A successful theory of various cuisines around the world, is that food is always consumed better on a stick, and Japanese technology giants Sony are banking on such an ideal carrying over to the world of video content, after revealing a new smart TV dongle that they aim to put on shelves against the Google Chromecast product.
The device, similar in use to a USB memory stick (albeit plugging into a TV set’s ‘mobile high-definition link (MHL)’ socket), will carry ‘apps and other smart-TV features’ to its users as a first or alternative connected TV option, not dissimilar to their previous Google TV-based set-top boxes, but with the benefits of even less wiring and more mobility.
Set for an official launch later this week with the expected announcement of an American price of $150 (compared with the $35 the Google Chromecast is listed at), the Sony Smart Stick, based on the Android operating system, will be able to offer users access to a range of apps (including ‘music and games’) and streaming services, including the ability to simultaneously browse the internet and watch TV in a PIP mode.
Aside from the ‘box’ (stick) itself, the Smart Stick will be sold with a remote capable of traditional, touchpad, and voice-control methods.
The official Sony blog first announced the product in a post last Friday (13 February), one which has since been taken down and only accessible by cache. It read: “The BRAVIA Smart Stick makes the 2013 BRAVIA line of televisions smart. Oh, the connected BRAVIA TVs are already grade school smart. The Smart Stick graduates them to PhD-level smarts.
“Viewers can either type or speak into the Smart Stick’s included universal remote and enjoy the power of Google Chrome search for results from cable/satellite providers, the internet, and thousands of apps. It’s so smart it integrates into a user’s existing cable or satellite service so there is no need to clumsily switch inputs to enjoy content from either source. Out of the box, the Smart Stick is pre-installed with apps like Netflix, HuluPlus, Pandora, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube and more. Viewers can personalize their TV experience by adding video, music, games, social networking and news apps from the Google Play Store - just like the ones available for smartphones.”
Speaking to the BBC, Enders Analysis ‘digital media expert’ summarised his (and most people’s) opinion on Sony’s potential in the dongle market against Google, stating: “For many consumers this will boil down to the fact that it’s $150 versus $35. Sony is offering yet another device without offering anything that different from other internet-enabled set-top boxes. There is clearly demand to watch internet video via the TV set, but there’s a whole new price point for these devices and at $150 I don’t think the Smart Stick will fly.”
With such a wide gap in prices, Sony are clearly confident that their product has an edge in technological value and/or their customer base will see it that way based on its higher figure, but with Google’s reputation for a cheap yet effecient product across the mobile device market, is more than quadrupling their rival’s prices a decision that will show any sort of benefit, or will it merely provide the conclusion that Google’s Chromecast is being sold at well below the marker that such products should normally be valued at?
However good the Sony Smart Stick turns out to be, it appears as though they may be bound to defeat in a head-to-head race unless they change a crucial aspect of their sales pitch…