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New Sony CEO looking to shift to Apple-like integration of hardware, software [u]

post #1 of 50
Thread Starter 
Kazuo Hirai, Sony's newly-announced President and CEO, has ambitious plans for the consumer electronics giant that entail strategies that are often strongly associated with Apple: centralized top-down decision-making on products and a focus on software and service combined with hardware.

Update: Sony reported an operating loss of $1.2 billion for the December quarter on revenue of $23.4 billion.

Sony announced on Wednesday that its board of directors had unanimously appointed Hirai, who is famous for his work with Sony's gaming business, to be the company's new CEO, ousting Howard Stringer, who will transition to non-executive chairman of the board on April 1, The New York Times .

The management shuffle comes as the company is struggling to return to profitability. The Tokyo, Japan-based electronics maker is on track to report its fourth consecutive year in the red, with $2.3 billion in losses expected to come from its TV division alone. Stringer failed to turn the company around after taking the reins as Sony's first foreign chief executive in 2005.

According to a profile of Hirai in The Wall Street Journal (via The Verge), the 51-year-old executive is planning drastic measures for the company when he takes over.

"We can't just continue to be a great purveyor of hardware products," he reportedly told the publication, noting that he is looking to move on from past successes and focus more on software and services.

Hirai's stated strategy has drawn comparisons to Apple's own. The Cupertino, Calif., company wasn't content to rest on its laurels with the iPod and proceeded to revolutionize both the smartphone and tablet industries. Apple is also known for its high level of control over the product development process and its tight integration of hardware, software and services.

It's only fitting that Sony draw inspiration from Apple, as Apple co-founder Steve Jobs said that Sony had an influence on him during his company's early years. He was a friend of Sony co-founder Akio Morita and had said he was impressed by the company's transistor radios and Trinitron TVs. Ultimately, Jobs went on to beat Sony at its own game by dominating its Walkman music player line with the iPod. In recent years, the rise of Apple's iOS as a viable gaming platform has even begun to take a toll on Sony's PlayStation profits.

Hirai expects to face resistance from his colleagues as he works from within to return Sony to its innovative roots. "I don't think everybody is on board," he said.

Sony has been characterized as being sluggish and reactive as of late. For instance, Sony unveiled its first touchscreen tablet offerings last April, more than a year after Apple released the iPad, and then waited until October 2011 to ship one. Despite Sony's assertion that its first-generation tablets "truly represent the best of everything Sony has to offer," the devices have been poorly received and have failed to gain traction.




The company has even admitted that it is racing to preemptively avoid any threat from Apple in the television industry. Stringer said late last year that he had "no doubt" that Jobs was working on an innovative new television set. The executive admitted that he had "spent the last five years building a platform" to compete against Jobs. But, on the bright side, Apple's rumored entrance into the television market wouldn't threaten any current profits from its rival, as Sony's television business has lost money for seven straight years.

"We can't continue selling TV sets [the way we have been]. Every TV set we all make loses money," Stringer said of the industry last November.

[ View article on AppleInsider ]
post #2 of 50
If Sony really wants to pursue an "Apple-like" integration of hardware & software, they can start by owning the software and making it an extension of the hardware they are making, instead of signing up for Google's party (or for that matter, Microsoft's).

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post #3 of 50
Kaz Hirai is 51!! He looks much younger.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

If Sony really wants to pursue an "Apple-like" integration of hardware & software, they can start by owning the software and making it an extension of the hardware they are making, instead of signing up for Google's party (or for that matter, Microsoft's).

You nailed it.

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post #4 of 50
I like Sony and it is sad to see such once great company suffer.

But this is going to be fun to watch. We all know what happened to HP when you tried to dump Windows!

Quote:
But, on the bright side, Apple's rumored entrance into the television market wouldn't threaten any current profits from its rival, as Sony's television business has lost money for seven straight years.

post #5 of 50
So after at least 20 years, Sony finally figured out that they can't make shit for software? I could have told them that in 1994 when I had to junk the software that came with their CD burner, and every optical disk that came with each and every Sony product that I bought since.

I don't know how they can transform themselves into an Apple clone without kicking out a significant portion of upper management and at least a whole layer of middle management. Especially those guys in product design and development who have never seen a button, switch, or on-screen menu that they didn't like.

I fear though that when they talk about Apple-like integration of hardware and software, i.e. the whole widget approach, they'll start thinking that this validates their addiction to proprietary media formats. [Which is Sony's answer to the question that only they seem to be interested in: How can we alienate potential customers who are otherwise already impressed by the quality of our hardware?]
post #6 of 50
Not gonna happen. It's not just not in Sony's DNA.

