Sony’s smartphone business has always been seen as on the verge of folding. After a brief period of fame, Sony’s flagships have mostly failed to secure a foothold in the market, thanks to a combination of high prices and less impressive features. When Sony sold its VAIO PC business to a Japanese company, it was expected it would do the same with its smartphones soon as well. The good news: Sony President Kazuo Hirai thinks that smartphones are still a viable business. The bad news: it really doesn’t care that much anymore.
That seems to be the impression that Hirai was giving in an interview with the Australian Finance Review. He isn’t so interested anymore on whether or not Sony even becomes one of the top 5 smartphone makers in the world, let alone go head to head with Apple and Samsung. As long as it isn’t operating at a loss, Sony is likely to keep its phone division around.
Hirai is more interested in the next paradigm shift in computing that happens every 10 years, or so the experts say. 10 years ago, that was the smartphone. This time, it’s virtual reality and mixed reality. In other words, Sony is very interested in VR and believes it already has an advantage in that area, even if its PS VR was the last of the big three to arrive in the market.
VR is mostly seen as an entertainment-centric technology, and that’s exactly where most of Sony’s businesses and assets like. That includes not just TVs, audio equipment, or gaming systems but also studios and publishers as well. It’s no surprise, then, that Sony sees VR as its next big thing, and not just for consumers either. VR can also be used in B2B applications, like training or communication.
Hirai, however, isn’t hedging all its bets in VR. It has also dabbled in smaller, more experimental ideas, like the FES U smartwatch or in-ear personal assistants. He sees opportunities for growth in many areas, especially VR. The mobile market, sadly, is not one of them.