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HP and Sony battle for domination of digital entertainment
New battlefields, new enemies
TechScape Our story begins like this:
Sony’s product design and innovation credentials are unsurpassed. The Walkman changed our lives and how we listen to music. The Trinitron color TV became a status symbol in our living rooms, the Sony logo was omnipresent on our jogging suits and cars and the VAIO laptops went head-to-head with Apple’s for the trendy business and consumer set.
Hewlett-Packard’s reputation for innovation is also top-notch. Founders Bill Hewlett and David Packard were the first technology entrepreneurs to build a global business from their garage in an area, Silicon Valley, where it became the ultimate brag to have started your business at home and taken it right through the roof.
Over the last 40 years or so, Sony and H-P have rarely competed directly in a key core business sector. Sure, there’s been the occasional overlapping product rivalries in the laptop field between H-P’s large, business laptop line known for their dependability and Sony’s sharp, more consumer-oriented VAIO notebooks. But mainly both global brands have tended to their own focused businesses.
Sony was superlative in consumer electronics while H-P was tops in enterprise and to a lesser extent consumer computing. They both played nicely yet separately and didn’t represent a distraction or irritation to their parents.
This is about to change, as both giants have been in training and are now beginning sparring for all-out warfare.
War is waged for the nerve centre
The real basis for conflict begins some time ago when both companies decided that their future lay in providing the best consumer and business products for the digital home. Both have jumped to the conclusion that the nerve center of this gigantic marketplace is the living room; our living rooms. And they are betting the farms on this market opportunity.
According to Kevin Frost, H-P’s veep for consumer products in EMEA, “We’re moving to total DE (digital entertainment) pushed by digital audio, images and video—after all it’s been estimated that more than 260 million digital still images alone are captured every day.” That’s a mind-blowing amount of data that needs to be stored and accessed on a regular basis and H-P is keen to supply the products that will make that accessibility happen. "We have a very PC-centric vision of DE," Frost says.
But then HP would have that kind of vision, wouldn't it? Sony is an entirely different matter.
“Our experience of entertainment and devices has changed beyond all expectations,” says Nicolas Babin, Sony’s director of corporate communications Europe. “We intend to lead by offering new entertainment possibilities through innovative technology in products and services. We thrive on the challenge.” According to Babin, Sony’s success comes from its ability to satisfy consumer’s needs first in the analog then in the digital worlds.
Once inside the home’s Command Central, the thinking goes, Sony will cross-sell and up-sell its products to every member of the family, whether they are playing games, listening to music, watching TV or a movie or surfing the Net for business and pleasure.
Sony has a distinct advantage looming here as it also provides content — games through its PlayStation brand, music through its company-owned record labels, movies through its film studios and legal music downloading through its new Connect service. H-P’s advantage comes from its established position in the computing world.
Sony is extending its reach into H-P’s backyard which began with their recent strong foray into the notebook/laptop realm where H-P gets a significant slug of its revenue.
But Hewlett-Packard is not standing idly by:
Recently, H-P flew this writer and more than 70 other journalists from around the world to Monte Carlo for a “Spy Challenge”. How do you get that many journalists to take time out and attend your product launch? Fly them in, handling all the travel details, put them up in the hyper-elegant Hotel Hermitage and create a fun and interesting day out around Monte Carlo competing against other teams of journalists in a James Bond-type hunt for Dr. Doom. Armed of course with H-P’s new dv1000 laptop and top-line H-P digital camera, seven teams of eight journos each roamed the hilly, harbor town for several hours on different courses following clues while hoping to catch the bad guy and win a prize at that night’s posh gala dinner. Never mind the preceding several-hour Power Point pitch in a stuffy room; we were all excited to be there. This was a very well-coordinated event.
Shortly thereafter, Sony held its own launch at the Royal Academy of Art in London. The event was also beautifully organized and highlighted Sony’s massive new product line while featuring chats from the top Sony management, product managers and even from Sony partner Intel.
The battle lines are at last drawn and are producing the first blood now as the companies shotgun out their new products. Will Sony maintain its brand supremacy or can Hewlett-Packard out-innovate its Japanese rival?