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Sony Eyes Top Spot In U.S. CE Market By 2013

1/17/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

LAS VEGAS — Sony wants to regain the top spot in
the U.S. CE market by 2013.

That was one of the subjects Sony’s top executives
detailed at a media briefing during International CES.

Sir Howard Stringer, chairman, CEO and president,
Sony Corporation; Hiroshi Yoshioka, executive deputy
president, president of consumer, professional and
devices group, Sony Corporation; Phil Molyneux, president
and COO, Sony Electronics; and Kuni Suzuki,
corporate executive, senior VP, held court, discussing
3D, Internet TV and its tablet PC plans.

When Molyneux was asked about the challenges
facing Sony to become No. 1 in CE in the U.S. by
2013, a major company goal, he noted, “One of the
key challenges which we’re already working on is collaborating
at a different level with retail partners. We
want to collaborate with messages that consumers
can understand. We need to show consumers inside
the store the reality of using the 3D camcorder and the
immersive experience they can create for themselves.”

He added, “We need to improve retail execution.
Consumers are attracted to our products and we want
to take [that attraction] to another level.”

When asked what role Sony Stores might play in all
this, Molyneux said, “We need to improve [the consumer]
experience in our direct channel. We have ample opportunity to improve there as well. We tend
to be cluttered with multiple SKUs [in Sony Stores]. We
need to be more focused. Sony Direct locations should
be ‘Sony Wonderlands’ for consumers ... [and] generate
walk-ins to see the very best from Sony and the wonderful
things they can do with our products.”

The products that they hope drive the business are 3D
and Internet TV.

Stringer reiterated what he said at Sony’s CES press
event: “We have 50 million Internet devices in the hands of
consumers — it’s an opportunity for our customers to connect
to Sony well ahead of other devices,” with Blu-ray,
computers, PlayStation3 and Bravia TVs. He added, “3D
gets personal” with the company’s Bloggie and camcorder
products, which should boost interest in the format.

Sony’s position in all these consumer hardware categories
and from content creation to production equipment
gives it a unique position in 3D, Stringer said, but it is
going to take time.

But Molyneux pointed out that Sony’s 3D sales in the
U.S. during the holidays “took No. 1 market share. The
market share is widening [and] consumer acceptance is
moving up.”

Stringer noted that 3D “will become a feature. When
you start showing shows in 3D ... like ‘Law & Order’ or
‘CSI,’ you’ll ignite the audience. It is not an overnight thing.
You have to keep pressing it and audiences will grow accustomed
to it and skepticism will die.”

Sales training at the retail level is vital, as are deals for
further content, but, again, Stringer said all of this “will
take time.”

Some of the same factors are in play with Internet TV.
Sony introduced Google TV during the holidays, and
Stringer described sales as being “solid” but that “a lot of
work has to be done to explain to consumer and retailers”
the product’s capabilities.

“Tens of millions are using the Internet to get content.
The public is slow to adopt because it’s another big purchase.
We have to be patient, just like with Blu-ray ...
which made 3D possible”

Yoshioka commented, “The future of TV is integration.
TVs will need to be Internet ready, something like PC. It
should be a very portable environment for the consumer.
You should be able to enjoy any content, search any content,”
with the new age of TV.

Sony is not participating in one main product category
at CES — tablet PCs. Stringer philosophically said at one
point: “We won’t be first every time, not with this big of a
company.”

Specifically, Stringer noted, “If I want to differentiate, do I
release it tomorrow, or do I wait and differentiate? We need
to put a tablet on the marketplace that is differentiated.”

Suzuki noted the iPad “is the king of the tablets now, for
sure. But who will be the second player?” He added that
Sony wants to bring something value-added to the marketplace
and wants to be the No. 2 player in the market when
it offers its first tablet in 2012.

When asked if it would be logical to assume the Sony
tablet would have 3D capability, Stringer said, “We consider
all these things,” but Suzuki was more expansive.

“Industry forecasts for 2012 in general — 500 million
units of smartphones, 250 million units of notebook computers
and 50 million tablets,” and he added that with
“any one” of the categories Sony would have to consider
3D, but the company has to be “careful approaching that
space in customers’ point of view.”