Sony has had a rough time in recent years, with the global recession especially acute in Japan and currency issues making it difficult to match competitors in other Asian countries. But Sony CEO Howard Stringer, speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show, said things are looking up as the company delivers innovation while cutting costs.
"We are handicapped because of the recession in Japan, and we are handicapped -- as are all of Japanese CE (consumer electronics makers) -- by the high yen, which give us a disadvantage against China and Korea," Stringer said at a press conference.
Sony has struggled in the television business against South Korea's LG Electronics and other Korean and Chinese manufacturers. While Sony is largely swimming upstream because of currency differences, "the pendulum swings both ways on that, and we are getting our costs down considerably," Stringer said. "We are fighting it, we are fighting very aggressively, and so far the roof hasn't fallen in."
A 3-D Summer
Indeed, Sony plans to take a very aggressive stance this summer to sell 3-D high-definition televisions and Blu-Ray Disc players. "Better to go all out, better to take the risk," Stringer said Friday at a briefing at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. "We are working at a different pace from the Sony of some years ago."
All well and good, but especially with the currency headwinds, Sony will encounter tough competition in the new 3-D TV market, according to analysts.
"Competition in the global television market is extremely tough and everyone is looking to win a leading share in 3-D devices," Nobuo Kurahashi, an analyst at Mizuho Investors Securities in Tokyo, told Bloomberg. "The marketing strategy at the beginning will likely give a significant impact in determining who's going to be the leader of the new market."
Sony's competition for 3-D TVs will include Samsung, which will start selling 3-D TVs and Blu-ray players this year; LG Electronics, which is targeting sales of 400,000 3-D TVs in 2010; and Panasonic, which will sell 3-D plasma TVs in the U.S. by this spring.
Research firm DisplaySearch expects the market for the new technology to grow 38 percent annually, to $22 billion by 2018.
Sony said holiday sales exceeded expectations for flat-screen televisions, e-readers and Blu-ray players. "Demand going into January is looking positive," said Stan Glasgow, president and CEO of Sony Electronics. "We think there is a chance of January, February and March being generally positive."
Christmas provided a welcome shot in the arm for gaming compared to the previous year. Sony sold 3.8 million PlayStation units worldwide, a 76 percent increase over the 2008 season. That should put the company on track to meet its goal of selling 13 million PS3s.
With a total of 30 million PS3s, Sony is rapidly approaching the 39 million Xboxes that Microsoft has sold, but is substantially behind Nintendo's groundbreaking Wii, with more than 50 million units sold worldwide.