Sony Mobile announces 6.9mm Xperia Tablet Z in Japan.


Sony has announced the Xperia Tablet Z in a somewhat low key affair in Japan.  Until now, Sony has not been taken as a serious contender in the tablet market, however – with the announcement of the Tablet Z, its difficult to not recognise recent efforts from the Japanese electronics maker.

Sony’s Xperia Tablet Z has struck a second blow to the fortress built by Apple and Samsung, the first being the excellent Xperia Z Smartphone, as announced at CES 2013 earlier this month.  The new slate from Sony measures an ultra svelte 6.9mm-thin, and is shielded from the elements by its waterproof trait.  In comparison, the latest iPad mini clocks in at 7.2mm.  Sony have not held back, as they’ve really gone to town on the innards of the Z, with a Quad-core 1.5Ghz Snapdragon SoC, 32GB Internal memory with microSD expansion, LTE 4G, NFC, a display of 1920×1200 resolution which is running Sony’s Mobile BRAVIA Engine. 

The Xperia Tablet Z will launch on Android 4.1, and will see Sony’s latest foray into the tablet market, further push the Sony Entertainment Network as the way to access your Music and Film, via Sony’s Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited services.

Availability and pricing have not been announced,  however we can expect the new Sony gadget to launch in the near future.

The recent announcement of Xperia Z, and now Xperia Tablet Z, shows that Sony means business, and has arrived with its sleeves not rolled up, but torn to shreds, as it looks to take a Hulk like swing at the mobile market.

http://www.sonymobile.co.jp/company/press/20130121_xperia_tablet_z.html (In Japanese).

Japanese Stalwarts see ratings cut to Junk status.


Japanese firms Sony and Panasonic have had their credit ratings cut to Junk status for the first time. 

Both firms have seen demand for their products fall while their core TV businesses dwindle – the Japanese have suffered at the hands of both Apple and Samsung, as demand for Apple’s iPhone, and Samsung’s ever growing Galaxy range rises.

The cut in ratings means that for both firms, borrowing will now cost far more than before, and that their debt was no longer considered safe and investment-grade. Fitch said on Sony’s cut, “meaningful recovery will be slow, given the company’s loss of technology leadership in key products, high competition, weak economic conditions in developed markets and the strong yen”.

Fellow Electronics maker, Sharp also suffered a similar cut earlier this month at the hands of both Fitch and Standard and Poor’s, as it too was relegated to Junk status.

So where did it go so wrong? The BBC’s James McQuivey looks at this in more detail;

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20449083

The Saga continues, and McQuivey has highlighted Sony’s transition to Digital as a falling point, just as detailed in a previous post;

https://xperieye.wordpress.com/2012/11/04/the-race-to-save-japan-corporation/

More on this scintillating story as it unfolds.

Sony’s smartphone revival.


Today brings news of a renewed energy at Sony Mobile, as the manufacturer climbs above RIM (Makers of BlackBerry) and HTC – Sony have not held such a position since the days of its K Series phones.

According to research firm Canalys’s latest figures, Sony sold 8.8 Million handsets in the third quarter of 2012, compared to 6.2 Million in the same quarter last year4.4, a full 41.1% growth year-on-year, thus seeing Sony claim a 5.1% market share.  Sony’s more driven and well placed marketing campaigns, alongside the re-introduction of ‘Brand Bond’ in ‘Skyfall’, has made for some huge gains at the Japanese smartphone maker.  Sony also looked strong in their home market of Japan, as the Xperia GX and SX (both LTE devices) accounted for over 14% of all smartphones shipped.

 

While Apple and Samsung lead by quite a margin, Sony have seen steady growth.

 

HTC and RIM both saw drops in both sales and market share – somewhat expected after HTC’s rather rocky journey earlier this year (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-19638862).  RIM, much akin to a falling superstar, have had their troubles well documented, with talks of sales (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/mediatechnologyandtelecoms/telecoms/9468187/IBM-considers-buying-RIMs-BlackBerry-server-unit.html), and heavy losses despite misleading surges in share prices (http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/sep/28/blackberry-rim-problems).

With Sony’s latest portfolio (which includes the superb Xperia P, and the former flagship Xperia S) led into battle by 007’s ‘Xperia T’ – has the change from ‘Sony Ericsson’ to ‘Sony’ been a good one?  Well, according to the general feeling amongst consumers, yes.  When it’s backed up by cold figures?

