Sony Keeps Concepts Alive At CES 2012

Today at Sony’s CES 2012 press conference, the company unveiled several PC concepts that are, well, just concepts. Kazuo Hirai took to the massive Sony stage deep within the Las Vegas Convention center and talked about the convergence of TV and computers. But no one cares about that marketing nonsense. It was the concepts they flashed on the screen that got everyone excited.

But don’t expect these products to hit the market. Companies are not supposed to sell concepts. They’re concepts, not products.

Up until the last decade, Sony was the design leader in consumer electronics. Sure, others had hits, but no one had decades of iconic products like Sony. Then, for whatever reason, Sony seemed to lose it soul. It lost the magic that made generations of consumers fall in love with the brand. It’s sad, really.

Companies seem afraid to show concepts now-in-days. Perhaps they’re frightened of the potential criticism. MG would no doubt crucify some of them. But these companies also lose out on the conversations and hype that they can generate. Concepts are supposed to invoke an emotional response — good or bad. You’re supposed to love it or hate it. Concepts are supposed to show where the brand is headed.

Think about concept cars: They’re a physical roadmap produced when designers are allowed to go wild. Teenage boys dream about these cars. Posters are made. They are the heart of the automotive world and can often reignite a dead brand.

Several concept gadgets made it to the market. The original Dell XPS is a fine example. The limited-run notebook was loved by many and it was Dell’s halo product for several quarters. But because it wasn’t a blockbuster, runaway success, it was quietly killed. Instead, Dell should have had a clear message that this was going to be a limited product, designed simply for Dell’s fans and those looking for a unique product.

The gadget world is stuck in a cycle of regurgitation and repetition. A random company produces a concept, Apple prefects it, which is then copied by nearly every other company. Concepts are a lost art. Sony is in a desperate need of finding its soul again. Sony needs concepts.