Sony sets out smartphone battle plan
CEO insists acquisitions will not be necessary to hang onto number three spot in smartphones, as ZL flagship debuts
Published: 10 January, 2013
Sony leapt from number six to number three in the smartphone league tables in a year, but mainly by taking advantage of the woes of others, such as Nokia, RIM and HTC. Many believe it needs an acquisition - perhaps of one of those fallen giants - to narrow the gap with Samsung and Apple, and to defend its third place from Chinese challengers and LG - but CEO Kazuo Hirai insists this will not be necessary.
Despite its improvement in the smartphone table, Sony still has only 5% share, according to Q312 figures from IDC, while the big two share about half of the sector. But Hirai told The Wall Street Journal that the multiscreen strategy he introduced when he took the helm last summer would enable Sony to generate mobile growth through its own assets, without the need for major acquisition.
"The ingredients are there for us to garner the kind of market share that I think we deserve," he told the newspaper in an interview at this week's Consumer Electronics Show."I don't see the need for an acquisition if you're talking about a manufacturer." That does not, of course, preclude the purchase of companies in other areas, notably software and content - all the big handset makers are chasing those assets as they chase the Apple integrated hardware/software experience, notably Sony's arch-rival Samsung.
Hirai supports the view of many analysts, that Sony has, in recent years, underused its iconic brands, such as Walkman, and its content, to drive sales of its mobile devices and other products. Creating a more common user experience across different screens, and gaining full control of the handset unit by buying out Ericsson from their joint venture, are both attempts to change this and leverage Sony's in-built strengths. However, the mobile unit is still lossmaking. In CES interviews, he reiterated the mantra he voiced when he took over the helm - that Sony's three core businesses are now digital imaging, games and mobile, with all of them cross-fertilizing the others, and with the struggling TV unit drawing on the imaging innovations and content of the big three.
At CES, Hirai introduced the latest flagship handset, the Xperia Z, which takes Sony's range into the high performance bracket occupied by Samsung's top end models, with features like a 13-megapixel camera. It indicates how Sony plans to reuse its various technologies across all its product lines - as well as its content assets, the new smartphone will support much of the functionality of the Sony CyberShot digital camera range, and offers a new display from the Japanese giant's screen unit. This sees Sony emulating Samsung's increasing efforts, over the past few years, to bring together the technologies from all its divisions to improve its supply chain efficiency and differentiate its offerings from those of less broad-based competitors.
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