They understand the hardware part but they've not a clue about the software part.
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post #7 of 50
This akin to waking up in the 9th inning, down 15-0, and deciding its time to start a rally. Ain't gonna happen.
post #8 of 50
A friend of mine bought a SOny LCD TV and was very upset with the performance of it. He ended up sticking it away in a spare bedroom and buying a better brand. In my opinion SOny doesn't get it any more. Maybe we will see what they have to offer in the next 5 years. I for june don't plan to ever buy sony products ever.
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post #9 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

the 51-year-old executive is planning drastic measures for the company when he takes over.

Sounds good and very unlike RIM's new CEO who announced that RIM would make no changes at all.

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post #10 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

Not gonna happen. It's not just not in Sony's DNA.

They understand the hardware part but they've not a clue about the software part.

Based on my recent experiences with the brand they are even struggling with the hardware part. Durability and after sales customer support are sorely lacking.

Also quality in design is missing from their DNA.

Good luck to the new CEO in changing their culture.
post #11 of 50
Look, Apple can afford to update a phone once a year, a laptop once a year. Sony? Please!!!!!
They can't afford to sit on one version or two versions of a pc.Sony is so huge that they have to crank out a mess of crap tech to justify their big a$$ existence.

The other day I was in Best Buy and saw a Sony clock radio. Flimsy POS!
post #12 of 50
Sony should have had that figured out years ago. I remember those really cool flash-based mp3 players they had that got rave reviews for design, but got skewerered by the horrendous software and DRM crap they had on it making the devices essentially useless. The iPod was just coming out too.

Sony got lazy and got caught sleeping at the wheel. I have zero sympathy for Sony.
post #13 of 50
OK, Mr. Hirai, you want to improve Sony? You want to integrate software and hardware? Start with a redesign of the PS3 UX. Seriously, everything you need to get started you already own. Start with a great designer instead of a group of engineers and a focus group. Get back to me when you've made some progress...

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post #14 of 50
So they're mimicking Apple in their hardware-software integration. Bold new move from Sony... oh wait, what do you call the Playstation 1/2/3/Portable ?
post #15 of 50
So Sony, in order to achieve this pipe dream your gonna need your own OS and ecosystem to grow and sustain all on your own, from scratch…

You don't stand a hope in hell.

There were many players with this business model in the 90's, but the world chose to crown Apple king while others fell by the wayside.

The same is happening today, your Nokia's and Blackberry's proprietary operating systems will melt away to leave one 'winner'. Because Apple already won that war in the 90's, and have an entrenched ecosystem built up over 3 decades which they simply migrated over to portable devices when processing power allowed them to.
No mobile/gaming/electronics company stands a chance in this second battle for domination, nor ever did they do.

To join with others (Windows/Android) is your only hope of survival.
post #16 of 50
I have used 3 Sony products in my life. A Walkman II in the mid-eighties that was gorgeous (for that time). Then I forgot about Sony.

In 2004 I bought a Sony voice recorder in an airport shop, as I was flying out to a two-year project in Thailand and needed one for memos (there were no real smartphones or tablets back then). The piece of #@$* was almost two hundred USD, and you could not use it at all without Sony's Windows software, as they used some weird audio-codec for which no Mac software existed. Of course, I could not really return it after 24 months.

Against better knowledge, I bought a Sony LVD TV after moving to India last year (the only other brand they had was Samsung, and I do not buy from Samsung as a principle). This $3,500 piece of #@$* needs minutes to turn on and become responsive (up to two minutes to accept the change of an input, e.g. from set top box to the DVD player or Apple TV). Sometimes it does not react to the remote control at all (despite the confirmation light blinking) and then, 10-20 seconds later it seems to process all buffered keystrokes at once (usually resulting in something as convenient as 100% volume).
post #17 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

Not gonna happen. It's not just not in Sony's DNA.

They understand the hardware part but they've not a clue about the software part.


Even on the hardware side Sony has long had a tendency to use cheap, metallic-looking plastics in combination with better materials. Look at their notebooks, TVs, etc. They've produced some quality core technology and decent product design aesthetics but then there's lots of cutting corners to reduce manufacturing costs, despite the fact that their prices are among the highest in every category.

