Sony gets ready for the broadband era

For the coming year, Sony is focusing on three main areas: the redefinition of corporate headquarters to put it at the centre of strategic initiatives and vision, strengthening of its core electronics business, and building up its network-based content distribution services.

Key to the first of these is the creation of a unit within the corporate headquarters that will work on strategies for Sony's worldwide assault on the broadband networking sector. Led by chairman and chief executive officer Nobuyuki Idei, president and chief operating officer Kunitake Ando, and executive deputy president and chief financial officer Teruhisa Tokunaka, the unit will focus on big picture strategies and what it called "think tank initiatives". The new unit will also include the strategic business functions of Sony's increasing financial sector business and its US entertainment business.

The electronics business, including its games and Internet and communications services business, will also be reorganised under a single headquarters under the command of Ando. Part of his work will be to push for integration of network functions into all products from personal digital assistants to desktop computers, digital televisions and the PlayStation. The company anticipates these devices and mobile phones will be key access devices for future broadband networks.

In the area of network content, Sony said it plans to distribute music and movies digitally over broadband networks and is already testing such systems in the US with a view to launching commercial services this year. It too is continuing to work on the digital distribution of music, expanding a service already available in Japan, and plans to tie in online financial services to all of these systems.

Sony has already begun taking its first steps in many of these areas although the new business plan will stress much more synergy between these initiatives across the group. Sony Finance International's payment system, for example, will be made standard across the group, encouraging customers to use Sony's planned online bank because of the increased convenience that such a platform will offer.

This focus on broadband doesn't mean the company is abandoning other areas of research and development, it said. The company plans to strengthen its activities in the key system LSI (large scale integrated circuit) and display technology divisions because of their strategic importance to the electronics business. Work in the display sector will include new organic EL displays, it said.

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