Sony’s Howard Stringer Says He’s Ready To Compete Against Steve Jobs

November 11, 2011

Sony Chief Executive Howard Stringer told The Wall Street Journal Thursday that he’s finally ready to compete against Steve Jobs.

“I spent the last five years building a platform so I can compete against Steve Jobs. It’s finished, and it’s launching now,” Stringer told the paper, referring to Sony’s strategy of competing on smartphones, PCs, televisions, and tablets.

Jobs, of course, died Wednesday, October 5, of pancreatic cancer. In August, Jobs resigned as Apple’s CEO and was replaced by his longtime Chief Operating Officer, Tim Cook.

Last week, Sony projected a 90-billion yen, or $1.2 billion, loss for the fiscal year ending in March after the company reported a surprise loss of 27 billion yen for the quarter ending September 30. Sony had earlier promised a 60 billion-yen profit for the fiscal year ending in March…

As the friend who forwarded this noted, given the headline, one might expect to find the article in The Onion…  But in fact it is (and one can find it in full) at Forbes.

To put this into context, Stringer is certainly right that (as he goes on to confess in the interview cited above), he’s presided over some lean years. especially as compared to his bete noire.  Consider these results, compiled by Dan Frommer at SplatF:

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Indeed, as Business Insider (drawing on Frommer’s further analysis) points out, to the extent that Sony has refrained from completely cratering, it is for reasons that have little to do with what consumers understand Sony to be about– financial services– and the one-time sale of Spiderman merchandising rights:

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Still, Stringer, who joined Sony in 1997, has enjoyed the continued support of his board.  Earlier this year he had to cope with disasters both out-of-his-control (the Fukushima melt-down) and self-inflicted (the multiple breeches of lax online security at Sony’s video game site, which exposed personal data of hundreds of thousands of users)… this, as Motley Fool notes, on the heels of

  • Sony’s laptop batteries exploded. A lot. (2006. With a reprise in 2008.)
  • Sony repeatedly stood up gamers waiting for PlayStation 3. (2006)
  • Sony got “flogged” when Netizens realized it had created a fake blog to push its PSP. (2006) (Incidentally, this kind of marketing fakery wasn’t new — Sony created a fake critic to talk up one of its 2001 films.)
  • Music unit Sony BMG took antipiracy efforts so seriously it went anti-customer and sold discs designed to install rootkits (popularly considered spyware) on buyers’ computers. (2005)
  • Sony got in hot water for payola — yeah, for real. (2005)

None of these transgressions rise to Olympus-like levels.  And Stringer has taken a 15% cut in comp (to $4.3 million per year, plus benefits), while asking other senior execs to shave 11% from their pay…  But the stock has lost over half it’s value in the last decade, standing near it’s all-time low.  And there’s no end in sight.

You can’t make this stuff up.


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