Hirai remakes Sony in first year as CEO, now must win consumers
Sony will likely meet its goal of making a profit this fiscal year, rebounding from a record loss
IDG News Service - In his first year as Sony CEO, Kazuo Hirai has remade the company, cutting thousands of jobs, selling off large businesses and core properties, and moving divisions around the world.
Now comes the hard part, selling electronics.
Hirai officially took the helm on April 1 last year, after Sony closed the books on its worst fiscal year since its founding in 1946. The company booked a nearly $6 billion loss for the twelve months ending March 31, and said many signature products were struggling, including its Bravia TVs, Vaio PCs, Cyber-shot digital cameras and PlayStation game consoles.
He laid out his agenda in a press conference at Tokyo headquarters less than two weeks later. The normally easygoing Hirai often raised a fist for emphasis, nearly shouting as he faced a standing-room only crowd and promised to return the firm to greatness, as well as profitability.
Hirai faced a skeptical audience in the Japanese press, which had relentlessly criticized the firm in the wake of its record loss with headlines like "Sayonara Sony." He said he would refocus on the hit products that built its legacy, cutting away non-core businesses under the slogan "One Sony."
A year later, the headlines are better.
Sony's flagship smartphone and tablet, the Xperia Z and Xperia Tablet Z, have had strong reviews at home and abroad. The Nikkei business newspaper ran a story called the "Rebirth of Xperia," while Japanese tech publisher Ascii's review was titled "The strong appeal of the truly 'One Sony' Xperia Tablet Z."
Both devices feature screens and specs that can compete with top models from Apple and Samsung, and the tablet is both thinner and lighter. Hirai has said he was involved in the design of both.
Sony launched a major advertising campaign in Japan to coincide with the tablet's launch earlier this month, including free rentals to travelers on the country's high-speed bullet trains. It has also invited analysts to touch-and-try events with the new devices.
Hirai has set a goal of winning the number three spot in global smartphone sales, and in the fourth quarter of last year Sony came close, boosted by new Xperia handsets. Sony had a 4.5% market share in units shipped during the quarter according to researcher IDC, leaving it just behind Huawei as the fourth largest manufacturer. Both lag Apple and Samsung, which have half the market.
Analysts are cautiously optimistic.
"Sony did the best they could with the Xperia Z, but it is different from products like the Walkman because it is not something that didn't exist previously," said Yasuo Nakane, who covers Sony at Deutsche Bank in Tokyo.
- Aberdeen Group: Marketing Analytics for Manufacturing: Forging Customer Insights There are no recalls for poor marketing. Manufacturers need to get their customer intelligence and messaging right the first time. Learn how.
- The Brave New World of Customer-Centric Manufacturing The Unique Opportunity for Manufacturers to Better Understand their Consumers
- See the Possibilities Utilizing Data Visualization Do you simply want to collect data, or do you want to derive business insights from it? What if you could quickly and...
- SIP Migration: Addressing CIOs' Concerns Recent data from IDG Research shows that many IT executives are counting on SIP to help them meet employee efficiency and customer experience...
- Top 4 Digital Signage Fails Join RMG Networks for a look at four of the most common reasons digital signage fails in corporate businesses. Learn about strategies to...
- Mastering the Art of Mobile Content Management Mobile device usage in the enterprise has skyrocketed in recent years, and it continues to escalate. All IT Industry White Papers | Webcasts
Computerworld has launched its annual search for outstanding IT leaders who align technology with business goals. Nominate a top IT executive for the 2015 Premier 100 IT Leaders awards now through July 18.