As far as software/hardware integration is concerned, they'll need to start by firing everyone at every level who's ever been associated with any software design and decision making at the company. Sony's software is some of the worse I've ever seen, both in terms of usability and stability.

Perhaps before they go down this path they should learn some more important lessons from Apple and 1) always focus on their customers first and 2) get rid of the sshit in their product lines and stick to the great stuff.
post #18 of 50
Ah, Stringer, you showed some real gutso but I'm sorry about the last 5-10 years getting "pwned" by others. Somewhere around 2005 was the turning point. Also, partnering with IBM for the PS3 chip. A mistake many have made, partnering with IBM for consumer CPU/GPUs.
post #19 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by monstrosity View Post

So Sony, in order to achieve this pipe dream your gonna need your own OS and ecosystem to grow and sustain all on your own, from scratch

You don't stand a hope in hell.

There were many players with this business model in the 90's, but the world chose to crown Apple king while others fell by the wayside.

The same is happening today, your Nokia's and Blackberry's proprietary operating systems will melt away to leave one 'winner'. Because Apple already won that war in the 90's, and have an entrenched ecosystem built up over 3 decades which they simply migrated over to portable devices when processing power allowed them to.
No mobile/gaming/electronics company stands a chance in this second battle for domination, nor ever did they do.

To join with others (Windows/Android) is your only hope of survival.


The market is young, and there is still room for new players. Apple's current dominance in integrated solutions doesn't mean it should last forever.
post #20 of 50
I could never understand why Windows was allowed a free run of things throughout the PC revolution. There was Apple of course, but in the big picture they were a niche player, but why so many big wealthy corporations meekly tied themselves to Microsoft's mast seemed a bit odd to me. The guts of an OS are available open source, has it really been beyond the wit of man to not develop an OS as Apple have done? I do understand that an OS is a vastly complex undertaking, but I would have thought that were advantages to be had from designing one from this point i.e. with today's and tomorrow's technological realities in mind and none of the legacy of thirty year old tech under the hood. Microsoft must have made a trillion dollars profit while others stood around and watched.
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post #21 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by dreyfus2 View Post

Against better knowledge, I bought a Sony LVD TV after moving to India last year (the only other brand they had was Samsung, and I do not buy from Samsung as a principle). This $3,500 piece of #@$* needs minutes to turn on and become responsive (up to two minutes to accept the change of an input, e.g. from set top box to the DVD player or Apple TV). Sometimes it does not react to the remote control at all (despite the confirmation light blinking) and then, 10-20 seconds later it seems to process all buffered keystrokes at once (usually resulting in something as convenient as 100% volume).

If you don't buy from Samsung as principle, I understand that. But the LCD panel in your Sony was made from a Samsung factory. Sony doesn't make LCD panels.
post #22 of 50
It took someone long enough to acknowledge what Apple is doing is actually working well. I think for the longest time, people view Apple as "oh, they got lucky, this ipod and ipad stuff won't last long"... Jobs has proven people wrong before and he done it again. I think the fact, we are seeing Google and MS copying varies aspects of Apple's products and failed to copied their strategies is the funniest part for me. Apple had Jobs, they can't copy that.
post #23 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by tylerk36 View Post

A friend of mine bought a SOny LCD TV and was very upset with the performance of it. He ended up sticking it away in a spare bedroom and buying a better brand. In my opinion SOny doesn't get it any more. Maybe we will see what they have to offer in the next 5 years. I for june don't plan to ever buy sony products ever.

He should've gotten a plasma.
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post #24 of 50
So far this is the decade of companies announcing they will be more like Apple.
post #25 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by tundraboy View Post

I fear though that when they talk about Apple-like integration of hardware and software, i.e. the whole widget approach, they'll start thinking that this validates their addiction to proprietary media formats. [Which is Sony's answer to the question that only they seem to be interested in: How can we alienate potential customers who are otherwise already impressed by the quality of our hardware?]




That has seemed to be Sony's MO since forever.

They think that proprietary equals innovative. Apple uses only open source formats.
post #26 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by I am a Zither Zather Zuzz View Post

Apple uses only open source formats.

Really? I can cite several formats that are unique to Apple and are in no way open source whatsoever. Namely all of their iWork formats, their database programs (Bento and Filemaker). The list goes on. Apple may use lots of stuff that is open source, but lots and lots of things are closed source and propriety.
post #27 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by diddy View Post

Really? I can cite several formats that are unique to Apple and are in no way open source whatsoever. Namely all of their iWork formats, their database programs (Bento and Filemaker). The list goes on. Apple may use lots of stuff that is open source, but lots and lots of things are closed source and propriety.

