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As Sony Bleeds Money, Electronics Boss Pledges Better Focus

"This is a fun, entertaining industry. Boy, do we make that painful."

Shutterstock / Aleksandar Mijatovic

Following 5,000 layoffs and an exit from the PC business in February, Sony has downgraded its forecasts for 2013, from a previously predicted $1.1 billion loss to $1.27 billion. But as it restructures its TV business, Sony Electronics’ new president and COO Mike Fasulo said today a new go-to-market strategy may right the ship.

“I’m asking our people to be scrappy,” Fasulo told reporters at a press event in San Francisco. “I’m looking for doers.”

Fasulo said his new strategy includes a more honed “focus on the customer experience.” That sounds an awful lot like the same messaging Sony has put out around one of its few money-making divisions — gaming — with the launch of the PlayStation 4 last year. While the PlayStation 3 stumbled for years behind the Xbox 360, the company has edged ahead of Microsoft’s new Xbox One in the latest console race with a focus on core gamers rather than the Xbox’s bigger ambitions to be an own-the-living-room device.

For its other electronics, “focus” will mean three categories are front of mind: The home, centered around TVs; audio, centered around headphones and wireless home theater equipment; and imaging, aimed at customers who want at least a little more than what cellphone cameras can do.

“This is a fun, entertaining industry,” he said. “Boy, do we make that painful.”

A new partnership with Best Buy will push 4K hard in stores, with both live broadcast content upscaled to the higher resolution and “native 4K” content designed for the screens. Sony products will be available in a store-within-a-store, sort of like what Best Buy has previously pursued with Apple, Microsoft and Samsung.

Part of the problem, Fasulo noted, is a lack of consumer understanding about what the heck 4K is, and uncertainty that it’s really better than the HD screens they already have. Most of Sony’s TV investment in terms of people and marketing will go toward those higher-end displays going forward, but the cheaper “foundation” product category is still a “cash cow,” he said.

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