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Sony chief calls 'wow factor' key to growth

He cited flat-panel TVs, a robotic music player, and networking for the PlayStation 3 console.

TOKYO - Flat-panel TVs, a music player with robotics technology, and planned networking services for the PlayStation 3 video game console are keys to Sony's growth after a nearly three-year restructuring effort, chief executive officer Howard Stringer said yesterday.

Such products "bring back some of the wow factor" and show that the electronics and entertainment company has recovered from its financial problems, Stringer told reporters at Sony Corp. headquarters.

"The next cycle is actual innovation," he said.

Sony's network service, now used to pipe video games to the PlayStation 3, will be expanded to offer other kinds of content. He did not give details or a timetable.

Besides its core electronics business, Sony owns the Hollywood movie studio that made the


series. Sony also has a joint venture in music with Bertelsmann AG that has Bruce Springsteen, Justin Timberlake and Beyonce Knowles under its labels.

Such entertainment content probably will become downloads for the PlayStation 3 in Sony's effort to catch U.S. companies such as Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp.

When Stringer took the helm at Sony in 2005, the company - once a symbol of technology innovation with its Walkman line of personal stereos - had been stumbling, falling behind in flat-panel TVs and digital-music players. The turnaround plan Stringer engineered - including cutting jobs, closing plants, and dropping unprofitable businesses - will be completed in March.

Sony sold part of its stake in its financial unit, which had a bank and insurer.

Sony also has sold to Toshiba Corp. its advanced computer chip operations for making the PlayStation 3's "Cell" microprocessor.

Yesterday, Stringer talked enthusiastically about Sony's latest TV technology and its robotic music player, dubbed Rolly.

This month, Sony began selling in Japan the world's first television for the commercial market with an organic light-emitting diode display, or OLED. The 11-inch display on the TV called XEL-1 measures just 0.12 inches thick and delivers clear vivid images.

Rolly, which went on sale earlier this year, is a rolling, dancing, egg-shaped music player that flaps its lidlike ends and flashes lights.

Stringer made clear he planned to stay on as chief executive and steer the next three-year plan.

"Am I going to be here for the next three years? And the answer is, 'Yes,"' he said.

Stringer also was upbeat about Sony's recent operations, saying PlayStation 3 sales were going strong worldwide, boosted by price cuts and helped by a shortage of the rival Wii console from Nintendo Co. Ltd.