Why Sony is in BIG, BIG, BIG Trouble
In the past two weeks, Panasonic, Sharp and Sony have all announced they're expecting $17 Billion in losses for their fiscal-year ending March 2012. The biggest loss will be sustained by Panasonic who announced its expectation to be just under $11 Billion.
At first glance, all three announcements seem to make the future prospects for Japanese electronics manufacturers, well, bleak. But, if you drill down, the real loser in all this is Sony -- by far.
Well, Panasonic is actually in a good position - they've finally absorbed Sanyo, something that cost them a fortune and took almost three years to do, but that acquisition positions them well in all sorts of consumer electronics goods and commercial AV gear and makes them the world-leader in Green gear - a place a lot of companies would like to be in. In fact, they will be the world's largest manufacturer of battery-operated stuff as well as solar energy products.
Sharp just completed a giant LCD manufacturing facility that, although it's not running at full-cpacity, is a world-class plant capable of manufacturing LCDs as large as 100" and as small as those found in smartphones. And, they're brand image is pristine.
But Sony, on the other hand, might want to consider a radical change in strategy. After record losses, a gaming console that hasn't changed in nearly five years (and that's been the only real profitable division of Sony for the last three years) and giving up is partnership with Samsung on the LCD front, Sony's well positioned for, well, staying in the red. Although they have one of the nicest HDTV lines, they're overpriced for the performance advantage and have no stand-out product differentiation from LG, Samsung, Panasonic or even VIZIO for that matter. The rest of the consumer product line is no different than anyone else's and, as you all know, they're a year behind every other projector and digital signage manufacturer in features, specs and product design.
They're also still the most arrogant company on the planet. They still think they're at the top of the AV gear food-chain and they're pissing off integrators, distributors and customer alike. Just call in and try to get customer support to help you with a problem. The scripts their call centers use assume the caller is plain stupid and are severely lacking in their understanding of routing and distributing of HDMI and completely blind to the issues surrounding ARC (Audio Return Channel).
And, I can't see a single thing going the company's way. Sony's new president, Kazuo Hirai, will be limited in what he can do as Sony traditionally has never allowed its chief's to have much control - every decision has to be approved by committee, and, although he was the chief of consumer electronics and games, that group has consistently posted losses of 10-20 percent every quarter for the past two years - in fact, the company's most recent Q3 earnings were actually down 24 percent.
So, if your primary line of AV gear is Sony, and you enjoy the professionalism a Japanese company provides you, you might want to take a look at NEC's and Panasonic's as an alternative to projectors and commerical-grade LCDs, and Sharp for HomeAV HDTVs.
Sony's on life-support -- and the oxygen supply is running out.