Stringer Shuffles Sony Management, Hirai Helms New Networked Services Group Focused On PSN Expansion

by Mike Bendel February 27, 2009 @ 11:35 am

Amid financial woes and job cutbacks, Sony chairman Howard Stringer has announced that the company is implementing a division-wide restructuring effort. Set to take effect on April 1, the move will see Stringer becoming president of Sony, while still retaining his CEO title. Current president Ryoji Chubachi will take on a new role as vice-chairman, assisting Stringer with tackling safety, quality, and environmental concerns.

Kazuo Hirai will lead a newly formed Networked Products & Services group, while still overseeing the entire PlayStation business. The group will focus on the expansion of the PlayStation Network platform, which now has 20 million accounts registered worldwide. While specifics were not provided, it was mentioned that an effort will be placed to “incubate new products leveraging Sony’s best technologies.” Technologies being PSN for instance. Perhaps that means we could see products aside from PSP and PS3 that will also link up to the service for video downloads.

At any rate, will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

“Consumers want products that are networked, multi-functional and service-enhanced utilizing open technologies, and user experiences that are rich, shared and, increasingly, green,” said Mr. Stringer in announcing these changes. “This reorganization is designed to transform Sony into a more innovative, integrated and agile global company with its next generation of leadership firmly in place. The changes we’re announcing today will accelerate the transformation of the Company that began four years ago. They will now make it possible for all of Sony’s parts to work together to assume a position of worldwide leadership and, together, achieve great things.”

The Board of Directors has endorsed a reorganization of the Company naming Mr. Stringer as President of Sony Corporation in addition to his current responsibilities of Chairman and CEO. Working with his newly appointed electronics leadership team, he will directly oversee the electronics business to enable faster implementation of his strategic direction.

At the heart of the reorganization is the formation of two new business groups:

* The Networked Products & Services Group will include Sony Computer Entertainment (“SCE”); personal computers (VAIO); new mobile products, including the current WALKMAN lines; and Sony Media Software and Services, which develops a common service platform across Sony products. The mandate of the group is to maximize the potential and pace of Sony’s innovation and to enhance profitability in networked products and services. The group also plans to incubate new products leveraging Sony’s best technologies. Integral to this process is the utilization and expansion of the PlayStation Network service platform, which currently has 20 million registered accounts globally.

Leading the Networked Products & Services Group will be Kazuo Hirai, who will become Executive Vice President of Sony Corporation and President of this group. He will also continue in his current role as President and Group CEO of SCE. Kunimasa Suzuki, currently President of the Consumer of America Group of Sony Electronics in the U.S., will become Senior Vice President of Sony Corporation and Deputy President of this group. Within this group, Mr. Suzuki will lead the new home and mobile business incubation project to create new products that utilize the best technologies from across the Company, as well as the VAIO Business Group.

* The New Consumer Products Group (“the New CPG”) will include the current Television, Digital Imaging, Home Audio and Video businesses. The New CPG will focus on profitability and sustained growth by enhancing product innovation and competitiveness and improving the speed and efficiency of operations. The New CPG will also concentrate resources on further development and growth in emerging markets.

Hiroshi Yoshioka will become Executive Deputy President of Sony Corporation and President of the New CPG. (He is currently Executive Vice President of Sony Corporation and President of the TV Business Group.) The Semiconductor and Component Business Group will also report to him, to help ensure effective coordination with Sony’s products and enhanced profitability for these businesses. Yoshihisa Ishida, currently Senior Vice President and President of the VAIO Business Group, will head the TV Business Group.

In addition, two cross-company units will be created with the aim of ensuring that Sony’s networked products and services can communicate seamlessly with a common user interface and will reach consumers in a fast, cost-effective and efficient manner:

* The Common Software and Technology Team, to be led by Senior Vice President Keiichiro Shimada, will develop and implement integrated technology and software solutions across the products groups, and provide coordinated software development services to the product groups. This group’s goal will be to assure maximum efficiency, common user experiences and consistent technologies. Mr. Shimada will also oversee R&D and technology strategy.

* The Manufacturing/Logistics/Procurement Team, to be headed by Yutaka Nakagawa, Executive Deputy President, will be charged with ensuring the most efficient supply chain solutions throughout these two new business groups. The group will leverage scale in procurement, eliminate duplication and redundancy, outsource manufacturing and design processes as appropriate, and help improve the Company’s green product profile.

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