NEW YORK—Sony Corporation chairman and CEO Howard Stringer gave the public a first glimpse of Steve, the latest model in the company’s highly anticipated line of ideal electronics consumers, during the Sony Corporation of America’s annual stockholders meeting Monday.
The 72-inch, 195-pound consumer—a 34-year-old unmarried financial analyst—is smaller, lighter, and swifter than last year’s beta-model consumer, Larry.
“Larry was much less mobile, which worked well for electronics enjoyment but less so for purchasing,” said Hideo Ichimonji, head of the design team for the Ideal Consumer Project. “Also, the Larry’s decision-processing became jammed when forced to choose from more than one potential Sony product. By implementing parallel-purchasing solutions and simplifying its personality traits, we’ve ensured that Steve will always be a loyal Sony customer without any annoying system shutdowns or buying freezes.”
Sony expects Steve to usher in a whole new generation of ideal consumers.
“With Steve, we’re introducing a range of cutting-edge consumer attributes that other electronics manufacturers can only dream of,” Stringer said during the half-hour demonstration, in which Steve smoothly and quickly selected high-end Sony home-theater components it researched on a Sony VAIO laptop while interfacing with Sony customers worldwide using a Sony Ericsson mobile phone.
“The integration of Steve’s simultaneous multi-credit-card-processing capabilities with its high earning capability allows our new U.S.-market flagship consumer to purchase our entire North American product line in a single clock cycle.”
Steve sports larger, pre-calloused thumbs and is fully backwards-compatible with Sony’s complete line of merchandise, extending back to the Trinitron television and cassette Walkman. Its debt threshold is also nearly two-thirds higher.
Several thousand Steves will be shipped to Asia and Europe for test-shopping next month. Steve will come in six different colors, with analysts expecting the white and yellow models to be much more successful than the black version.
Designers say Steve’s recharging capability is an improvement over Larry’s bulky and cumbersome charge port, which resembled a La-Z-Boy recliner.
“Steve can recharge on any reasonably comfortable surface, including a couch, desktop, floor, futon—anywhere that’s within range of a Sony product,” said Ichimonji, who also described the automatic sleep mode that activates when Steve has been out of contact with a Sony product for more than 30 minutes. “The Steve also has the power to consume our products on-the-go for up to three days on one charge. It’s also got a friendlier interface and improved social skills, and loves talking about Sony products in any social setting.”
Added Ichimonji: “Or you can just put Steve in front of an HDTV or send it on its way with a Sony PSP, and you’ll forget he even exists.”
Industry experts have praised the redesign, particularly the enormous numbers of visual, aural, and purchasing-suggestion inputs Steve can support. But the most talked-about feature seems to be its built-in anti-obsolescence feature, which enables it to continuously upgrade its preferences for Sony merchandise.
“Steve definitely looks to be an improvement,” said gaming enthusiast Jennie Weathers, 28, who planned to attend a demonstration at a Las Vegas electronics trade show this weekend. “The Larry was clunky, slow, and always making noise. Steve has a lot more free time and the flexibility to adapt to Sony retail stores and shopping sites like SonyStyle. And it seems like he’ll require very little upkeep or attention, but he’ll still be there when I just want to chill out and watch DVDs on my Sony WEGA HDTV or need some quick cheat tips for Kingdom Hearts II.”
Analysts say that Steve’s only real competition comes from Apple Computer’s own ideal consumer, the iBuy. But because the much more expensive iBuy is designed only to purchase and enjoy the pricier, but limited Apple product line, and is not intershoperable with other systems, Steve’s appeal will likely prove much broader.
Steve is scheduled for release in August, and Sony plans to have hundreds of thousands of models perusing store shelves by Christmas.