x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Former darling stuck in a tough squeeze

Sony's days as the most exciting name in consumer electronics are long over, and the company has struggled to make a hit product in the internet age.

Sony's days as the most exciting name in consumer electronics are long over, and the company has struggled to make a hit product in the internet age. The company insisted for a long time on producing music players that could play songs only encoded in its own private format, rather than the MP3 system that was the clear preference of consumers. It made big bets on new storage formats such as the minidisc and the universal media drive. Both found niche markets, mainly in Japan, but have been steamrollered by cheap, high-capacity hard drives based on flash memory.

The company is uniquely positioned to create the kind of seamless customer experiences that Apple dreamed of. Its film and music studios produce rivers of digital content that can be embedded on its Blu Ray discs, played on its laptops or adapted into video games for its Playstation consoles. However, it is now stuck in a classic marketing squeeze, making products that are more expensive than those from Samsung or LG, but considered less premium than Apple or Lenovo.

Sony's biggest recent success story is the Playstation gaming console. However, even in this market the company is struggling to match the internet and software savvy of Microsoft, or the generations of gaming experience at Nintendo. Its fortunes are in many ways comparable to Nokia, once the maker of the world's most exciting mobile phones and the darling of its industry. Both companies have built world-class manufacturing, distribution and sales systems and will be forces in their industry for years to come.

But neither has captured the imaginations of customers in the internet age, and the stresses are beginning to show. tgara@thenational.ae