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Open secret: Sony's really not.


During Sony chairman Howard Stringer's keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show last week, Toro Hanks got most of the laughs, mocking the speech that scrolled by on the TelePrompter, which was peppered with plugs for Sony products. But Stringer earned a few chuckles of his own when he professed Sony's undying devotion to open standards, which allow outside developers and vendors to add features easily.

"Open technologies are winning the game," Stringer said, listing seven strategic initiatives for the media and electronics conglomerate. "Closed systems are being disintermediated."

This from the company that has often embraced closed, proprietary systems and formats ranging from Betamax to Digital Audio Tape to the MemoryStick to the Ultra MiniDisc, a small silver disc that once held movies that could be played only on Sony's PlayStation Portable.

Ironically, just a few hundred yards away, startup Boxee and its CEO Avner Ronen were showing off their open-source software, intended to make photos, music, and video content easier to navigate on a TV. It already runs on Apple computers, AppleTV and Linux boxes. Ronen says Boxee had been trying to talk to Sony about getting the software to run on the PlayStation 3, but hadn't made headway. "They're not sure whether they like the idea, and they don't know how it will affect their business model," Ronen says.

Perhaps not everyone at Sony has gotten Stringer's memo about openness.

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Title Annotation:Smoke & Mirrors: BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE BIZ'S DEALS, DECISIONS AND DIVERSIONS; open-source software and Sony Corp
Author:Kirsner, Scott
Article Type:Brief article
Date:Jan 12, 2009
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