Sony Keynote at 2014 International CES by Kazuo Hirai (Transcript)

President and CEO of Sony Corporation Kazuo Hirai delivered his keynote address at the 2014 International CES describing how Sony has been at the forefront of consumer electronics innovation….here is the full keynote transcript at the CES 2014


Gary Shapiro – President and CEO, CEA

[Starts abruptly]…next wave of the consumer technology experience. Sony leads the way in shaping how consumers enjoy their music, movies, TV shows and games and delivers news ways for consumers to receive information. And Sony has the most options for consumers to create their own content and then watch it on any type of device. From the earliest days of the Trinitron and the Walkman to the dawn of the digital and high-definition areas to 3D and now lots of high-definition TV and high-resolution audio and across any type of platform, Sony is always a leader out in the front.

And, of course, Sony always has one of the most exciting exhibits here at CES year after year. In breadth of resources, it’s unrivaled in addition to its consumer electronics reach and a movie studio directly produces box office favorites, a music label that showcases the best in every genre and a professional group that covers everything in Hollywood to network news. Sony ties it all together into an intuitive and seamless consumer user experience. But don’t just take my word for it.

Our speaker this morning has personally been involved in many of Sony’s achievements. Like Sony itself, Kazuo Hirai, President and CEO of Sony Corp. is a man of many talents. He’s seeing consumer electronics from all sides from the successes with the Sony PlayStation business to international work with music artists to his leadership of Sony’s network products and services initiatives.

He also was the 2013 ESA Champion Honoree where he was recognized as one of the most influential executives in the entertainment industry. He is uniquely qualified to continue Sony’s leadership at the forefront of consumer electronics innovation.

Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming Sony’s Kazuo Hirai.

Kazuo Hirai – President and CEO, Sony Corp.

Thank you, Gary, for that great introduction. Good morning everybody and thank you for being a part of the keynote this morning.  And as Gary said, I know a lot of you had challenges coming into Las Vegas. I’m glad you made it, and I’m doubly honored with the fact that you’ve made it this morning to our keynote.

So ever since I was a boy, I’ve been curious. All sorts of things interested me whether they’re cars, science, gadgets, and of course electronics. I was, and I still am, very inquisitive.

Now, as you all know, childhood is a time of wonder and awe. It’s a time when the whole world around us captivates our curiosity and our imagination. Our fascination with children’s books to the questions about how things work, our experience as children is defined by play and by discovery. And one of my earliest memories was sitting in front of the television set watching Romper Room. Many of you watched it as well. It was an experience of magical connection, and for me emotional engagement with friends that I did not really know, but was relating to via my television.

Now, one day, I remember the hostess passing out cookies to the children on the show. I waited patiently and wondered where my cookie was. All the children on the television set, they were getting their cookie. And I kind of felt left out.

How did these people arrive in my living room each and every day? Why couldn’t they hear or see me? My curiosity was piqued, and has continued to be throughout my life. And today, I suspect many of the people in this room, right here, like me, still hold on to at least a bit of their childhood curiosity.

Now, we choose to be engineers, inventors, and creators because we’ve retained our childlike wonder and imagination. And at Sony, we cultivate curiosity.

Asking questions about how we might improve an everyday experience propels our desire at Sony to make things. And making things is a reflection of our desire at Sony to connect with people, to create surprises, to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary and to inspire people to experience, wow, wow.

Often, our curiosity stimulates creative thinking that yields those great innovations. For example, in 1979, the Sony Walkman became the first portable device that enabled a personal playlist, a favorite album, or that beloved mix tape — remember those? — to go everywhere that people went. It was mobile, and I have to say, it was a “wow.”

In 1982, the compact disc was introduced. This innovation improved recording, storage, and above all, sound quality. And I still remember the first time I heard a compact disc on, of course, a Sony CD player. And it was Billy Joel’s 52nd Street, and it sounded incredible. That, to me, was a wow.

