By Dr. Phil Garrou, Contributing Editor
Sony had some interesting things to say about their semiconductor and imaging technology businesses at their recent investor relations day May 22nd in Tokyo. As the industry moves forward to 5G, they seek to provide both hardware solutions and content services. Probably most startling to those in attendance appeared to be their announcement of a major focus on their mobile smartphone business.
Shigeki Ishizuka, Exec VP of Imaging products and mobile communications business discussed their theme of “light to display” as shown below. Imaging products and solutions is currently a 660B Yen business for Sony.
Their key applications for real time broadcasting include not only sporting events and concerts but also business to business communications, the education market which they call “active learning solutions” and medical room imaging solutions.
The medical business is described below and consists of both surgical imaging and life sciences.
Their newly developed 3D surgical microscope allows doctors to operate without looking into the eye lenses of the microscope and the image can be shared real time with the whole operating team.
In the mobile communications segment Sony smartphone (Xperia) unit sales have decreasing since 2014 (see below). They will now focus on 5G phone solutions to revive their business position in that segment.
They will be seeking to advance smartphone competitiveness vs the industry leaders by bringing all their internal technology and their external partnerships to bear. They expressed a need to especially improve the design.
Post presentations, most of the questions focused on this announcement of increased focus on the mobile segment. When questioned about whether 5G mobile was an area that they HAD to be in, Sony answered that the technology hurdle for 5G is “quite high” including antenna technology “…. multi antenna array for beam focusing and switching has never happened before….high technology solutions are needed…its not like you can purchase an LSI chip and write some software and develop a solution…we will have to acquire these solutions and mature them” IFTLE assumes this answer was meant to mean that this is not likely to be a commodity product and would require the technical expertise that only companies of Sony’s stature could deliver.
When asked whether it was logical to focus on smartphones where Sony now has less than 1% market share they answered that “…with respect to smartphones the share is low-right- that’s a pity…we don’t have much product offering and product capability is very low….” The rest of the answer did not clearly explain how they intended to turn this around other than they awould be focusing all their internal technical expertise on solving this problem.
It will be interesting to see if Sony can really become competitive with the likes of Samsung and Apple in the future 5G arena.
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