back to article Sony investor wants to break up firm, re-invest in hardware biz

Sony’s biggest shareholder wants to break up the firm, spinning off its highly profitable entertainment division to generate more cash to plough into its misfiring hardware biz. Activist investor Daniel Loeb and his hedge fund Third Point has a 6.5 per cent stake in the venerable electronics giant, amounting to a whopping $1.1bn …

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Meh

The problem with Sony is that it is a typical Japanese company run by a committee, everything has to be done by consensus, whereas for true innovation you need a dictator at the helm.

I do concede that they came up with a few good world beating ideas in the past, but now they have lost their way.

Apple now appears to be emulating them....

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Take Sony back to its roots.

Sony was once pretty wonderful. My first tranny radio -- one of the first available in the UK. My first telly -- 9 inch monochrome which lasted nearly 20 years. Hi-fi components built like a tank. Invented the portable music player. The unique Walkman Pro. Excellent after sales support.

Now, they play second or third fiddle on portables having flirted with DRM on MP3 players, presumably due to the connection with Columbia record label. Laptops look nice but, apparently, have spotty technical support. Eclipsed in TV by Samsung. Also-ran in cellphones.

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Re: Take Sony back to its roots.

I have to agree - the marrying of content producer and device manufacturer is bad for consumers due to the willing imposition of DRM and the reluctance for either to act in a manner that risks the other's legacy income stream.

Just look at the root-kit fiasco and the various attempts to push DRM on user (e.g. mini-disk had it wilde CD did not, removal of Linux mode on PS3, etc) and you can see why Sony is not going to be on my buy-list for the foreseeable future.

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Re: marrying of content producer and device manufacturer is bad for consumers

The problem is, if you don't marry the device manufacturer (patent) to the content producer (copyright) the device manufacturer is constantly in a snake eat snake battle with other commodity producers. Effectively it becomes a slave to the content producer.

The real problem is probably in the IP laws, but until that changes you have to expect linkage of the two just to sustain profits for the company.

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Meh

Pound for Pound

Sony used to be the big hitter in the industy, when you wanted to buy a TV or an MP3 player, a radio or a CD player, a laptop. There was always a large amount of choice out there you had Sony as the high quality grand dady in whatever it touched, and then you had a load of cheaper alternatives which were clearly less sufficient when it came to quality. But the times have changed.

We've gotten to a point where the quality gap between the top of the line, and the mid range isn't so big that it's worth an extra 40% on top of the price. Why buy the sony laptop for £1000 when the mac is the same price and another similar dell *shudder* laptop has similar specs for half the price?

Why spend £600 on a sony phone when you can spend £500 on the new samsung S4?

Sony need to work out which markets it's still wanted in and back out of the rest. In my mind Sony has always been good at the audio visual side of things. Keep TV, music, mp3 and phones, but they need to back out of dying markets like laptops and tablets. Right now it just isn't worth their investment.

I'd also argue that they need to focus their product range more. We don't need 10 different top of the range TVs, we only need one or two of each size category. If they cut down the number of modesl they coudl focus production on the fewer different configurations, save money, lower the price of their sets and in turn get a higher turnover.

The same goes with mobile and camears.

As an additional point, sony is in a unique situation with the products it makes. They could potentially create a large amount of synergy across their platforms. Playstation console linked to playstation mobiles which can beused to control Playstation TVs which can seemlessly link with Playstation Cameras. (okay they wouldn't all be branded playstation but still)

Sonys playstation phone was actually a neat little venture ,but it failed because it was overpriced and underspecced. If they made another attempt of it, or hell. If they released a 'playstation store' app where people could code for android or windows phone using their architecture, they could release a new playstation phone with better spec / lower price. Or even a decent controller adapter for their sony line of phones. Give up on Vita after this generation and focus on mobile gaming.

I mean hell, who's going to spend £200 on a Vita, when they can get a decent smartphone for the same price, and the games cost a fraction of the amount.

In summary

Scrap PCs Laptops and tablets.

Streamline the range of products offered

Synergise TVs with mobiles and the playstation console

Make another attempt at the playstation phone, but this time with decent specs and pricepoint OR release a phone <>game controller adapater.

