Sony has appointed a new CEO, as the struggling electronics company focuses its energy on mobile technology for a much-needed turnaround.
Kazuo Hirai, formerly in charge of Sony’s PlayStation product line, will take the helm on April 1, bringing extensive development, content, and cloud experience to the top leadership position.
Sony maintains a strong presence in the electronics world, but lags behind in mobile technology after a failed partnership with Ericsson. Profits fell consistently over the past two years, and the Japanese company will need to make a strong showing in the smartphone market to boost both its sales and reputation.
The leadership change arrives in the wake of Sony Ericsson’s underwhelming PlayStation phone earlier this year, and a mediocre reception to the PlayStation Vita, its portable gaming system, in December.
Hirai occupies a prime position to reenergize Sony’s mobile division. Despite the Vita’s slow takeoff, the company’s line of PlayStation gaming products are incredibly successful and boast a loyal user following. The Android market is crowded with big players like Samsung and HTC, but an integrated top-notch gaming component could give Sony smartphones a competitive edge.
Outgoing CEO Howard Stringer called Hirai “a globally focused executive for whom technology and the cloud are familiar territory, content is highly valued, and digital transformation is second nature.”
Sony’s nearly $1.5 billion buyout of former mobile partner Ericsson will also allow tighter integration among its products, including televisions, gaming systems, and phones. These may also tie closely into the company’s vast entertainment holdings as well.
Still, with companies like Apple and Google moving into Sony’s territory by creating TV systems, the company’s move into mobile could arrive too late to offset its previous losses. Consumers already familiar with iPhones, Galaxy devices and Droid phones will need an incentive to switch, challenging the public’s adoption of Sony phones.
Its new leader, however, remains optimistic, saying he plans to “fully leverage Sony’s diverse electronics product portfolio, in conjunction with our rich entertainment assets and growing array of networked services, to engage with our customers around the world in new and exciting ways.”
Hirai’s energy, experience, and optimism could be enough to propel Sony back to the top of its game, though he faces formidable competition in the market. The challenge will be to incorporate Sony’s best attributes into new, mobile products to position the company for a solid chance of success, and then convince consumers to climb onboard.