Sony Pictures Technologies president discusses need for business in technology

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Chris Cookson, president of Sony Pictures Technologies and an ASU alumni, spoke at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Phoenix Thursday as part of an ongoing series of speakers hosted by the Economic Club of Phoenix at the W.P. Carey School. (Jessica Zook/DD)

Technology by itself doesn’t mean anything without business, said Chris Cookson, president of Sony Pictures Technologies and an ASU alumnus, to a packed ballroom of nearly 150 students and professionals at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Phoenix Thursday.

Cookson spoke at a luncheon as part of an ongoing series of speakers hosted by the Economic Club of Phoenix at the W.P. Carey School.

When Japan was devastated by the earthquake and tsunami last year, the film industry was forced to change its approach. A particular factory in Japan, the only one of its kind in the world that produces video film, was destroyed. As a result, movie producers began storing their films digitally on hard drives.

This is one recent example of how business can influence technology, Cookson said.

“The film industry radically changed because of that,” he said. “Technology got a radical kick in the rear.”

Cookson spoke on topics ranging from the evolution of technology and how businesses adapted to the future of technology and how businesses will need to adapt to stay relevant.

Various factors can impact the constantly changing tech world.

As a result of a massive union strike by the Screen Actors Guild in the early ’90s, filmmakers were forced to work with the only other union in Hollywood, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, who controlled the world of digital filmmaking, Cookson said. Filmmakers made a huge shift to digital production as a result, he added.

“If you started working in television production in the 1930s and retired, there’s a good chance nothing changed, but if you started 15 years ago, everything has changed,” he said.

Traditional films came on half-a-dozen large reels in very large steel containers that had to be shipped to movie theaters. Now film comes on tiny reusable hard drives, which are more cost effective and demonstrates an example of technologies emerging from strong financial strategies, Cookson said.

“It was great to see how business strategies have influenced technology when it’s usually the other way around,” said Brian Wright, an economics and finance senior and a business ambassador for the W.P. Carey School.

The Economics Club’s main goal is to promote discussion of economics and business issues among students and business leaders. The next scheduled luncheon is Jan. 11, 2012, and will feature Hamish Brewer, President and CEO of JDA Software.

Contact the reporter at rwnoel@asu.edu