Ah, Sony. I don’t know of any other company I have loved for so long and yet had to endure their constant poor judgment and lame, backfiring strategy. When I was young, we didn’t have a TV, we had a “Trinitron”, but now Sony has long since been eclipsed by companies as varied as LG and Apple in the consumer electronics market.
And here’s what’s weird: it’s sure not from lack of trying. Sony has some of the very best designers and researchers in the world and every year they wow people at the Consumer Electronics Show and elsewhere. But somehow their brand has long since stopped being synonymous with cool, hip, state-of-the-art.
The latest experiment from Sony is with its new high-end “ES” (“Elevated Standard”) (no, really, that’s what it stands for) series of audio/visual receivers and Blu-ray players. Based on a report in TWICE, Sony is going to limit sales of these product lines to custom installers and A/V specialty retailers while prohibiting sales over the Internet, including through Sony’s own SonyStyle.com online store.
Now these aren’t $10,000 ultra-high-end home theater components for the richest of the very rich, they’re multizone receivers in the $1000-$2000 price range. The Blu-ray players sound even more interesting, with a $399 suggested retail price entry device, the ES Blu-ray players will all have built-in wi-fi, iphone/ipod app and Quick Start startup, along with IR input and 3D compatibility and built-in Netflix, Pandora, YouTube and Crackle software for streaming directly onto your TV.
Given that online retail outlets like Amazon.com have Blu-ray players that range from ridiculously cheap up to thousands of dollars, include the $1400 Sony Blu-ray “mega changer” and $1500 Sony (BDP-S5000ES) Blu-ray Disc Player. To explain the latter’s appearance on Amazon, I believe it’s because it’s a 2009 model year ES player: it’s the 2010 ES lineup that will be unavailable online.
Still, I find this baffling. A Blu-ray player is a plug-and-play commodity component, why wouldn’t Sony want to maximize its sales by making it as widely available as possible?
“The ES distribution change “will help reinvigorate” the specialty and custom channels, reward those installers and specialists “who have been loyal to Sony for many years,” and provide an opportunity for ES to expand its custom/specialty dealer base, said Brian Siegel, VP of Sony’s home A/V group.
“ES has been for the past few years essentially widely distributed” and available through “many national accounts” and Internet sellers, Siegel said. A/V specialists and installers, he continued, have said ES offers great products and programs but that the previous distribution strategy “made it easier to do business with other manufacturers.”
“Sony ES “should be the No. 1 AVR brand in the specialty channel, and this [distribution strategy] is a way to do that,” Siegel asserted.”
Really? So they’re willing to basically hide their new flagship ES line from the majority of consumers who do research and shop online in the interest of “reinvigorating” the specialty channels?
I haven’t stepped foot in a specialty or custom channel store in years. I have done my research online and purchased my TV, Blu-ray player, iPod docks, computers, and just about every other piece of consumer electronics from online vendors. How about you?
Btw, I am definitely interested in learning more about the new ES Blu-ray player line, so I’ll keep my eye out for more information. I’m just afraid that without subscribing to a high end audio/video magazine I’ll never see anything now…