As of yesterday, Kenichiro Yoshida is in the driver’s seat at Sony as the new CEO. So what to expect?
Yoshida was Sony’s chief financial officer in the turnaround days of the last five years, so he comes with a keen eye on the ledger, but not necessarily an eye for the kind of innovative technology that is Sony’s legacy.
His success as an executive is plain. Sony has been ringing up record profits by culling its product lines, nurturing its digital imaging business and concentrating on premium-priced devices, while simultaneously riding its PlayStation franchise to profitability.
But Sony is a very different company than in its heyday. Gone are the days of the Walkman. Sony has ceded ground in the innovation race to Samsung, LG and Apple. It no longer feels the need to be a bleeding-edge consumer device supplier. Rather, it has pivoted to a sort of hybrid supplier of imaging processors and chipsets to other manufacturers, while leveraging its gaming business with millennials. Record profits are the result.
In addition, Sony’s entertainment division is still a behemoth, and Yoshida is about as far away from a movie mogul or record impresario as possible. There are doubts from analysts that he is equipped to take on those businesses.
Still, Sony has showed glimpses of it innovative-centric past. At CES in January it caused a bit of stir with its reimagined Aibo robot dog. It was a move out of its past with a coolness factor that has been lacking in recent years.
Yoshida’s path is bumpy at best; however, the Sony legacy endures, and the industry will be watching to see if he embraces the challenge.