BORDEAUX, France During its first public-relations foray since a dramatic management shakeup in March, top executives of Sony Corp. acknowledged past mistakes even selfishness and admitted that company engineers were sometimes blinded by Sony's obsession with forcing proprietary technologies into the market.
Fujio Nishida, Sony's executive vice president, said in an interview here, "We have been so used to [pushing] our own logic. We've been a little arrogant in that sense." Nishida pledged that the "new" Sony will strive to narrow the gap between what it perceives to be product value and customers' needs.
Nishida reiterated, however, that engineering prowess remains at the heart of Sony's next push for innovation. Asked to pick two key technologies that could help differentiate future Sony products, Nishida cited the company's Cell processor and its emerging mobile platform technology.
Meanwhile, the company's new mobile platform technology is expected to emerge from the lab in 2006, in time for Sony's 60th anniversary celebration, Nishida noted.
The mobile platform "accepts a lot of applications shared by a host of mobile electronics devices, ranging from digital still cameras, mobile phones and MP3 players," Nishida said. It's "a new architecture that's easy to operate, and that makes it less expensive to build products."
The emerging platform is not a DSP-based mobile platform which different mobile devices can reuse. Rather, Nishida said, "I'm talking about more of an underlying operating environment that can be used by a variety of mobile electronics devices."
Meanwhile, Sony's new management team needs "to give a clear direction to engineers," said Nishida. Sony has always stressed "its vision," he said. Now it's time "to move the company into reality, much closer to the market and closer to the customer."
Although Sony pioneered CCD technology that allowed it to take an early lead in the digital camcorder and digital still camera market, "We were so wrapped up with the megapixel battle that we forgot about our customers' product design needs," said Nishida. Customers wanted "ease of operation, a bigger LCD screen, a slimmer, lightweight body and longer battery life in their digital still camera," he added.
The Sony executive acknowledged that the company erred when it insisted that consumers use its proprietary audio codec called ATRAC, rather than MP3, in Sony's portable music player. "We used to complain and blame our customers and our marketing forces for not understanding that ATRAC offers better sound quality than MP3. We continued to neglect the reality, even when MP3 was rapidly becoming the standard among customers, and 90 or 95 percent of consumers were buying something else."
Nishida claimed Sony has corrected such mistakes with its Cyber-shot T3, which comes with a larger LCD and a slimmer body. It is alsp launching a new network Walkman capable of both ATRAC and MP3 playback.