The improving U.S. business climate and recent reorganizations will boost Sony's North American electronics sales in the "upper single-digit" range for the fiscal year that began in April, said Hideki "Dick" Komiyama, president/ COO of Sony Electronics.
Display, PC and digital still cameras will be the main drivers of that growth, said Komiyama, who became Sony Electronics president in April and is responsible for North American sales of consumer and B-to-B electronics, excluding PlayStation.
Komiyama, a 36-year Sony veteran, projected growth in Sony's full-year fiscal sales even though the company suffered declining sales in the first half of the fiscal year. "The macroeconomic climate in the U.S. for the second half is reasonably bright," he said during a briefing with select reporters. The U.S. economy "is reasonably good" compared to other countries, he added.
The previous two years have been "rather difficult" for Sony Electronics, and sales failed to meet expectations, even though the company enjoyed No. 1 market share in many major product categories, he said.
For the current fiscal year, Komiyama also cited NetMD as a key growth category, but not DVD. Because of dramatic declines in DVD prices, "total industry value is already starting to decline," he lamented. Although Sony has the leading market share in DVD, the market "is not necessarily promising," even with growth in the DVD-recorder market, he said. High-definition discs, however, hold promise in the future.
Komiyama was also cautious in his comments on the SACD market. "It still remains to be seen" whether the multichannel music format eventually creates "a major wave of future business," he said, citing a "long lead time to build up [the market]."
For now, Sony worldwide has no plans to offer universal players that play SACD, DVD-Video and DVD-Audio discs players and will continue to offer only SACD/DVD-Video players. "On the other hand, when the market evolves, there could be a different strategy," he said, noting that the decision is not his. He called SACD "a splendid technology" with great consumer value, but in light of "so many consumer choices," he asked, "will this technology be mainstream or not?"
In other sales-building initiatives, Komiyama said Sony Electronics will:
"Most likely" launch its first headphone HDD stereo in 2004.
Bring the Qualia brand to the U.S. in the spring after its introduction in Japan, where it is positioned as representing the company's highest quality, highest style products. Qualia product categories available in Japan consist of a digital still camera, CRT-based TV, SACD, and a digital projector.
He also said Sony will "most likely" offer PSX, the hybrid game/consumer electronics device, in the United States next year following its Japan introduction this year. It's not certain, however, whether it will be marketed by Sony Electronics or PlayStation marketer Sony Computer Entertainment of America, which reports independently to Sony Corp. in Japan.
In other comments, Komiyama said:
Sony has no plans yet to launch an HD camcorder that records onto DV-standard cassettes. Sony, however, is talking to additional companies to enlist their support in a collaboration to develop the so-called HDV standard. Sony recently joined with Canon, Sharp and JVC to develop specs for the standard, which will include the 720p and 1,080i HD formats at different frame rates. Previously, the company said a spec would be complete by September.
Sony continues to improve its ability to respond to major dealers' inventory needs by electronically connecting its factories directly to some large retail customers to smooth out inventory flows.