So it would be easy to root for the reorganization he announced this morning. Sony, after all, is a company with a history of producing beautiful technology, not just pumping out low-priced gear it thinks will sell. Hirai also seems like the perfect guy for the job: he's fluent in Japanese, so he's less likely to get flummoxed by Sony's hometown bureaucracy. He's fluent in English, so he can directly engage with some of Sony's biggest markets.
There's a problem, though. This reorganization may be structured to solve yesterday's problems, not tomorrow's.
Look at Sony's results: The company lost $2 billion on $23 billion in revenue in the holiday quarter. Half of that came because TV sales fell off a cliff. Most of the rest of the losses came from the phone business. Other units, including batteries, chips and storage, are limping along.
Given the realities, Hirai says he's focused on turning the TV business around and boosting the viability of the phone business. The vexing thing is that he's also determined to keep doing a lot of other things Sony has done for a long time: the gaming business on PCs, PlayStations, mobile consoles and phones; consumer and professional cameras; an entertainment business; even expanding a new business in medical devices.
I can understand why Hirai would hesitate to shut down any of the businesses that are profitable — consumer and professional cameras, for instance. Still, it could be dangerous. In the reorganization conference call, Hirai conceded that cameras aren't likely to grow as a business because of the challenges from smartphones, but he said he believes Sony can gain market share and stay profitable.