Maybe I was thinking that Apple won't sell anything that includes DRM, and got mixed up.
post #28 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by OllieWallieWhiskers View Post

So far this is the decade of companies announcing they will be more like Apple.

Yes, after so many years of hearing the words "open" , "choice"' "walled garden", "locked in", from the nerds and detractors these companies are moving to be more like Apple, not less. It makes the nerds look even more stupid than they already are.
post #29 of 50
Because he did such a good job building a great PlayStation Network service.... He's controlled both the hardware and software for years. One division and one product. And it really sucks

This company is in a dire situation

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post #30 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

If Sony really wants to pursue an "Apple-like" integration of hardware & software, they can start by owning the software and making it an extension of the hardware they are making, instead of signing up for Google's party (or for that matter, Microsoft's).

Would the purchase of WebOS given them a start? Or is that considered a dead end?
post #31 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aizmov View Post

Kaz Hirai is 51!! He looks much younger.

Watch it, sonny... 51 is young.
post #32 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


"We can't continue selling TV sets [the way we have been]. Every TV set we all make loses money," Stringer said of the industry last November.

Hey, Amazon claims it can! Why can't Sony?

post #33 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by eric475 View Post

If you don't buy from Samsung as principle, I understand that. But the LCD panel in your Sony was made from a Samsung factory. Sony doesn't make LCD panels.

Yep, true. But I can't really avoid Samsung's components anyhow... The panel is absolutely fine, good colors, pretty even backlight, the problem is that Sony either does skimp on the processor, or the quality of the software is terrible, or both - I have not got the tools required to figure it out. A product like that should not leave the factory, not even the design stage.

I was too lazy to deal with all the paperwork required to bring my Loewe into the country. That was a mistake.
post #34 of 50
Sony = Sometime, Only Not Yet

Seriously, though, they needed to get out of the movie business. It's been a drag on the company.

Sony products are inflicted upon me at work. They did not used to be this way in the U-Matic, Betacam, and Betacam SP days. Then, you paid a pile of money for the Sony name, but at least the build quality was fantastic

Now, I view them the way I view a dog. They smile and wag their tails at me, and make me think things are okay as I pat them on the head. Then, when I turn my back, they bite me in the @$$.

Using Sony products these days is like having a kid. I could go on, but hopefully, you get it.
post #35 of 50
Sony might actually be able to do it. They've taken full control of their phone business last October 2011 by buying back the Swedish venture shares from Ericsson for $920M. Check out their new Sony Xperia S and see what it can do. http://youtu.be/RUdXtQuL4fA
post #36 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by tylerk36 View Post

A friend of mine bought a SOny LCD TV and was very upset with the performance of it. He ended up sticking it away in a spare bedroom and buying a better brand. In my opinion SOny doesn't get it any more. Maybe we will see what they have to offer in the next 5 years. I for june don't plan to ever buy sony products ever.

The problem with Sony televisions, like most brands, including Samsung, Sony doesn't any longer control the whole process. It outsources panels from a variety of sources, and doesn't maintain tight control over the process. Also like Samsung, the only panels it makes are on its very high end models. Samsung also makes the LCD on its display models, but outsources most of the LCDs for the actual product you buy. So what you see at home often isn't what you saw in the store (there are plenty of upset Samsung customers on the Internet documenting this experience). Sharp is the only manufacturer that builds its own LCDs. Sharp also has been making the panels longer than anybody else.

Part of the reason Apple was able to turn itself around was Jobs was wiling to make brave bet the company decisions. Jobs first made Apple much smaller by cutting entire product divisions (newton, printers, mac models, quick take cameras, game system, etc.). Apple than focused on a few new products. It than build from that success. Sony probably isn't going to be able to cut the fat like Apple did. Some people forget Apple's success was a slow process.
post #37 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by tylerk36 View Post

A friend of mine bought a SOny LCD TV and was very upset with the performance of it. He ended up sticking it away in a spare bedroom and buying a better brand. In my opinion SOny doesn't get it any more. Maybe we will see what they have to offer in the next 5 years. I for june don't plan to ever buy sony products ever.

That's ridiculous. Like all manufacturers, Sony makes both high end and low end sets. Some are junk and not worth what Sony charges and some are spectacular. Some of the spectacular ones do have QC problems. Sony's XBR HX929 set is absolultely spectacular if you don't get one with some of the problems and on sale, it's actually reasonably priced. Sony made an absolutely amazing set back in 2008, the XBR 8, but it was very expensive and they never made another set with the same technology.

