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Sony, Will Smith pump 3D at CES

'Men in Black 3' trailer previewed in Vegas as studio bullish on 3D slate

Sony Corp. issued a vote of confidence for 3D movie exhibition at its presentation Monday at the Consumer Electronics Show with some help from the star of one of its biggest upcoming blockbusters, Will Smith.

The “Men in Black 3” star was joined by its director, Barry Sonnenfeld, who Smith praised but also singled out the other man standing on stage with them: Sony Corp. chairman-CEO Howard Stringer.

“Barry did an amazing job directing the movie and you did a good job paying for it,” Smith joked.

“Let’s hope you do a good job paying me back,” Stringer shot back.

Smith and Sonnenfeld took to the stage after the first 3D exhibition of the teaser trailer for “MIB3,” which is one of at least four new films Sony has coming out this year that utilize the technology, including the latest installments of the “Spider-Man,” “Ghost Rider” and “Underworld” franchises.

“Some may be skeptical about the future of 3D but I think the numbers speak for themselves,” said Phil Molyneux, president and chief operating officer of Sony Electronics, noting the $6 billion in revenue worldwide 3D pics brought in last year.

Smith’s appearance was one highlight of a wide-ranging event that offered nary a word about two of the bigger issues Sony has made headlines with over the past year: the security breaches on the Playstation Network and the question of who will succeed Stringer, who is expected to hand over his CEO duties to Kazuo Hirai, executive deputy president of Sony Corp. Sony has declined comment on the latter issue.

What the presentation did put heavy emphasis on was integrating the conglom’s many devices into one connective experience. “There’s more to the Sony story than great standalone products,” Hirai said.

The TV is the centerpiece of the connected experience, with everything from the Xperia smartphone to the Bloggie camera envisioned as a wireless feeder of content via WiFi from smaller screens to the living room.

Stringer touted Sony as an over-the-top player to be reckoned with given the company’s breadth of products.

“Wireless connectivity is making TV the entertainment center of the home once again,” said Stringer, who noted Sony has manufactured 100 million connected TVs. ” This network of connected viewers dwarfs in every size every cable and satellite company on earth.”

Sony’s own connected TV line, Bravia, will be enhanced with X Reality Pro, a “picture engine” that undoes the compression that creates the grainy, pixilated nature of YouTube content for better exhibition of digital content.

Sony Entertainment Network is the linchpin of the conglom’s efforts to push premium content across its products, allowing users to stream or download content to myriad branded devices via a single ID and digital wallet.

Music Unlimited is a big piece of SEN, with a global catalog of 12 million songs available in four new countries, Hirai revealed, bringing its total footprint to 13. Its counterpart for TV and movies, Video Unlimited, is in nine.

Sony also touted its PlayStation Vita portable gaming device, noting it isn’t entirely for gaming. When the device hits stores in U.S. and Europe next month, Netflix will be a charter member, and Music Unlimited will also be available.

The conglom also announced that its new mobile unit, Sony Ericsson, will be renamed Sony Mobile Communications. Hirai said the rebranding will give its smartphones a fresh start as Sony aims to fight for a bigger presence in that market, especially in the U.S.

Sony is also focusing on improving capabilities for customers using its cameras to shoot personal photos and video. PlayMemories Online allows users to upload photos and clips that can be easily played across a range of Sony devices.

While Sony stood by its 3D capabilities, the company also touted the new technology of 4K, which promises images with four times the resolution of HD. Molyneux explained Sony was well positioned to be a dominant force deploying that technology on TVs because it already utilizes 4K on the production side. The company already has a 4K home theater projector and a Blu-ray player with 4K upscale functions.

But the device that may have drawn the most oohs and aahs was Sony’s new Tablet P, which has a dual screen that allows it to be folded into a pocket or purse.

On the 3D side, Stringer also touted cable channel 3Net, the company’s joint venture with Discovery and IMAX.

Sony closed the event with a live perf from Kelly Clarkson, who sang “Mr. Know It All,” the first single from her new album.

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