Sony’s Road Warrior; Comeback Possible?

NYT had two detailed stories on Sony, two days in a row over the long weekend. The first one is a detailed profile of Howard Stringer, Sony’s CEO, one year after he was named the first foreigner to head the company, and his efforts to change the conglomerate and move it towards innovation and profitability.
Louis Gerstner, the former I.B.M. chairman, who is now a consultant to Sony, nails it when it comes to the challenges ahead: Sony’s “fundamental problem,” he said, “frankly has nothing to do with margins in TV and the timing of a PlayStation 3…It’s got everything to do with how Sony is going to compete against other companies like Microsoft and Apple and others that are coming into its traditional space with a different set of skills and a different sense of how to approach the marketplace and the consumers.”
To jump-start Sony’s digital downoading efforts, Sony hired a senior Apple executive, Tim Schaaff, last fall to oversee its software development. Company executives said Schaaff would focus on Marlin, a consortium of Sony and other consumer electronics giants developing a way to securely share content among different media products.
The second story today is about how Sony has expanded so much, and that may create a problem going ahead: Sony has expanded into so many business areas in Japan and abroad that it has blurred its original identity as an engineering innovator. Analysts say this murkier image threatens one of the company’s most profitable assets: the so-called Sony premium, the higher prices long commanded by its electronics products, which still account for 64 percent of revenue, excluding sales between Sony divisions.