In 1994 in Japan, we introduced PlayStation. And of course PlayStation became a game-changing home entertainment console. In fact, I was so wowed by PlayStation, I left the music business to pursue further development of the PlayStation franchise right here in the United States.

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And PlayStation proved that consumer electronics products could be more. It could be more than just a modern convenience. Devices could provide emotionally rich experiences.

And today, our legacy of providing action-packed adventure takes another step forward with the launch of the PlayStation 4. The market, wowed by our technology and by our engineering and by our software. The gamer, thrilled by the lineup of amazing titles, they’ve responded enthusiastically around the world. And these innovative products created or redefined categories. And they’re all the result of curious minds asking, “What if? What if?”

They all emphasize the power of emotion in determining what has value to people. Myself, everybody in this room, everybody around the world.

Mobility enabled by the Walkman awakened people to the idea that they could take their favorite stuff with them wherever they went. Not just because it was convenient, but because it mattered to them. It matters to me, it matters to you.

The compact disc delivered a more powerful listening experience, one that allowed people to feel the music that they love. And, of course, the PlayStation continues to shatter all conventional thinking about game play, social connection, and the emotional rush of epic adventures and innovative games.

At the same time, however, there are challenges on the pathway to wow. Making powerful, emotionally compelling products is not always a straight line. Sometimes at Sony, we zigzag our way to great innovations, and simply other times, we fail.

You probably don’t recognize or remember any of these products, but don’t despair, neither does the rest of the world. So it’s okay.

But, you know, at Sony, failure is not really an end. It’s a reason. It’s a reason to keep trying. So we show you this.

This is the Betamax. Now, despite Betamax being first to market and, dare I say, offering superior technology than that other format. But I’ll be the first to admit: VHS won the battle for commercial success.

However, before you completely write off Betamax based on its failure to become the consumer standard, think about it as an idea. Take a look.

Here is the headline for Betamax featured in an advertisement back in 1975. Watch whatever, whenever. 1975. This idea still resonates and defines everything people desire and expect even today. We’re talking about freedom, we’re talking about flexibility, we’re talking about control over your own time and choice. Watching whatever, whenever.  That was almost 40 years ago. 40 years ago.

Now, as an interesting aside, by the way, Betamax, unfortunately, didn’t have that consumer success that we expected. But ultimately, it found its way as Betacam, a broadcast format with the same form factor as the Betamax and became, as you probably know, especially the people in this room, the de facto standard in broadcast and professional industry.  So all was not lost. As an aside.

Anyway, so we continue to be driven by that desire to evolve this idea of unlimited and improved access of watching whatever, whenever, while at the same time meeting consumer demand for experiences that are untethered from conventional devices and conventional wisdom.

But in an enterprise that makes things, we must first and foremost make that connection with people. Our products’ value is measured by them. And we find that it’s not just functional value that people desire, but the deeper and more elusive emotional value. Emotional value.

And in Japanese culture, we call this kando. Kando translates to mean emotional involvement. The power to simulate an emotional response. The power to make people say, “Wow.”  All Sony products must be inspired by a spirit of kando.

Advanced technologies and more elegant ergonomic designs are important ways products can seduce our sense of sight, sound, and touch. The wonder once associated with tangible products has been expanded by the migration of content, games, music, television, and a lot more to the cloud.

However, even though the cloud promises a connected future, the cloud itself is not the wow.  The wow happens when your senses are engaged, when you see the stunning visuals, when you hear the crisp sounds.  When you feel the weight and balance of a perfectly designed device in your hands.  When you are dazzled by a sublime form factor.  When you are amazed at the ingenuity and cleverness of a technology that you never thought was possible.

This is the heart of Sony. Those tantalizing objects that not only give us a wow, but in and of themselves are also the wow.

Now, our 60 years of product design experience grants us, Sony, the historical perspective, the expertise, and the collective power to deliver wow to everybody’s senses.  And I expect all Sony employees to put “wow” at the center of their efforts.  Product planners, hardware engineers, game creators, assembly line managers — my God, even corporate lawyers and finance professionals are all a part of an interconnected network of “wow” providers at Sony.

