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Thu April 12, 2012
Losing Its Edge, Sony CEO Tries To Turn Company Around
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
The company that invented the Walkman, the Trinitron TV and PlayStation is now struggling big time. Sony has been losing billions of dollars a year, and earlier this week, the company forecast record losses of over $6 billion. One big problem: Many of the company's products have lost their edge. People aren't bragging these days about owning a Sony product. But a new CEO is trying to get Sony back on track. Today at a press conference in Tokyo, he confirmed that the company will eliminate 10,000 jobs as part of an overall restructuring strategy.
Wall Street Journal reporter Daisuke Wakabayashi was there, and joined us on the line with some additional highlights. Good morning.
DAISUKE WAKABAYASHI: Good morning.
MONTAGNE: So, let's start with what the CEO announced.
WAKABAYASHI: Well, Kazuo Hirai, who became the CEO this month, you know, more than making particular announcements about new products or anything, he - I think he was more like a politician on a stump. You know, he wanted to deliver a message that the company was changing, that he was there to be a change engine. And, you know, he talked about deep cost cuts and job cuts at the company, which, you know, is always a difficult thing to do.
But he also talked about how the company was going to focus on mobile devices, video games and digital cameras, and he talked about how he wanted to turn around the TV business.
MONTAGNE: All of which is very interesting. But, you know, obviously, he didn't give any details. Can you judge whether this would be enough to, in fact, turn the company around?
WAKABAYASHI: Yeah. I mean, this is going to be a very tough process for Sony. You know, they have kind of lost their mojo. You know, Apple and Samsung, they've become the new kings of the consumer electronics industry, and Sony's trying to, you know, reestablish itself. And part of the problem is that they haven't come up with that one killer product that has redefined their company. You know, Apple did it with the iPod. Samsung has done it with, you know, a lot of their mobile phones and TVs, and so Sony's still struggling to search for that. And I think that, you know, until we see that, until that product comes out and we can all use it and, you know, feel it in our hands, I don't think we can really judge whether this can be really successful or not.
MONTAGNE: Well, this new CEO, he's been with the company for more than two decades. Was there any indication in today's press conference what Sony will look like in the future?
WAKABAYASHI: Well, I think, you know, Kazuo Hirai has been at the company for a long time, but he's also come from the videogame business, which is quite different than what is the business that's really struggling right now, which is the consumer electronics business. It's a mostly a hardware-driven business. And what Mr. Hirai is trying to do is that he's trying to bring some of that videogame business model - where, you know, it's a blend of hardware and software - to the consumer electronics area. And it's very difficult, because you have to change the kind of DNA of the company. You have to change the very nature of, you know, the engineers and change the mindset of all the people.
I think that he has a clear vision for what he'd like to do in terms of moving the company towards this networked world, you know, very much like Apple has done with iTunes, linking iTunes to all of its products. And I think that's what the new CEO Kazuo Hirai wants to do.
MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.
WAKABAYASHI: No problem. Thank you.
MONTAGNE: Daisuke Wakabayashi is a reporter in Tokyo for The Wall Street Journal. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.