Sunday, November 26, 2006

Notable Sony products, technologies and proprietary formats

Sony has historically been notable for creating its own in-house standards for new recording and storage technologies instead of adopting those of other manufacturers and standards bodies. The most infamous of these was the videotape format war of the early 1980s, when Sony marketed its Betamax system for video cassette recorders against the VHS format developed by JVC. In the end, VHS gained critical mass in the marketplace and became the worldwide standard for consumer VCRs and Sony adopted the format. Since then, Sony has continued to introduce its own versions of storage technologies, with varying success. A * denotes a proprietary format.

Early Sony products included reel-to-reel tape recorders and transistor radios.

In 1968 Sony introduced its Trinitron brand name for its line of aperture grille cathode ray tube televisions and later computer monitors. Trinitron displays are still produced.

Sony launched the Betamax videocassette recording format in 1975. The Walkman brand was introduced in 1979.

1982 saw the launch of Sony's Betacam videotape family and the collaborative Compact Disc format. In 1983 Sony introduced 90mm micro floppy diskettes (better known as 3.5-inch floppy disks), which it had developed at a time when there were 4" floppy disks and a lot of variations from different companies to replace the then on-going 5.25" floppy disks. Sony had great success and the format became dominant; 3.5" floppy disks gradually became obsolete as they were replaced by more current media formats. In 1984 Sony launched the Discman series which extended their Walkman brand to portable CD products. In 1985 Sony launched their Handycam products and the Video8 format. Video8 became popular in the consumer camcorder market.

In the early 1990s two high-density optical storage standards were being developed: one was the MultiMedia Compact Disc (MMCD), backed by Philips and Sony, and the other was the Super Density disc (SD), supported by Toshiba and many others. Philips and Sony abandoned their MMCD format and agreed upon Toshiba's SD format with two modifications based on MMCD technology.

Sony introducted the MiniDisc* format in 1992. Since the introduction of the format, Sony has attempted to promote its own audio compression technologies under the ATRAC brand, against more widely used formats like MP3. Until late 2004, Sony's Network Walkman line of digital portable music players did not support the MP3 de facto standard natively, although the software SonicStage provided with them would convert MP3 files into the ATRAC or ATRAC3 formats.

In 1993, Sony challenged the industry standard Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound format with its newer and more advanced proprietary motion picture digital audio format called SDDS (Sony Dynamic Digital Sound). This format employed eight channels (7.1) of audio opposed to just six used in Dolby Digital 5.1 at the time. Unlike Dolby Digital, SDDS utilized a method of backup by having mirrored arrays of bits on both sides of the film which acted as a measure of reliability in case the film was partially damaged. Ultimately, SDDS has been vastly overshadowed by the preferred DTS (Digital Theatre System) and Dolby Digital standards in the motion picture industry. SDDS was solely developed for use in the theatre circuit; Sony never intended to develop a home theatre version of SDDS.

Sony and Philips jointly developed the Sony-Philips digital interface format (S/PDIF) and the high-fidelity audio system SACD. The latter has since been entrenched in a format war with DVD-Audio. At present, neither has gained a major foothold with the general public. CDs are preferred by consumers because of their ubiquitous presence in consumer devices.

In 1994 Sony launched its PlayStation (later PS one). This successful console was succeeded by the PlayStation 2 in 2000, itself succeeded by the PlayStation 3 in 2006. The PlayStation brand was extended to the portable games market in 2004 by the PlayStation Portable*. Sony developed the Universal Media Disc (UMD) optical disc medium for use on the PlayStation Portable.

Sony is currently touting its Blu-ray Disc optical disc format, which is likely to compete with Toshiba's HD DVD. As of quarter one of 2006, Blu-ray Disc has the backing of every major motion picture studio except Universal.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

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