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Sony’s CEO Faces A Difficult Year, Mobile Division Decisions

January 13, 2015 - Written By David Steele

Sony is a topic that we’ve covered at length here at Android Headlines, be it their generally solid and beautiful flagship hardware, their smart TVs now coming with Android TV, a new line and flagship model every six months and the dramatic, terrible performance of Sony Mobile over the last three years. We’ve also covered “The Interview” and the hack attacks that the business has endured. It has been a difficult time for Sony’s Chief Executive Officer, Kazuo Hirai, but we don’t believe the worst is behind him. Sony faces difficult decisions going forwards as the television and, especially, mobile businesses, which both continue to lose money. Could Sony exit the mobile business? Conceivably, yes they could. Some parts of Sony are making money and performing well, such as the digital camera imaging sensors part and the PlayStation 4, which has outsold the Microsoft Xbox One and the Nintendo Wii U.

One of the difficult decisions facing Kazuo is what to do with the smartphone business after subjecting the business unit to heavy cost cuts. We’ve seen a focus on high end devices, which puts Sony in direct competition with Apple and despite the handsets being better by the numbers, Sony’s marketing doesn’t have the same reality-distortion field that Apple manage to create around their products. Sony’s difficulties centre around that there are many manufacturers making comparable mobile products but able to sell them at a lesser price and make money from the business transactions, too. Certainly, churning out a new flagship every six months has hurt the business more than it’s helped. It can take several months for a device to reach a given carrier following release and shortly after this, the next model may be outed – customers do not want to pay top dollar for an older model.

I could pick holes in Sony’s mobile strategy for a few hundred words yet, but I don’t think this will help. What I will do is highlight that Sony’s flagship models receive all of the attention (in common with most manufacturers) but quite often, customers will not want to pay so much for the flagship and look down the range. Unfortunately, Sony’s mid-range offerings are too diluted compared with their high end products. The flagship gets the massive battery, great camera sensor and waterproofing technologies and the mid-range products are neglected in this respect. The mid-range models follow a similar design but in terms of hardware features, have little to distinguish them from the competition. Releasing a new flagship every six months means that the outgoing flagship could, I suppose, fit into the range here – but this carries its own problems!

One alternative is Sony Mobile being spun off or bought by another manufacturer, similar to what happened with Nokia. This of course carries its own problems and runs the risk of hurting the integration between Sony’s mobile division and the rest of the entertainment side of things. I wonder if Sony would rather close the mobile division and let another manufacturer licence the brand?