Sony is on a mission to return the luster to its brand, and Philip Molyneux is the man leading the charge in the U.S. As the president and COO of Sony Electronics, he's turning the focus away from discounts on TVs and other gear and incentivizing retailers to train its employees to extol the unique virtues of Sony. But what are those exactly? About 30 minutes into a roundtable discussion with a group of reporters, I asked Molyneux to name some products that stand for what Sony means now.
After the new line of XBR TVs, Molyneux pointed to the Sony Entertainment Network, which delivers the Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited services to multiple devices, including the Tablet P. He also boasted about the 12-megapixel camera inside the Sony Xperia S phone, and called Sony's new Smart Watch "very cool." And despite the massive market share of the iPod touch, Molyneux argues that there's still room for standalone Walkman devices that focus on pristine audio.
The big takeaway? Sony is trying to peel away the layers within its organization and go to market as a holistic and integrated Sony as opposed to just one among many product divisions. Case in point: Molyneux says that the Reader store will soon become part of the Sony Entertainment Network, as opposed to its own silo. This strategy shift comes at a time that Hirai Kaz will be taking the reigns as CEO April 1. Here are the key highlights of our conversation:
On streamlining the product line:
Molyneux admitted that Sony needed to pare down the number of gadgets the coming is selling, citing that the company had reduced the number of TVs in its lineup from 40 to 22. Expect more of that to come, in the same vein as HTC One X and One S phones. "We have to be market relevant in terms of pricing, but we're focusing on the cream of the crop, said Molyneux. He also also said that Sony has work to do "on tidying up the naming of our products" to avoid confusion.
De-layering and being more nimble:
By restructuring the way Sony operates and investing in areas where Sony sees the most opportunities, such as social marketing and direct stores. Molyneux believes that the company can move faster. "The company was not agile enough for fast enough. We went through a structured de-layering process to allow us to be more agile to be more nimble and give accountability at the right levels of the organization. We have to divest in order to invest."
Why Walkmans aren't dead:
When asked why Sony is still pushing Walkman devices, Molyneux reminded the group that the company has 50 percent market share in Japan. But what about the U.S.? While admitting that the market for portable media players is declining, Molyneux stressed that there's a "whole generation that's missing out on great audio enjoyment" and "great audio quality matters." And if you rather buy an iDevice, the Sony president is confident his company's new XBA-3iP headphones with three drivers per ear will make people want to pay $299.
On Sony's new CEO:
"We're really excited to have Kaz on board," said Molyneux. "If you look at his background he comes from the content and entertainment area, through PlayStation, built the network and made that tremendously successful and profitable. He has a view of electronics. Give Kaz a little bit of time and you'll see fundamental changes in how we go to market."