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Sony to offer movies with ultra-HD TVs

Owns both gadgets, content

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LAS VEGAS -- Sony Corp. is finally pressing its advantage as a conglomerate that owns both high-tech gadgets and the content that plays on them by being the only electronics maker to offer ultra-HD TVs -- and a way to get movies to the new super-clear screens.

Ultra-high definition TVs, which quadruple the number of pixels of current high definition technology, have been the talk of the International Consumer Electronics Show so far. But only Sony has offered a content solution to go with them.

With the 84-inch ultra-HD set it launched in November, Sony threw in a tablet and computer server that has 10 movies preloaded on the device -- for $25,000. The movies came from the library of Sony Pictures or its subsidiary Columbia Pictures, such as The Amazing Spider-Man and The Karate Kid.

On Monday, Sony unveiled 55-inch and 65-inch ultra-HD sets that will sell this spring for an undisclosed price, believed to be below $10,000. The Japanese electronics maker said it would launch a download service this summer in the U.S. so buyers of the smaller sets would have access to movies in the clearer format.

For now, it will offer the same 10 movies from its library for download.

After unveiling the service, Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai told reporters the ultra-HD movies could be made available to other makers such as Samsung or LG later. The company is eyeing co-ordination with other movie studios, but not immediately.

"That's a key differentiator from a Sony perspective that really speaks to the advantage of what we have in terms of both the electronics business and the content business," he said. "For the time being, that's something we bring exclusively to our customers."

Sony is betting big on ultra-HD and is a leading supplier of high-end cameras that shoot in the format, which renders moving images at a resolution of 3,840 pixels wide and 2,160 pixels tall. That is twice the length and width of high definition, resulting in four times as many pixels, or more than eight million.

The company also makes projectors that show movies in so-called 4K, and Hirai said anyone who has been to the movies lately has probably experienced it first-hand without realizing it.

Getting these higher-resolution files to home televisions is no small matter. A Blu-ray disc format has not been created yet and broadcasters are years away from offering TV signals at the higher resolution.

Sony representatives said buyers of its 55-inch and 65-inch TVs may be asked to buy an ultra-HD server separately, although a final decision hadn't been made. It is also unclear how much downloadable movies will cost.

The company said it will offer Blu-ray discs that are mastered in 4K but compressed to fit on a current Blu-ray disc. The TV's embedded technology presents the compressed movie at close to 4K resolution, but not quite as good as when they are played from the 4K media player.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 9, 2013 B7

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