Sony's problems are numerous, but one important one is that each division of the company has its own P&L and units compete against each other rather than supporting each other. That's why the supposed synergies between the content and hardware divisions almost never happen. Steve Jobs is reputed to have said that the reason Apple beat Sony was because Apple has one P&L.

Sony also has too many confusing lines of products with too many models in each. They could use a product line cleanup like the one that Jobs performed when he returned to Apple and got rid of all the confusing Centris, Performa and other lines.

Since their TV business has lost so much money, Sony was about to go to almost all OEM production. That would kill them, so I hope the new CEO doesn't do that. Sony pretty much indicated at CES that there would be no new XBR TV in 2012. That's a disaster, if accurate. Samsung basically ate Sony's lunch in the mass market TV business in spite of the fact that Sony's high end has been generally higher quality than Samsung's.

If Sony is going to change, the new CEO has to get the full support of the Board. Stringer has claimed that when he took the job, he didn't realize that there were divisions over which he had little or no power. Sony can only change if the CEO has the power to radically change the structure of the company.

Sony's user-interfaces largely suck, although having said that, they're actually better than other manufacturers, like Pioneer. That's an area that needs radical improvement. Especially in configuration, their terminology makes absolutely no sense. (I'm an ex-recording engineer and I can't figure out what Sony means half the time.) I think part of the problem is a translation problem and part of it is that engineers are driving UI instead of UI experts.

Sony gives lip service to providing content on its devices, but it's largely bogus. On my Blu-ray player and TV, you have access, for example, to a Sony Classical Network. But when you go there, there's only 8 videos and they've never changed. And it's not like it's intended to be a sample of a broader service. So it's a waste of menu real-estate that you can't get rid of.

Sony's tech support is incredibly bad. The phones are answered mostly by people who know nothing and give even worse advice. When I was having problems getting the settings on the BD player to match the settings on the TV so that old 1.33:1 films weren't getting improperly stretched, an idiot advised me to permanently change the resolution on the TV to 480i.

And even when you get further, they play the game of transferring you to different people who put you on hold 14 times hoping you'll hang up and give up. That has to change as well.

While on paper, the Sony retail stores don't seem much different than Apple stores, the actual experience is quite different and IMO, the Sony stores don't work all that well.

Sony used to be great because its co-founder, Akio Morita, was a lot like Jobs. He had the courage of his convictions. The Walkman was supposedly created because Morita wanted one for himself. That's the kind of design leadership Sony needs.

Sony also has negatives that are similar to Apple. Like Apple, pros don't trust them to maintain product lines. Sony tends to walk away from technologies that don't gain wide acceptance. They walked away from SDDS digital sound for theatres, the mini-disc and SACD, especially in the U.S. Imagine if instead, Sony management issued an edict that all Sony CDs would have been dual-layer CD and SACD. Instead, they've done the opposite: albums that had been remastered for dual layer SACD (like the early Dylan electric albums) were remastered again back to standard CD.

Apple made a decision a long time ago not to compete at the low end. Sony needs to do the same thing and stop making crappy clock radios and other low-end items. If they're going to do a clock-radio, it should be elegantly designed and have a great sound. But Sony may already be far too large to do anything about this. When Jobs returned to Apple to simplify the product lines, Apple was still a small company.
post #38 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by eric475 View Post

If you don't buy from Samsung as principle, I understand that. But the LCD panel in your Sony was made from a Samsung factory. Sony doesn't make LCD panels.

It depends on the generation of the panel. The newer generation panels were made in a joint partnership between Sony and Sharp. Here is another source if you prefer.

Samsung even outsources LCD production for some of its lower end models.
post #39 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

Not gonna happen. It's not just not in Sony's DNA.

They understand the hardware part but they've not a clue about the software part.

Really? Ever heard of Playstation?
post #40 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

If Sony really wants to pursue an "Apple-like" integration of hardware & software, they can start by owning the software and making it an extension of the hardware they are making, instead of signing up for Google's party (or for that matter, Microsoft's).

exactly. trying to make a profit selling commodity hardware products dependent on Windows/Symbian/Android made Sony just one more also-ran in an overcrowded market, and trapped in a disastrous race to the bottom of that market with other Asian OEM's that can perpetually undercut them.

but as many here note, Sony never had the software talent to do anything else. and that's why it's doomed.
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