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Sony to release flagship Xperia smartphone in September: sources

Bloomberg

Sony Corp. will launch a flagship smartphone for its Xperia brand next month that features imaging technology developed for its cameras and ultrahigh definition TVs, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The new handset will be unveiled Sept. 4 before the start of the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin, the people said, asking not to be identified because the details haven’t been disclosed.

Xperia smartphones are part of Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai’s plan to revive Sony with handsets, TVs and game consoles that connect with the company’s entertainment content. To lure customers from Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co., the Tokyo-based company is using “X-Reality” picture-enhancement chips developed for its Bravia TVs and sensors for its Cyber-shot cameras, the people said.

Yu Tominaga, a Tokyo-based spokesman, declined to comment on whether a new Xperia model will be introduced before the IFA show, which runs from Sept. 6 to 11.

Apple will unveil its new iPhone at a Sept. 10 event, a person with knowledge of the plans said this month, asking not to be named because the timing isn’t public. The scheduled Xperia introduction would be about a week ahead of Apple’s event.

Sony’s new flagship has been developed under the internal code name of Honami, a hot-spring area. Sony has been using such names during handset development, including for the Xperia Z, one of the people said.

Billionaire Daniel Loeb, whose Third Point LLC controls funds that own about 6.9 percent of Sony, cited Honami and other products as ways for Sony to gain market share, according to a July 29 letter to investors.

Sony this month rejected Loeb’s push for a partial sale of its entertainment assets, with Hirai citing growing Xperia sales for the company’s decision. Smartphone shipments in the June quarter rose to 9.6 million from 7.4 million a year earlier.

Sony expects to sell 42 million smartphones this year, it said.

Sony’s smartphone market share in the first three months of 2013 stood at 3.8 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Samsung is the world’s biggest smartphone maker with about 33 percent of the market, according to researcher Strategy Analytics.

In an effort to boost its content offerings, Sony reached a preliminary accord to stream cable television programming from Viacom Inc. over the Internet to TVs, game consoles and Blu-ray players, a person with knowledge of the matter said Thursday.

  • Spudator

    Xperia smartphones are part of Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai’s plan to revive Sony with handsets, TVs and game consoles that connect with the company’s entertainment content.

    I can’t believe I’m seeing the word “TVs” in that list. So Hirai is still in a state of complete denial about Sony’s failed TV manufacturing business, believing that this dead duck can somehow be resurrected and, along with it, Sony’s fortunes. The guy’s quackers. TVs are no longer complex pieces of luxury equipment that firms like Sony can charge high prices for and gain a large market share with. They’ve become commodities that consumers regard as no more special than fridges or washing machines, and expect to be able to find going for a song at the nearest discount store. TVs are also a legacy technology that any company can produce; and, currently, the companies best able to produce such technology are all based in Korea and China. Japan is no longer a contender in this area.

    A point will come where a TV consists of just three main made-in-China components: a display, a single system-on-a-chip (SOC) integrated circuit, and a power supply. And all the TV’s functionality—which was once implemented with complex electronics assembled in Japanese factories—will be provided by firmware running on the SOC. Once that point is reached, even Tibetan monks will be able to assemble TVs. Hirai needs to understand this and get Sony out of TV manufacturing now.

    To lure customers from Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co., the Tokyo-based company is using “X-Reality” picture-enhancement chips developed for its Bravia TVs and sensors for its Cyber-shot cameras, the people said.

    So to give their smartphones and tablets more oomph, Sony are going to incorporate their latest TV technology in these devices. Doh! They just can’t help themselves, can they? TV, TV, TV—the broken record repeats itself over and over and over again. How on earth do Sony expect to succeed in the 21st century with their stuck-in-the-groove, stuck-in-the-mud 20th-century technology and mindset?

    I wonder how Hirai gets to the office each morning. I’m guessing he’s either chauffeured there in a company limo or he drives himself in some swank foreign auto like a Beemer or a Merc. However, if he really wants to lead Sony back to greatness, perhaps he should show a little humility and take the train or the subway instead. That way he’d get to rub shoulders with the common folk he hopes to sell his products to and be able to see how they actually use their smartphones and tablets. And what he’d discover is that the proportion of people watching movies or videos or TV on their devices is minuscule. He’d then understand that this kind of content just isn’t that important to users—that they don’t want what his company has to offer—and that he should be letting go of moving-image technology and transitioning to something a lot newer and sexier if he wants to lure consumers back into the Sony fold.