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Sony to Boost Research Spending on Cloud Computing, Displays

Tuesday, 28 August 2012 08:41 AM

Sony Corp., Japan’s biggest exporter of consumer electronics, will boost research-and-development spending on cloud computing and display panels as it tries to rebound from four straight losses spurred by slumping TV sales.

The company’s research efforts should focus more on customer needs and not be so inward-looking, Shoji Nemoto, an executive vice president in charge of technology strategy and corporate research and development, said in an interview in Tokyo Tuesday. Sony also “won’t hesitate” to buy outside technologies, including those that could benefit mobile devices, Nemoto said.

The maker of Bravia TVs and Walkman music players has been struggling to deliver a breakthrough hit product to win back consumers flocking to Apple Inc.’s iPhones and iPads, even as it spent twice as much as Apple on development. Sony’s research spending totaled $5.5 billion last fiscal year, while Cupertino, California-based Apple spent $2.4 billion on its R&D operation, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

“One of the problems is that Sony’s R&D spending hasn’t really led to products, sales or profit,” said Kazuharu Miura, a Tokyo-based analyst at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc. “Any company would want to boost earnings from R&D, but it hasn’t really worked well for Japanese manufacturers.”

Apple, Samsung

Sony plans to spend 470 billion yen ($6 billion) in research and development in the year ending March 31, an increase of 8.4 percent from a year earlier, the company said Aug. 2. That’s down from its 2007 peak of 544 billion yen, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The maker of PlayStation game players was Japan’s fourth biggest R&D spender last fiscal year -- trailing Toyota Motor Corp., Panasonic Corp. and Honda Motor Co. -- and 21st among global listed companies, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co.’s R&D spending totaled $9 billion last year, ranking 7th globally.

In April, Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai listed three areas of Sony’s electronics business that the company will focus on: mobile devices, games and digital imaging. TVs weren’t on his list.

The emphasis on three “core businesses” comes after Sony lost 714 billion yen on TVs in the past eight years as demand for its models slumped. Hirai is cutting 10,000 jobs this fiscal year to turn around Japan’s biggest exporter of consumer electronics after four consecutive years of losses.

Sony will speed up a move into health equipment by using the edge its image sensors have over rivals, Hirai said then.

The maker of Cyber-shot cameras is introducing new image sensors known as complementary metal-oxide semiconductors, or CMOS, that are smaller than its previous models in October, targeting orders from smartphone makers.

Nemoto, 56, was appointed the head of technology strategy and the digital imaging and solution units in March as part of management changes.

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Tuesday, 28 August 2012 08:41 AM
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