Sony continues corporate shake up; removes head of mobile division

The Boardroom

by Allan Swann| 04 April 2012

Kunimasa Suzuki has been named the new president and CEO of Sony Mobile Communications, replacing Bert Nordberg.

Sony Corporation President and CEO Kaz Hirai has made smartphones a key part of the company's electronics strategy - an area where Sony Mobile had been lacking under former President and CEO Bert Nordberg.

Suzuki is currently CEO and Executive Vice President of Sony Corporation, a role he will retain after his promotion. Much of his background is in the successful Sony Vaio PC division, experience which will certainly be useful in the struggling mobile division.

"He is a strong leader and the right person to oversee Sony Mobile Communications as we establish a new business structure as 'One Sony' intended to reinforce and accelerate our overall business management," said Hirai.

Suzuki's responsibilities will include overseeing the planning and design of all Sony's consumer products and services, strengthening horizontal integration and 'enhancing the user experience across Sony's entire product and network service lineup.'

"Sony has identified digital imaging, game and mobile as the three core pillars of its electronics business, and smartphones are a cornerstone of this strategy," said Suzuki.

Nordberg has been removed after overseeing a disastrous few years. When Sony bought Ericsson outright in October for £1.5b, (now renamed Sony Mobile Communications) market share was a disastrous 1.9%.

Like most of the mobile phone giants, Sony Ericsson was crushed by the rise of Apple's iPhone. Its net income in 2007 was €1.1b, just a year later this was a loss - exacerbated further a year later when Google Android gained in popularity. Sony had hedged its bets on Nokia's Symbian operating system, which is now near defunct - even Nokia, in trouble itself, is using Windows Phone as its OS.

It is clear Nordberg didn't fit into Hirai's future plans for the division.

"I have enjoyed working with Bert and I would like to thank him for his vital contributions over the years, and I am glad that he will become the Board's chairman to support Kuni and the management team of Sony Mobile Communications during these critical phases of the company's integration with the wider Sony Group," said Hirai.

Sony launched its new range of high end Xperia S smartphones earlier in the year, all running the Google Android OS. Sony is taking aim at Samsung and HTC in the high end Android space.

Sony has struggled across the whole company, especially with the falling sales of its once world-leading TV division.

Hirai has been continuing former CEO Howard Stringer's work in reducing Sony's crippling 'silo mentality' and internal bureaucracy, which turned the iconic company into a has-been - hence Hirai's 'One Sony' strategy.

In the last decade the company has seen much meddling across divisions, perhaps the most famous example was the company's iconic Walkman brand, which was absolutely destroyed at the hands of Apple's iPod. While superior technologically, Sony's MP3 Walkman's were effectively useless - crippled by a myriad of proprietary file formats and copy protection forced on them by the music divisions panicking about music piracy.

This saw similar moves half a decade later as the movie divisions forced the Playstation division to put Blu-Ray drives in the Playstation 3 to drive adoption of the new HD DVD format. This saw the console released late, with a huge price tag and eventually saw the company's formerly dominant market share in the video game space eroded severely. It now sits a close third behind Nintendo's Wii console and Microsoft's Xbox 360.

Hirai's background in the Playstation video games division, one of the company's few remaining profitable divisions, has seen him attempt to provide more streamlined vertical integration - similar to what Apple has achieved in leveraging entertainment/content, the web, portable hardware, and online commerce into a cohesive whole, and provide an easy to use product eco-system for end-consumers.

Suzuki will assume the role of President and CEO of Sony Mobile Communications on May 16, and will retain his role as CEO and Executive Vice President of Sony Corporation. He will be based in Lund, Sweden and Tokyo, Japan.

Yoshihisa (Bob) Ishida will continue to serve as Deputy CEO and Kristian Tear will continue to serve as Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Sony Mobile Communications.

Bert Nordberg will become Chairman of Sony Mobile Communications' board.

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