Wow! Meets Oops! as Sony Trips on Road to Recovery

(This post was updated throughout.)

It was a slick presentation by Sony Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai.

But it was an oops and a subtle mea culpa that highlighted the long road ahead for the Japanese company to rebuild its battered brand.

Kaz, as he’s known informally, was joined by COO Phil Molyneux as they went through an array of new devices: headphones to beat Dr. Dre at his own game, speakers that can be activated with a tap, and new waterproof Xperia handsets.

And then there was the TV. Samsung and Sharp had already unveiled their 4K and OLED TVs. 4K, also known as Ultra HD, is being touted as making that Full HDTV you bought last year look like a CRT. Organic light-emitting diodes (OLED), apart from allowing more efficient, thinner TVs, are the next cool thing. Either technology has a high-end sticker price.

So Kaz went one better. With great joy and triumph, he unveiled 4K and OLED in the same device. Except it didn’t work, showing what appeared to be a console screen with generic white text on a blue background.

The malfunction elicited chuckles from the audience and a meek grin from the CEO. After a pause and a quip, he moved on, missing that grand triumph he might have craved.

The snafu didn’t stop Kaz from ending his CES pre-show briefing with a vow to “surprise and delight” before letting an AV presentation explain what’s on the minds of Sony and its customers:

“We used to make people say `Wow!’ all the time. And it wasn’t an accident,” a female narrator said over a video show and background music that promised to lure customers back one “wow” at a time.

“Our unique combination of artists and engineers set out to create a surprise everyday,” she went on. “We’d forgotten the power of that for a while.”

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