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Re: Pound for Pound

The Playstation for Phones effort was too narrow... Sony hoped it would cause people to buy a higher-end Xperia phone, I guess, but too few people own for there to be a critical mass of users and developers. Perhaps they could have licensed it for phones from all vendors if they met minimum specifications, and also released a good Bluetooth gamepad for mobiles- the Sony name on it might have encouraged more Android game developers to support it. Okay, this may have eaten into Playstation Portable sales (which are sliding anyway) but the sale of games, controllers, and perhaps subscription services could have made up for it.

It would be a shame if they scrapped all their laptops... at least they are still trying things that their competitors aren't (very high resolution screens, external GPU docks via a Thunderbolt variant)

In cameras, they are offering some good kit - full-frame sensored compacts competing with Leica's M series, DSLR-like translucent-mirrored cameras, and an APS-C sensored camera in a very compact body.

And I like their take on phones and tablets at the moment - making a waterproofing a standard feature, for example, rather than something only implemented on a specialist model.

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Well they missed the digital age

As you said it, Sony used to have a great reputation. For example they also had a broadcast/industrial sector, and many consumer products seemed to be just spinoffs of that. For example Betamax was just a scaled down U-Matic.

Now in the digital age, there is little possibility to differentiate yourself from your competitors. People paid more for a Sony VHS recorder since they could reasonably well believe it could reasonably be a bit better than the competition. With DVD you can only have 2 levels of quality, working and broken. If you want to build a better product you need to make it more versatile. For example you have to make it play VCDs and SVCDs... and maybe MP3s... or MPEG4 video and so on. Sony refused to do that while Chinese manufacturers simply embraced it. So you could buy a better device for a tenth of the price.

If Sony wouldn't have had it's content arm, they simply would have built devices conforming to the consumer needs. They could have ditched DRM completely. They could have brought out an HD-capable format when the DVD came out (e.g. by using multiple disks per movie or something). Just like the LaserDisk it would have been a profitable niche.

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MJI
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Vita vs Smartphone

Hmm well my phone is from work and I don;t want to buy a phone just to play games on it.

Oh and can I have an Uncharted game please?

FInds copy of Golden Abyss.

How about a FPS?

I _WILL_ be buying Killzone Mercenary, but Unit 13 is fun.

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Re: Vita vs Smartphone

But on the other hand, why would you buy a vita when you get the same hardware for the same price on a phone... and it's a phone?

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MJI
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Re: Vita vs Smartphone

Pair of company phones here, one Symbian and the replacement Android. OK Still using the N8 at the moment.

1) They are work phones

2) Screens are small

3) Why do I want another phone just for games, when I have work ones to call on?

4) My little portable game console, has twin analogue sticks and great games.

Now my favourite single player games are the Uncharted series, I want an Uncharted game - I have one.

Currently playing a PSP game on it.

I also like Killzone multiplayer - what is out in September a portable Killzone multiplayer.

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Re: Vita vs Smartphone

I'd rather buy a Vita if the objective is gaming, because:

- I already own a smartphone,

- Phones suck at games for lack of controllers, and

- the Vita actually has real games, vs time-killers in the smartphone area.

One of the biggest misconceptions in the gaming industry is lumping up casual gaming with hardcore gaming. 7 years ago, many "experts" were announcing Nintendo as the undisputed winner of the console wars, as they outsold PS3 & xbox combined. Years later, most of those Wiis are now gathering dust, while the PS3s and 360s are still being played.

Same thing with the "social gaming" stuff, oh no they're the future! They'll take over Steam and the consoles! ... yet now Zynga's bleeding money because people are now bored of their games.

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Re: Vita vs Smartphone

I'm not talking in terms of I already own X so why would I buy Y, I'm talking from the point of average user A

When you are given two options, a playstation vita for £140 + memory stick and £40 per game, or a mobile phone for £200.

You do need a phone, you do not need a games console, but the phone doubles as a games console. And there are games out there that will run on the phone, and if it were givena bit of dev love I'm sure we could see some decent games on there rather than just the 99p crap. This is also why I suggested mroe synergy between vita and phones, such as giving phones some of the vita style games since they're running a similar architecture.