Most definitely.

The race to save ‘Japan Corporation’.


‘Unsinkable’.

Almost one hundred years ago, the Majestic RMS Titanic sank – with a great loss of life.

At around 11:40pm, on the fateful Sunday night of April, 1912, the great Ocean Liner struck an iceberg.  Initial thoughts were that all was well, after all, it was deemed ‘Unsinkable’, that “God Himself couldn’t sink this ship”.

However, little did anybody know, that little under three hours later – the Titanic would fall victim to the icy depths of the Atlantic.

In a technology focused blog – you may wonder ‘why the Titanic?’.

Well, as we speak – Japan’s electronics industry (this report focuses on Sony Corp) is running parallels to the Titanic tragedy.

In the same way that the Titanic was built to showcase Engineering at its finest, so was Japan’s electronics industry, and very much like the Titanic, Japan’s Sony Corporation is slowly fading away, as the lights flicker and the world watches.

‘Unbeatable’.

May, 1946 – in a bombed out Department store, the forerunner to Sony Corporation was born.  Akio Morita, an individual with a deep interest in Physics, and Masaru Ibuka, an electronics industrialist formed what was to become one of the most powerful companies in the world.

The Sony Corporation quickly became a name synonymous with quality, their innovations everywhere – from transistor radios to television sets.  Sony was the brand to beat, as they introduced technologies such as the ground breaking ‘Walkman’, with unrivalled sound quality, and the ‘Trinitron’ television, which delivered images 25% brighter than its nearest rival.  Sony’s myriad innovations and glorious history has every ingredient for success – so why then has it gone so wrong?

In a nutshell, it’s Sony’s hubris that has caused the sprawling giant to fall.  Once the King of the analogue era, the transition to the digital era saw rivals such as Samsung Electronics dethrone Sony as the Monarch of the Industry.  While others began to pile resources into LCD, Sony continued its production of non LCD devices, as the time grew closer for Sony to introduce digital music to the Industry, (it was theirs for the taking, they had the market in their hand, and the technology available), they stalled – their internal development teams developed two music players – both of which were unveiled simultaneously.  The VAIO Music Clip, and the Memory Stick Walkman, Sony’s attempt to build on their dominance in the portable music market were both overpriced, under-specified and gravely misunderstood, not only by the market – but oddly, Sony themselves.

Despite Sony’s string of Walkman’s post iPod, the battle to regain its throne as the leader in the field was being fought internally between various silos, and competitors were readying their onslaught of devices to launch a crusade against the Japanese conglomerate.  In 2001, Sony joined forces with Ericsson to reverse its fortunes in the Mobile arena, and for a while, things at the joint venture did look up.  Devices such as the W800i borrowed Sony’s Walkman brand, and the device did well – Sony Ericsson continued to borrow branding from its Japanese parent, with Cyber-shot being next, the first in line was the K800i – a superb imaging device, which also ushered in the ‘Bond’ marketing channel.

However, as the Mobile landscape changed, so did Sony Ericsson’s fortunes – dogged by quality issues, and a lack of innovation – the JV became a drain on both Sony, and Ericsson’s resources.  Sony Ericsson fell victim to Apple’s iPhone (although they weren’t alone here), were slow to respond and another iPod-esque failure to respond had unfolded in a rather grotesque fashion.  The move to use Google’s Android platform was a smart one – although this proved to be too little too late, as a confused marketing drive saw the stunning Xperia X10i (Launched on the outdated Android 1.6 Donut), being sold beside the lacklustre Vivaz (Running the clunky Symbian UI).  Further quality problems haunted Sony Ericsson, until 2011 – where their portfolio bought a great improvement in quality, and some great features such as ‘Exmor R’ (an advanced BSI Imaging sensor) and ‘Mobile Bravia Engine’ (Software trickery from Sony’s Bravia TV’s).

2011 also saw the introduction of a device that the market had demanded since the inception of Sony Ericsson – the Xperia PLAY, an amalgamation of a Sony PSP, and a Mobile phone.  This should have been the game-changer for Sony Ericsson (excuse the pun), but not even a somewhat stronger marketing campaign could save this poorly executed phone.  Sadly, it just wasn’t enough – the device was unpowered, and while competitors were launching multi-core devices, this gaming-centric device was launched with below-par specifications.

