Sony’s girlfriend finally gets her reward

I once had a Japanese friend who was so crazy about Sony that she drew the company’s logo multiple times onto pieces of paper, then cut the designs out and turned them into labels which she affixed to all the machines in her flat, in order to make them look like Sony products. She had a toaster with a Sony label on it. She rebranded her laptop as a Sony. Even her fridge was Sony.

From the 1960s to the 1980s, Sony was the symbol of Japan’s technological innovation and its rising global influence. Yet in recent years, it’s been under enormous competitive pressure. It lost a huge share of the TV market to South Korean companies such as LG and its phones and computers were up against those made by Apple. Even its successful camera business was hit hard by people choosing to take pictures on their phones.

Nevertheless, things are now looking up for Sony. The FT reports it’s on track to make ¥500bn in profits this year and analysts describe this as “a target waiting to be exceeded”. That could put Sony on track to beat the record profit it made in 1998.

The optimism has helped Sony’s share price. It’s risen more than 30 percent since the start of 2017 and has comfortably outperformed the main share index in Tokyo.

Sony’s most profitable division is computer gaming, built around the games console Play Station 4, which is much more popular globally than Microsoft’s Xbox One.

Another source of pride is its film division. Last weekend, the Sony adventure film The Dark Tower was the number one film in America, with other Sony titles, The Emoji Movie and Spider Man, also in the top ten. Films are hugely expensive to make, though, and even a number one hit doesn’t guarantee a return on the investment.

Sony’s president, Kazuo Hirai, who takes much of the credit for the turnaround, has also been asking staff to come up with new ideas. Fortune magazine reports that among the proposals are a self-flying drone and a machine which dispenses fragrances to enhance a person’s mood, enabling them to be calmer and more focused at work. Of course, it has a Sony label on it. It sounds just like an idea which would have appealed to my Japanese friend.

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