Sony's CEO hints at cheaper 4K TVs

Kaz Hirai promises more of the high-res TVs and speaks about his first six months as CEO

Sony plans to expand its 4K television range beyond the single, high-priced model it currently offers, its CEO said Tuesday.

The Japanese consumer electronics company is one of a number of major TV makers currently launching so-called "4K" televisions, which derive their name from the almost 4,000-pixel horizontal resolution. The screens offer a 3,840 pixels by 2,160 pixels resolution, which is double the horizontal and vertical resolution of today's high-definition televisions.

But those extra pixels come with a sizeable price tag: the 84-inch Sony TV costs around US$25,000.

"The pricing right now is obviously not a mass-market proposition," Kaz Hirai, CEO of Sony, told reporters at the Ceatec electronics show just outside of Tokyo on Tuesday. "It's more of our message to the market about our leadership position we'd like to take in the 4K market as well as making sure that we have a flagship product to really get 4K taking off in the right way."

(See video of Kaz Hirai speaking at Ceatec on 4K TVs and his first six months as CEO on YouTube.)

"Obviously, this is not the only 4K product that Sony will bring out. We have plans for other 4K models as well, but we wanted to start out with a flagship model to make sure we sent a strong message about our commitment in 4K [technology]," Hirai said.

Sony, once perhaps best known for its Trinitron televisions, has repeatedly stumbled in recent years to turn a profit in the highly competitive flat-screen television business. But despite frequent losses, Sony hasn't signaled any intention to give up on the TV business. On Tuesday Hirai reiterated that Sony wouldn't be giving up soon.

"Absolutely not," he said in response to a reporter's question. "I think that Sony has a very deep-rooted DNA in creating the best picture quality combining with the best sound, and our 4K Bravia is a prime example of that DNA and we're certainly committed to staying in the TV business."

Hirai took over the top job at Sony six months ago, a period he described as "a very exciting six months."

Hirai said he has visited Sony manufacturing and marketing units in several countries during those six months to speak with employees about his plan to revive Sony.

"I feel very good about where we are. We obviously need to do a lot more and, as I've always said, we need to show results as well," Hirai said.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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