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Culture

A last stand for Sony's 'Sir Howard?'

Sony's CEO reportedly is ready to pull out all the stops in another wide-ranging reorganization. But will this be the reorg that finally does the trick?

Sony boss Sir Howard Stringer has to be one of the most charming executives in all of techdom. But as Arthur Miller taught us, a smile and a shoeshine go only so far.

Remember this quote?: "You can take iPod and beat us over the head with it, but it's only one product. And we have a thousand products. Apple has two or three."

Oh boy. I'm sure Stringer winces whenever that quote gets trotted out. Now Stringer, who has been CEO since 2005, is reportedly mulling what the U.K.'s Times suggests will include "job cuts and sweeping changes to management and manufacturing processes."

The Times' sources say the changes likely will get announced after the Consumer Electronics Show and will "abolish or fundamentally alter many of Sony's long-established business practices."

If you think you've heard that before, well, you have. Sony's been hampered by internal bureaucratic rivalries for years. Inconclusive fights over formats and digital rights management have put too much distance between Sony and its consumers. The upshot: Products that are good, not great. That title has been passed along to Apple.

That's left Stringer exhorting Sony to get more imaginative. Last May, he reportedly urged his minions to "get mad." Jawboning only got Sony so far. If the Times' report is correct, the company's about to go to Defcon 1.

I'm not sure how much to get excited about all of this. If Stringer's as capable an executive as he's been portrayed--and the guy definitely is a blue-chip talent--this is the point where he must prove his super hero cred. Anything less, and he's going to wind up as toast. Will the same also be said of Sony?