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Can Sony Switch Gears and Become Innovative Again?


The PlayStation. The Walkman. The Trinitron. The transistor radio. All icons in Sony’s storied history from an era when the Japanese giants still roamed the earth. The Sony of today is not like the Sony of yesterday. For every memorable blockbuster, there was an infamous flub: The late embrace of MP3, losing its hold on the digital imaging market, and of course, failing to attract adoption to Betamax, UMD, MemoryStick, and endless other formats and systems.

The Sony of today is a bloated industrial machine barely holding together. It’s worn out and slowed to a crawl. The once innovative company now follows instead of leads. It’s playing catchup instead of breaking new ground. But things are changing.

The Sony of tomorrow is looking leaner than ever. It doesn’t look like the Sony of old with total market dominance, but for the first time in ages, Sony is becoming a competitor.

Just this week Sony Corp. unexpectedly forecasted a $1.1 billion annual loss. Some investors and analysts have requested Sony completely leave the consumer electronics market, yet the company stands by its efforts in mobile, imaging, and games.

Give Sony credit. Over the last few years, Sony has released notable cell phones, cameras and gaming advancements. The company states that it has seen a significant increase in sales of smartphones. Sony is currently the third largest camera maker after Canon and Nikon, and its recent photo products are stunning. Then there’s the PS4, which launched to blockbuster numbers and is currently riding high on consumer sentiment.

Sony still has cutting to do. The company is forecasting another $1.1 billion loss in 2014. It’s clear CEO Kazuo Hirai and Co. are willing to make the hard call and cut off underperforming divisions. But can they do it fast enough? There are still a gazillion SKUs sold under the Sony brand. With the right focus, the Sony of tomorrow could be as strong as the Sony of the past, but that takes dedication, a desire to slice and dice accreted business units, and a lot of vision.

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