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Sony racing to beat Apple to next generation of connected TV sets

Sony CEO Howard Stringer said Thursday that he has "no doubt" that the late Steve Jobs was working to reinvent the television, while the company has spent the past five years developing a platform to compete against Jobs and Apple.

During a breakfast hosted and reported by The Wall Street Journal, Stringer acknowledged that the television industry can't continue on its current path.

"We can't continue selling TV sets [the way we have been]. Every TV set we all make loses money," he said.

Sony warned last week that it may lose as much as $1 billion this fiscal year, largely due to the company's bleeding television business, which has lost money for seven straight years.

The executive went on to note that there's a "tremendous amount of R&D going into a different kind of TV set." For his part, Jobs revealed to his biographer that he had "cracked" the secret for a simple and elegant interface for an Apple-style television set.

Stringer said he has "no doubt" that Jobs was working on a new kind of TV, adding, "that's what we're all looking for."

The Journal noted Stringer as saying that he "wouldn't underestimate Apple's ability to come up with a novel concept, but he noted it is a tricky process." He added that any transition to a new kind of television would "take a long time."

Sony threw its lot in with the Google TV platform last year, but saw little success. Google recently released a major update to the platform in hopes of revitalizing interest in it.

However, Google's partners may be hesitant to work with the platform again. Logitech CEO Guerrino De Luca said earlier this week that his company had decided to sit "on the bench" about the platform after taking a costly $100 million loss on its Google TV-equipped Revue, due to "a mistake of implementation of a gigantic nature," The Verge reports.

Sony also bet big on 3D TV sets, but has yet to see widespread consumer adoption. Stringer on Thursday attributed the lack of regular TV content as a cause for slow sales of the devices.

"I spent the last five years building a platform so I can compete against Steve Jobs," he said after admitting that the iPhone is "really well organized." That platform is "finished, and it's launching now," Stringer continued.

The company's strategy is described as a "four-screen" approach for mobile phones, tablets, personal computers and televisions. Stringer indicated Thursday that he intends to stick to that strategy, despite calls for his resignation from some shareholders.

As for tablets, Sony released its first tablets this fall, more than a year after Apple launched the iPad. Despite having innovative form factors, the devices received a chilly reception from analysts and bloggers.

Sony tablets

The executive characterized 2011 as a rough year and claimed that Sony would have been profitable except for several disasters, including an earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March, a hacking attack on the company's PlayStation Online service and recent flooding in Thailand. According to him, those events cost the company as much as $3 billion this year.

"For Sony this year, all those things are much worse than you can even characterize," he said.