Sony's Stringer consolidates power

The struggling electronics company appoints Howard Stringer, already chairman and CEO, as company president amid a reorganization of its business units.

Sony's Howard Stringer
Howard Stringer at CES 2009. Corinne Schulze/CNET

Update at 9:10 a.m. PST: Comments added from an Ovum analyst.

The top three executives at Sony soon will all be named Howard Stringer.

The Japanese electronics giant on Friday announced a management shake-up in which Stringer , who already is serving as chairman and CEO, will also take on the role of company president. In doing so, Stringer replaces Ryoji Chubachi, who will become vice chairman.

At a press conference in Japan, Stringer played up the efficiencies of his becoming president. "Why do we need another executive in between me and this group?" he said, according to an Associated Press report. "We do not need a bureaucratic layer."

The management changes will take effect April 1--as will a reorganization of the company's electronics and game businesses as Sony continues to take its financial licks amid harsh economic conditions.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, Stringer had emphasized that an essential element of surviving the recession lies in the convergence of networked entertainment and technology .

In an apparent effort to speed up such convergence, the reorganization creates two new business groups:

•Networked Products and Services Group, led by Kazuo Hirai : This unit will include Sony Computer Entertainment; personal computers, including the Vaio line; new mobile products, including the Walkman lines; and Sony Media Software and Services. This group, Sony said, also is expected "to incubate new products leveraging Sony's best technologies. Integral to this process is the utilization and expansion of the PlayStation Network service platform."

•New Consumer Products Group, led by Hiroshi Yoshioka: This unit will include the current television, digital imaging, and home audio and video businesses. Sony's semiconductor and components group also will report to Yoshioka.

There will also be two cross-company units: the Common Software and Technology team and the Manufacturing/Logistics/Procurement group.

"Any integration within that company is a good move," Michael Philpott, a principal analyst at Ovum, told ZDNet UK on Friday. "Hardly any of the devices that (Sony has), even if they're supposed to work together, work together very well at all."

Philpott noted a recent lack of central strategy at Sony and said a longstanding drive to unite the various units within the company had not yet produced results.

Asked whether it made sense to integrate the Vaio business into the same division that deals with the PlayStation and Walkman brands, Philpott said it depended on how Sony intends to use that integration.

"If you look at Apple, Apple has made the (MacBook) the central point of their connected home strategy--everything else links to it, such as the iPod and Apple TV," he said. "If Sony's thinking about developing new products and services using the PC as a media center to enable new experiences for the consumer, then that will start to make sense. If they're not thinking about doing that, there doesn't seem to be any point."

Jon Skillings of CNET News reports from the Boston area. David Meyer of ZDNet UK reports from London.

About the author
Jon Skillings

Jonathan Skillings is managing editor of CNET News, based in the Boston bureau. He's been with CNET since 2000, after a decade in tech journalism at the IDG News Service, PC Week, and an AS/400 magazine. He's also been a soldier and a schoolteacher, and will always be a die-hard fan of jazz, the brassier the better. See full bio

 

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