Likewise on the controls front. While I agree that phones lack analog sticks which is a huge negative, my suggestion was another playstation phone with modern phone hardware, the playstation phone having sub par hardwrare but having a game controller built in. Or a game controller adapter made for sony phones, which again would give access to controls.

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MJI
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TVs

When I bought mine there was well too many models, found 5 46" TVs

Cheap sub HD, S and P ranges, overpriced crap.

W and X series - they look nice, how much for an X series!!??!!

W series - hmm that is marketed at me, full HD, great picture quality, looks nice, not too expensive, but quite a bit more than the cheap TVs.

I saw all 4 playing same material and it was crap crap excellent excellent.

So as Pioneer plasmas (only plasma TV I like) was too expensive off to look at Sony W series TVs.

Two models !!!!!!!!!

Now they could have cut that range down to cheap overpriced crap (S), more expensive but better value enthusiast (W), and rich person (X).

Yes I own a W series LCD and the picture is still excellent, got a free 5 year guarantee as well.

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Re: TVs

This. I went through the exact same process, looking for a new TVthe low end stuff was absolute rubbish, and there were about four different low end models of each size. High end was the same story, several different X models.

In the end I settled on the Sony KDLWE5 good price point and great quality. The same goes for their laptops. Lots of high end way out of budget, and even their low end is very overpriced for what you're getting.

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MJI
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Re: TVs

Funny isn't it - hence my W4500

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MJI
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Drop the cheap crap

Concentrate on the decent stuff.

Top end Sony stuff is still good, their cheap crap is embarrasing.

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synergy

All the Sony hardware needs to work together. Why can't I remotely connect to my ps3 from my Sony phone? Why can't I video chat with my PS eye equipped ps3 to my psvita or my Sony phone? Its getting better but Sonys various divisions have always been to distanced from each other. They need to forget DRm and artificial lock ins, and allow people to use the full potential of all the various net connected Sony devices. Microsoft or apple would kill to have the potential that Sony currently have.

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Anonymous Coward

The problem with Sony is

Its backed DRM for decades. People want interoperability. The two are mutually exclusive.

Their hardware DRM is really top notch. perhaps more of a gateway to the household, and alow sharing AND interoperability around the house would be a more productive approach.

PS3 didnt cut it, as its sharing and streaming is a dogs breakfast.

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Re: The problem with Sony is

They used to be different in the 80's. In fact, they were the ones that fought for time-shifting rights, getting us to tape TV shows as "fair use". It was only after they bought BMG and the studio stuff that the entertainment arm started infesting the rest with pointless DRM crap.

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Loeb declined to detail exactly how he would use the extra cash

Give it to Loeb I expect.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Loeb declined to detail exactly how he would use the extra cash

And a nice cash windfall for all his Loeb-like buddies in Hollywood, no doubt.

Typical asset-stripping, parasitical behaviour.

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Makes Sense

Hardware is what they are good at...

Usually it's the software side of things that let their products down.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Makes Sense

Would that not also be a reason to invest more heavily in their software divisions? They're very good at hardware, and hardware quality wise they're still years ahead of much of the competition (just not in price) but their hardware runs using their software. And their software is atrocious.

If they upgraded their software it'd probably be a nice boost to their hardware too. Perhaps a "Sony software" division.

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MJI
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Re: Software

They actually have some of the most talented developers in their fields in the PS division.

They seem to be quite good with their BSD forks.

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secularly challenged markets

Call me stupid, but is he trying to say that Vaio's don't sell well in Iran?

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Big Brother

"His stated aim has been to turn Sony into an Apple-like business that can provide users with content and hardware to consume it on."

But Sony Entertainment creates content to provide. Apple just takes thirty percent of the revenues from the content that it provides. Sony needs to find the trick to getting the consumers mind-share back and mending some of the bridges it's burned with them in the past.

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FAIL

"...his stated aim has been to turn Sony into an Apple-like business..."

Is he Steve Jobs? No.

Is he anything like as charismatic and dictatorial as Steve? I doubt it

Has anyone outside of Sony know who he is? Unlikely.

I don't see that plan working out as he hopes some how.

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