PlayStation 3 to see online video service soon

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According to the LA Times, Sony “is preparing to launch an online video service through its game console PlayStation 3 as early as this summer” and “the service would include movies and television shows flowing from the Internet…”

The service is thought to be similar to Microsoft’s Xbox Live or Apple TV, although it’d be somewhat more open in the sense that it would be available on a myriad of Sony devices beyond just the PS3, like the PSP and Sony computers.

Industry analysts are quick to point out that in an era of open, consumer-friendly formats, it’s going to be important for Sony to make the content easy to consume.

One of the service’s greatest obstacles may be Sony’s own culture. Sony Chairman and Chief Executive Howard Stringer has been battling a corporate silo mentality in which divisions within his company work in isolation, undermining new initiatives. The PlayStation group in Foster City, Calif., has been notoriously aloof. Once, a former executive said, it scuttled plans for a movie subscription service for the PlayStation Portable even though Sony Pictures had supported the initiative.

What is more, the company, looking to safeguard its film, television and music holdings, has been an aggressive champion of copyright protection, often, critics suggest, at the cost of technological innovation.

“Sony has this blessing and curse of [having] some of the world’s smartest intellectual property lawyers, who’ve never built or marketed a product in their life, who are good at saying, ‘no,’ ” said Richard Doherty, senior analyst at consultancy Envisioneering Group in Seaford, N.Y. “The sun never sets on the Sony lawyers, they’re around the world, in Tokyo, London, New York.”

Things are apparently looking up, though, since former Apple bigwig Tim Schaaff joined Sony back in late 2005 as the senior vice president of software development. He’s been tasked with building easy-to-use interfaces and concentrating on improving Sony’s software designs.

Microsoft got a chance to chime in on Sony’s upcoming venture. Senior director of the media and entertainment group, Ross Honey said, “It isn’t easy to do this. There is a lot of work to be done in just making this work and getting that movie up in high quality. We’ve had over a year’s experience on how to do this, so we can focus on innovating as opposed to working out the kinks.”

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