Sony Launches Qualia
On April 21, Sony Electronics today announced the official US launch of its Qualia line. New Qualia products include Qualia 016 digital still camera, the Qualia 017 MiniDisc player, and the Qualia 010 headphone set, said to establish "a new standard in audio reproduction." Due this summer, Qualia headphones will sell for $2600.
These models follow the debut of the $30,000 Qualia 004 SXRD projector, a prototype of which generated considerable buzz at last summer's Home Entertainment Show in San Francisco. Review samples of the Qualia 004 SXRD projector, described by the manufacturer as "industry's first full high definition home theater front projector," have already been put to the test by several consumer electronics publications, with positive comments.
With Qualia, Sony is extrapolating from the Toyota/Lexus experience to home electronics - that is, making the products not only better performing, but also more reliable and more pleasurable to use. Sony hopes that the same sort of cachet attached to Lexus (or more accurately, Bang & Olufsen, and other less well-known high-end brands) will eventually accrue to Qualia. A company press release describes the project as "an initiative aimed at touching an emotional cord among consumers through products unique in technology, design and functionality."
The announcement goes on to say that all Qualia products are the "result of cutting edge engineering without any constraints," and must pass muster with Sony's top management. The Qualia 016 digital still camera, priced at $3900, is said to be an "extraordinary accomplishment in its compact size," and the Qualia 017 MiniDisc player ($1900) is described as "an object d'art carved from a block of pure brass." A New York Times report earlier in the month said that many Qualia products would be marketed primarily to women through a network of separate stores in upscale "fashion malls," rather than through Sony Style stores or other mainstream retailers. Qualia customers will have their own personal consultants, as in day spas, and will receive personalized communications and special gifts. The Qualia 004 SXRD projector is available though Sony's network of custom installation specialists.
Qualia products will be available in the US via a toll free number this summer (1-877-782-5423) and through Sony's "Cierge" personalized shopping service. A Qualia store is slated to open in New York City this summer.