including this beautiful ... interface screen," he said, then turned to see a blank screen as chuckles rippled through the crowd.

Later, Hirai looked back at the 56-inch display only to see the error continue.

"Excellent," he said.

A Sony staffer rolled the TV further away and Hirai carried on his presentation. He later appeared to be good-natured with journalists.

Hirai said the ultra-HD OLED set is a prototype and didn't announce price or availability.

In the Sony booth after the presentation, other ultra-HD OLED screens played without a problem.

AP

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