Sony reorg follows earlier changes at PlayStation division

Sir Howard puts his mark on Sony's future; cuts 10,000 jobs, admitting to past "missteps."


Sony is planning a company-wide restructuring that will result in the loss of 10,000 jobs and the closure of 11 plants, among other changes, the electronics giant said Thursday.

The company known for its Walkman music player, the Spider-Man movie franchise, and the PlayStation game console will "eliminate the corporate silos" of its Sony Corporation Network starting October 1, and it will replace them with a new structure that it hopes will allow for better coordination on product planning. Centralized decision-making authority over key areas will go to president and electronics CEO Ryoji Chubachi.

Because of the changes, Sony will report a financial loss of about $90 million on sales of about $65.1 billion for the year, the company said. Sony previously said it would post a profit of $90 million.

Chief executive Howard Stringer, Chubachi, and chief financial officer Nobuyuki Oneda outlined the details of the changes during a meeting with management and key partners in Tokyo. Stringer admitted past missteps by the struggling electronics group but pledged a change.

"We have made promises before, but we failed to execute them," Stringer said at an afternoon news conference in Tokyo. "We must fight like the Sony warriors that we are."

[Today's news follows changes specific to the company's game division announced last week. See previous GameSpot coverage for details.]

The job losses had been expected. Sony, the world's second-largest consumer electronics maker, said earlier this month that it would unveil a new strategy to reallocate resources, suggesting it would look to trim its product lineup or downsize poorly performing businesses.

The 10,000 positions to be eliminated represent about 7 percent of Sony's global workforce. The company said it will slash 4,000 jobs in Japan and 6,000 jobs elsewhere by 2008.

Sony said its new structure will include five business groups, two units, and one division. In addition, two development groups are being established as part of the restructuring.

The five business groups will focus on TV, video, digital imaging, audio, and what Sony calls "B & P"--broadcast and professional products.

Television is of the utmost importance to Sony, as it hopes for a turnaround by the second half of fiscal year 2006. The company has shelved its production of cathode ray tube, or CRT, television sets and will now focus on selling LCD and rear-projection TVs.

Rivals such as Samsung, Panasonic owner Matsushita Electric, and Sharp will keep the division on its toes, but executives said the group will be profitable by rethinking its manufacturing sites, increasing the number of Sony-made components, and putting its engineering functions under one roof.

The company's two business units will include its Core Component Business Unit, which oversees its production of its flash-based memory sticks, and its Semiconductor Business Unit, which includes its Cell microprocessor, which Sony codeveloped with IBM and Toshiba.

Responsibility for Sony's PC and laptop computer Vaio line will remain with Yoshihisa Ishida, the head of Sony's lone corporate division.

As for research and development, Sony said it will split the work between its Technology Development Group and its Display Device Development Group. One focus will be improvement to Sony's self-luminous flat-panel OLED (organic light-emitting diode) displays, which have been in production for a year.

In looking at its prime opportunities for growth, Sony said it will focus on high-definition technologies, devices related to Blu-ray, mobile products, and devices that can control a wide range of home electronics products. The company said it will also bolster its software development, including its middleware, applications, codec, and digital rights management technology.

Sony also said that its Communication Network is still on track for an IPO for this fiscal year but that a previously disclosed IPO plan for its financial services division has been postponed until fiscal year 2007 or later.

Sony has already slashed about 20,000 jobs in recent years, most of those in Sony's loss-making electronics division, as part of a restructuring initiative called "Transformation 60." That three-year plan is expected to wrap up at the end of March 2006.

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