Sony chief outlines new strategy

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Sir Howard Stringer, Sony’s chairman and chief executive, on Thursday set out a plan to integrate the company’s video and music content more deeply into its technology, as he outlined four entertainment “pillars” on which the group would focus.

He defended fiercely Sony’s ownership of both content and the technology used to capture, store and distribute it. “No other content company has such a complete understanding of technology and no other technology company has Sony’s insight into content,” he said.

“Content and technology are strange bedfellows but we are joined together,” he added. “Sometimes we misunderstand each other, but isn’t that the nature of a marriage?” he asked.

Sir Howard’s speech to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas marked his most detailed strategic announcement since he unveiled a restructuring plan in September.

While that announcement focused on financial targets, including plans to reduce costs by Y200bn ($1.72bn) and cut 10,000 jobs, Thursday’s speech highlighted new products that would reflect the changing relationship between content and technology.

He expressed strong backing for Blu-ray, the Sony-backed high-definition DVD format competing with HD-DVD, backed by Toshiba. In spite of fears of a format war, Sir Howard insisted: “Blu-ray has momentum and it is happening now.”

Sir Howard – Sony’s first non-Japanese leader – said it would concentrate on four categories in pursuing the changing consumer entertainment market: high definition video and audio technology; digital cinema; video gaming and “e-entertainment”.

Sir Howard defined e-entertainment as products reflecting consumers’ desire for more choice and convenience in how they access entertainment. “Content is no longer pushed at consumers, it is pulled by them,” he said.

He said the advent of “higher definition” screens could be more profound than the shift from black and white to colour television, and said Sony was best placed to benefit from consumers upgrading their technology.

Sir Howard, who was promoted to his current job in June, is expected to give more financial detail on the progress of its restructuring later in the month. Analysts hope he may elaborate on which businesses Sony intends to sell as it focuses on fewer activities.

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