The over-clocked, re-hash of the rather successful Xperia arc (aka Xperia arc S) was to be the Swedish-Japanese firms last handset (Internationally), and on February 16, 2012, Sony acquired Ericsson’s share in the venture.  Born from the ashes (or rather re-born), was Sony Mobile Communications.

So what can be done to fix Sony’s deep cultural malaise?  While they have seen difficult times, it’s vital that they look at ramping up their marketing efforts in the form of a more substantial ATL campaign, which will grant heavier exposure.  While yes, the current ‘Skyfall’ campaigns are very much everywhere – what they do is showcase the product, not the experience.  Sony must look at focusing on the important core business needs, such as Mobile.  The split from Ericsson was beneficial, but may also present a pitfall, if Sony cannot implement their wizardry and electronic prowess in a high quality (note, Premium feeling) device.  The current portfolio must be looked at in detail, and cut down considerably; while iPod like mistakes must be avoided at all costs (another would surely be somewhat fatal).  By bringing together the technical knowledge of the VAIO team and Xperia device team, Sony could fashion another hit, however it will take more than just a great device – the marketing too, will need to hit the spot.  More than anything though, Sony will need to once again be the innovator, the leader and the brand always one step ahead, by doing so they will capture the hearts and minds of the new generation, the ones who know Sony only from their PlayStation, or the old VCR.

Given the company that Akio Morita and Masaru Ibuka built is very much a thing of the past – it’s vital that Sony, through Kaz Hirai, now reinvigorates that ‘Sony Spirit’, and inspire a new generation of ‘Digital Dream Kids’.

However, if this much revered brand fails to strike the right notes over the coming months, the battle to save Sony may very well be lost.

Nonetheless, for the sake of unrivalled Innovation, ingenuity, and sheer brilliance, not only must Sony’s fight be won, but so must Japan’s.

(Note:  This report only explores a microscopic part of the race to save Japan’s electronic industry, and as such does not reflect any personal views).

The Bond Phone has arrived – Xperia T preview.


So, Sony has finally bestowed upon us the mighty Xperia T – its a beautifully crafted design, matched to Super-spy specs, from the stunning HD Display, to the 1080p capable, 13 MegaPixel Exmor R camera – the Xperia T from Sony truly is ‘The Utimate HD Smartphone’.

However, the Xperia T isn’t just all about the specifications, its design echoes the same arc inspired lines as the Xperia arc and arc S before it (While running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich with a promised update to Jelly Bean) – while the UXP Overlay from Sony keeps everything looking clean and crisp.  Watching videos is quickly taken care of on the 720p 4.6” touchscreen with Mobile BRAVIA® Engine, while the 1.5GHz Dual-core Krait processor keeps things moving along smoothly (The Xperia T comes with 16GB memory onboard, plus a microSD slot for expansion) – lets not forget that the Xperia T is a PlayStation® Certified smartphone, meaning gaming on this device is a real premium experience.

From an audio perspective, Sony have it nailed – they have introduced the ‘WALKMAN’ app, which aims to deliver the highest quality sound in the business – coming from the creators of the original ‘Walkman’ – Xperia T may just have what it takes.  The Xperia T features xLoud, a proprietary Sony Audio loudness enhancer, which can boost loudspeaker performance, without distortion, and to top it all off, Xperia T is HD Voice certified.  This means that you can talk normally and be heard clearly, without having to raise your voice, even in noisy environments – and this s something that truly has to be heard!

Other features such as NFC make their way into everyday usage through Sony’s ‘One-Touch’ sharing technology – an excellent way to share not only content, but also a superb way to link your wireless devices effortlessly.

Sony are also currently offering the Xperia range with the added benefit of a 60 Day FREE Trial of Music Unlimited – Sony’s answer to iTunes, and Spotify.  Its a superb service, with an excellent catalog of music (expected, considering Sony have their own record label in Sony Music).

So, have Sony finally introduced a device capable of running with the big competitors, or is this simply a case of Mission Failed?

Well, its only fair to say that considering independent benchmarking tests have seen the Xperia T outrun its closest rivals*, this is mission,  is very much a success.

Sources;

*Business forum, 2011.  Xperia T Gets benchmarked, proves its a worthy flagship. [online] Available at: <http://blog.gsmarena.com/sony-xperia-t-gets-benchmarked-proves-its-a-worthy-flagship/> [Accessed 17 October 2012].