Thursday, August 18, 2016

Sony From Survival to Innovation

Thanks D.

AsiaNikkei  (A lot more at the source)

TOKYO -- Its electronics are profitable again. Its bottom line, once deep in the red, is in the black. Its engineers are flexing their product development muscle.

Sony is back. And its goal of booking a 500 billion yen ($4.95 billion) operating profit for the first time in two decades suddenly seems within the realm of possibility.

But before investors and consumers fully buy into the turnaround, the company will have to do what it once did so well: wow the world. Sony hopes to do just that with a combination of robotics, artificial intelligence and everyday gadgetry.

Yet, here we are in 2016, and Sony has just posted its first consolidated net profit in three years -- 147 billion yen. It is the first time in seven years that the company has managed to turn a profit excluding one-offs, such as proceeds from property sales.

More crucially, perhaps, electronic hardware turned profitable for the first time in five years. That excludes game consoles, which were already money-makers.

After a series of bold restructuring measures, Hirai and a team of innovators are determined to ensure the turnaround is no fluke.

"SONY 2.0" One key player is Hiroaki Kitano, president and CEO of Sony Computer Science Laboratories. Kitano developed the Aibo robotic dog -- a product that attracted a devoted following but was cut as Sony's earnings worsened back in 2006. He is still regarded as a guru in the field of robotics and artificial intelligence.

Sony is working on prototypes -- from earphones to desktop minirobots -- in search of the ideal AI interface. "We will develop AI platforms that can serve as the fundamental infrastructure for society and life in the future," Hirai said.

For the president, it is all about the "last 1 inch," or the point where people come in contact with the cloud and artificial intelligence.

Yoshida, the finance chief, is convinced all this will put Sony on a firm footing. "Connecting AI and robotics to a network," he predicted, "will create new services that will earn recurring revenue from stable customers."

Finally, after nearly two decades of focusing on what ails the company, executives are looking toward the future. MIT's Ito, for his part, believes that future is bright. "Sony has great potential," he told the Nikkei Asian Review. "You should expect a lot of the company."

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