Kazuo Hirai is due to formally take over as Sony CEO on April 1, replacing Howard Stringer. Hirai said that while some management changes had already been identified there was still a long way to go to “explain to everybody who’s doing what.” Sony has declared a return to the smartphone business, unveiling its first smartphones under the Sony brand, but warned the group’s painful transition would not be as fast as rebranding.
“People have these lofty expectations that we’re going to have all the answers to all the problems that plague the world on April 1,” Hirai said in an interview at the Barcelona Mobile World Congress. “We’re not going to have that.”
The once-stellar consumer electronics brand is heading for what it has warned would be a much bigger-than-expected $2.9 billion annual loss, its fourth in a row. The surge of red ink has put Hirai under intense pressure from investors and ratings agencies to quickly staunch losses at the sprawling electronics group.
Hirai was at the Barcelona Mobile World Congress to unveil two new Android-powered smartphones, Xperia P and Xperia U, carrying the Sony brand. Sony completed the purchase of Ericsson’s 50 percent stake in the Sony Ericsson joint venture on February 16, a deal originally announced last October. The newly renamed Sony Mobile Communications is headed by Bert Nordberg, Sony Ericsson’s chief executive from 2009.
While both Hirai and Nordberg stressed that their message to Barcelona was that Sony was back in the phone business, Hirai said that Sony Mobile Communications would be integrated within Sony as a whole. “Sony Mobile Communications needs to work in lockstep with the rest of Sony. It may be a separate corporate entity but the way in which we operate and work together needs to be transparent and seamless as if it were one organization,” Hirai said.
Hirai pointed to Sony Computer Entertainment Inc, the company responsible for the PlayStation and other gaming products, which remained a separate entity but was fully integrated when it came to discussing products and unifying the experience of users. “That’s the way I envision Sony Mobile Communications working as well,” Hirai said. He said work had already started on making that happen, but did not offer specifics.
Hirai said that he had identified four pillars that Sony would focus on, comprising the core businesses of digital imaging and gaming; marrying mobile devices with other Sony technologies, content and services; turning the struggling TV business around, and identifying new markets such as the medical business.
The New Sony Xperia Smartphones
As expected, Sony unveiled its Xperia P and Xperia U dual-core smartphones at the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona on Sunday. It was the first press conference for Sony since it spun off Ericsson, with Sony’s smartphones now originating from a division called Sony Mobile Communications.
The first new addition to Sony’s NXT series of Android smartphones, which already included the previously announced Xperia S, is the Xperia P – pictured above – with aluminum unibody construction. It has a 4-inch touchscreen that Sony touts as its “reality display,” and Sony says the screen’s WhiteMagic technology gives it wider viewing angles in bright light.
It’s also equipped with NFC and an 8-megapixel camera capable of shooting stills and 1080p video. Available in three finishes, the Xperia P will ship in the second quarter of this year. Along with that phone, Sony showed its Xperia smart dock, into which you can plug the Xperia P, which then connects to an HDTV using HDMI.
Next up was the similarly designed Xperia U smartphone, a dual-core 1GHz device with a 3.5″ Reality Display and a 5-megapixel camera. The Xperia U will also be available in the second quarter. Sony didn’t mention if the phones were going to be running the new Android 4.0 – Ice Cream Sandwich – operating system.