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New Sony Readers coming in August, says Sony VP

July 14th, 2011 by · 13 Comments · hardware news

When you can’t get the marketing dept to drop a hint on the release date for gadgets, it’s time to do an end run.Wait until a senior manager is in public and ask directly.

That’s what Bloomsberg did when they interviewed the head of Sony digital reading division. Guess what? Sony will indeed be releasing new models in August.

Sony Corp., Japan’s largest exporter of consumer electronics, plans to introduce a line of upgraded digital book readers in the U.S. as early as next month to challenge Kindle-maker Amazon.com Inc.

When the Consumer Reports rumor came up last month, I said that CR probably had the date wrong and the new Sony Readers would likely be released in August. It looks like I was right.

There’s no details yet on the specs, features, or prices.

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13 Comments so far ↓

  • eAnagnostis

    It seems to me the only way forward for Sony in the e-reader market is a partnership with Google and the integration of Google eBookstore in Sony Readers (ditching the, anyway, unsuccessful Sony Reader Store along the way). It would be good for Google too. They need bigger manufacturers than iRiver to compete with Amazon, B&N and Kobo – not just more manufactures like iRiver.

  • Richard Adin

    I will be interested to see the new readers. If I had to rate my Sony 950, I’d say (except for price) it is darn near perfect for reading and already offers everything — and more — than its competition. So I wonder what improvements Sony will make.

    I suspect that what we will see is new 5- and 6-inch readers that incorporate improved firmware and wifi, making the devices more like the 950. What I am hoping for, however, is a firmware upgrade that I can apply to my 950. Most important would be the current ADE that includes B&N’s DRM so I can access virtually every ebookstore except Amazon and Apple.

    Well, it is only a few weeks to go. I’m glad to see Sony not leaving the market. (Truth be told, I would pay a premium again to buy a Sony. Both my 3.5-year-old 505 and my nearly 1-year-old 950 work flawlessly, so I certainly have no complaints about build integrity.)

  • Alexander Inglis

    Watch for signs of an approaching ice age if you discover Sony adopting B&N DRM on its readers. That would only happen if Sony sold off its bookstore to B&N but then B&N would suddenly have to figure out how to deal with customers outside the US.

    The Bloomberg piece is quite enlightening. It appears internally Sony is struggling to figure out where to put its ereaders. It seems to believe dedicated b&w devices are at the end of line and will be replaced with tablets that also support its Playstation business. You can already see this Playstation integration with its mobile phones.

    Lubell is quoted suggesting the August ereaders are yet another refresh, rather than breaking new ground: “with hardware and software improvements” which would be consistent with a vision that investment in the ebook business is not a high priority. Like its 2010 product refresh, Sony is attempting to stay in the game rather than advance the line.

    The barrier according to Sony? Tablets at $500 leave ereaders room to play. Suppose tablets come down to $300-350? In Sony’s $180 to $300 universe, there’s no room for ereaders. This refresh, therefore, is likely to be the end of its dedicated ereader product line.

    • Chris

      Another prophet of disaster, who says this ship is lost…

      Sony can give some folks a free Reader and they’ll still say they’re doomed/dead/leaving the market. Do they dedicate as high a percentage of their funding towards e-readers as other companies? No. But I wouldn’t interpret that as them ditching it.

      Having had both a *00 and a *50 series, I agree that they didn’t reinvent the wheel between the two series, but things like glare, touchscreen responsiveness, and speed the *50s are much, much improved over the *00s. And since even the 00s were ahead of the rest of the field anything more than this would have been overkill.

      I’m curious to see what they’re doing with this new series now that folks like Kobo and B&N are catching up.

      • fjtorres

        The problem that Sony faces in the ebook business, aside from their senior management’s lack of commitment to the product line, is that they are trying to compete in a content business without unique content of their own.

        The ebook business, ultimately, is about the books, not the gadgets. It is no accident that in the most mature ebook market on the planet, the three most dominant players are booksellers, not gadgeteers, and that each in turn surpassed Sony within a year of getting into the business. Or that all three match or better Sony specmanship and undercut them on price because they have added reader revenue streams (books, magazines, newspapers, games/apps, even ads) to supplement whatever profit they make off the hardware.
        Sony is stubborn enough to stay with a product long past the point when it is effectively dead (minidisk walkman, memory stick) counting on brand loyalty but brand loyalty only goes so far.

        Simple proof this upcoming Sony eink reader wave is likely the last gasp: Sony—the ultimate “not invented here” company just allied with archenemy Panasonic and two publishers to try and muster enough combined clout behind a single ebook initiative in Japan. Sony only teams up with Panasonic when it has tried and failed at all other options.

        Without a content business that needs promoting/protecting, Sony has no real need to stay in the dedicated reader business at a time it can devote their resources to the webpad/mediapad business, where Sony does have content to support/distinguish their offerings. By next year, Sony’s android gaming platform should be mature enough to prop up a solid tablet product.

        If the upcoming 2011 Sony readers are just a minor refresh, odds are they’ll be Sony’s last eink readers.

  • Zetmolm

    Sony may have lost the US market, but is still one of the leading brands, if not the leading brand, in many other countries. In European countries, for instance, the ‘gadgeteers’ are doing a lot better than the ‘booksellers’ when it comes to selling readers. Also, here in Europe the price difference between Sony readers and other brands is not that significant.

    From a US perspective all these comments above may seem right, but from a worldwide perspective Sony still may have a future in E Ink readers.

    • fjtorres

      1- Sony had a future in the US, too, back before the booksellers got into the game and ebooks went from a hobbyist/enthusiast business to a mainstream consumer product.
      2- Don’t look now, but the booksellers (Amazon and Kobo) are going global, and especially targeting europe. Sony’s disadvantages in the US will soon be disadvantages in europe, too.
      3- Note that Sony’s eink ereader pricing space is defined as US$189-300. The only bookseller readers in that space today are the Kindle DX, a low-volume niche reader these days, and NookColor, which is more tablet than reader. Odds are that by xmas none of the bookseller readers will be in Sony’s price space.
      4- The eink reader business has been growing explosively over the last three years but the overwhelming majority of that sales growth has gone to the booksellers. Saying Sony is big only where the booksellers don’t play is just emphasizing that they are only “big” fish in small ponds, undeveloped markets where ebook penetration runs 1-2% instead of the 12% of north america.

      Anyway you slice it, eink readers is not a market where Sony is likely to get any more traction than they already have. The playing field is skewed against them.

      Frankly, they have a better future in the LCD tablet space, maybe doing a NookColor equivalent; there they can draw on the Playstation fanboys, their music and video holdings, their captive gaming studios.

      • Chris

        You both have a point, but seeing as we don’t even know what the new Readers are going to be, or not to be, aren’t we jumping the gun hammering in that last nail… again?

        • fjtorres

          Hey, I’m not hammering in the nail!
          I’m just pointing out the patient is comatose and the coffin is all laid out.
          Stringer’s the one with the hammer and the stake. Plus a garlic wreath.
          ;)

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  • eBookBoy

    So far, Sony have been placing great hardware out there, better than most eReaders now a days, I dont really doubt they will come with improved and even better features on the hardware and from the Store.

    eBookBoy

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