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And recently, we’ve started to deliver that wow again.  Products like 4K, ultra high definition. When you see true native 4K content on a 4K television for the first time, that’s a wow. Visuals giving you such detail that you can see the atmosphere, you can feel the atmosphere, almost feeling like you can catch the dust particles dancing in a shaft of light.

Or listening to high-resolution audio using Sony’s end-to-end, high-resolution recording delivery and playback systems.  An entire generation — we all know this — an entire generation missed the visceral emotion of listening to uncompressed audio. The precision and clarity of every note.  The moment when a singer takes his or her breath before the chorus. Getting goose bumps as a song reaches a crescendo.

High-res audio allows the complete dynamic range of what the artist originally intended when they were in the recording studios creating their music.

The RX1 camera.  The moment of pride when sharing a perfect picture. The RX1 is a compact camera that empowers all photographers from the professionals creating art to parents capturing an important family memory with absolute, uncompromised quality.

Or the QX, the world’s first lens-style camera. Now, not only can you shoot using just the lens, but you can connect it to your smartphone and take the perfect shot and control the lens through your smartphone.

And of course PlayStation 4 is setting a new standard in gaming. Not only do we push the boundaries of play, but we also created a true object of sensation.

And with remote play, you can seamlessly connect and transfer the action from PS4 directly to your PSVita.

Experiencing a more intuitive and intelligent smartphone.  The Sony Xperia Z1 harnesses the power of the “one Sony” ethos. All of the Sony companies’ deep expertise and knowledge combine to make a mobile device that is truly the best of Sony, and something that only Sony can deliver.

Stunning visuals coming from our world-class TV group. Groundbreaking digital image capturing systems from, of course, the world’s best digital imaging engineers. Audio technology, games, apps, and more. The elegance of the package belies the robust technological capability within, making the Z1 a distinctly Sony design, a wow design.

And across our studios, there is a commitment to surprise, provoke, and thrill our audiences. We continue to tell stories from the romantic to the heroic, to the epic, to the personal, to the delight of global audiences.

And we don’t consider any product a success unless we have delivered that wow, that wow. And today our focus and drive is more deeply rooted in our philosophy of kando.

And we’re spending more and more time looking out at the world, at culture, at consumers than looking within.

And on the horizon, we see a next-generation consumer that is different from any before them. We think of them as “Generation Remix.” Born during the current millennium, they are true digital natives. Most of them know… they knew how to use a touch screen, a tablet, a smart phone, a DVR by the time they were toddlers.

Before they were born, a first wave of technical advancement required people to actually adapt to technology. But look out for this generation who will bend it — who will bend it to their will. They will control technology, not be controlled by it. Sampling, grabbing, curating, remixing will characterize the way they engage with technology and devices. They’re no longer worshipping at the altar of technology. They will be their own arbiters of what has purpose, functionality, and creative potential.

We expect them to bring a confidence about their own power to change the world, seeing technology as a tool to do exactly that.

Now, we have to ask ourselves:  What will wow them?  What will wow them? And it’s important to remember that the wow factor does not sit still and wait for us, we must move towards new and often challenging definitions of that wow.

Like, for example, the ability to see things differently. And the passion to provide technologies that will help people with longer, healthier, and more fulfilling lives.

The creation of better content and improved delivery systems, and seamless and unlimited access to live television, movies, music, and games. Even the evolution of traditional boxes and frames into unconventional image surfaces that transform the places where we live, work, and play.

I believe that these are the big ideas defining our course at Sony.

Now, we can push the boundaries of what we can see, creating the potential for a better, safer, more visually stunning human experience.

And with our advanced sensing technologies, we’re seeing in a completely new way. Advanced image sensors are providing an image-based reference to everything that we all care about.  They transform how data from a family portrait to a vacation photo to even more complex data can be sensed and captured, even when it cannot be seen by the human eye. This achievement from our Sony engineers creates a range of possibilities for future sensing technologies.

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