Welshman Sir Howard Stringer certainly caused a stir last week when he announced 10,000 jobs would go at Sony and 11 factories would close.His first major act at Sony included 4,000 Japanese folk would leave out of the 10,000 – it’s perhaps easier for a pom to take such steps rather than a home grown boss.
But the task Stringer faces isn’t just taking the axe to different divisions. He’s got to explain just how he’s going to turn Sony round, and then persuade his executives to do just that.When he made the unpalatable announcements last week he was short on detail on which products would go, but is expected to announce some elements of his plan during the course of this week. Just how has Sony lost its way? Like many another large corporation – whether Western or Eastern – it’s easy to get caught short as the pace of technology is breathtaking. Easy analogies are made with Apple, and with decisions Sony made some years ago which flew in the face of industry wisdom, if there is such a thing.
While Sony was able to charge a premium for its products in the 1980s and the 1990s, these days it seems to a bit short of bright ideas. There’s a perception that even though the designs it produces are stylish enough, still, paying over the odds for that style is just so last century.
Walk into a Sony store and you’ll see, for example, nice looking LCD TVs and monitors, but they’re more expensive than equivalent offerings you can buy online, and these days it has to compete with the world+dog with a glut of panels to choose against often costing a considerable amount less. Some are speculating that Sony may attempt to grab back its lead by striking deals with people like Google and Yahoo, but this may not be enough to turn the giant tanker round.
It is in the enviable position of having large stakes in consumer electronics, an entertainment division that owns a vast portfolio of sound and vision, and then there’s its console and semiconductor divisions too. But making all of these different and expensive to run divisions run in harmony as well as introducing new products that will excite and not break the bank is a daunting task for anyone.
There seems to be a feeling that Sony – as a brand – is showing signs of tiredness. It’s been around for so long that it’s hard to describe the brand as hip. And other big companies, like Apple, seem to have it on the hop.
When Stringer announces his plans on the products and restructuring of Sony, it’s going to be a lot easier to see whether the troubled electronic giant will be able to take enough radical steps to re-establish its position in the pantheon.