Las Vegas - Sony's top executives detailed the company's extensive 3D and Internet TV plans to reclaim its leadership position in the U.S. CE market.
During a media briefing Thursday at 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 and deputy president of networked products and services group (NPSG), president of Vaio and mobile business group, NPSG, deputy president, Sony Computer Entertainment (SCEI), held court, giving details of their near-term and long-term strategies.
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 â€˜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 press event Wednesday: "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 â€˜Law & Order' or â€˜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 said philosophically 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." 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."