The Sony Deathwatch, revisited

Last year I wrote a lot about Sony’s missteps leading up to the launch of the PlayStation 3, and how the conventional wisdom had become something like “Sony is betting the company on the PS3, and it can ill afford what seems to be a disaster in the making.” The actual launch and subsequent 3 months have gone about as badly as possible, in reality and in public relations terms, but at least there were no big recalls or reports of Blu-ray drives breaking down. Nothing good really happened for Sony, but nothing disastrous either. And now there’s a trickle of new games starting to come out.

So it’s interesting now to see this Wall Street Journal article about Sony, which is really just president Howard Stringer venting. (Hat tip: Chris Kohler.) It shows just how screwed up Sony has been and remains. Since the story is all from Stringer’s perspective, it’s kind of an attempt to blame everyone else at Sony and the company’s existing internal culture for the mistakes. But Stringer has been CEO for almost two years. As this analysis of the article shows, plenty of this falls on Stringer.

Two hard numbers that stuck out at me: Sony will have lost $2-billion this fiscal year on the PS3. Add to that whatever R&D costs went into the project before this year, and that’s an expensive investment for such an as-yet imperfect product and rollout. Nonetheless, the company’s stock price has risen 44 percent since Stringer took over. No doubt that’s largely because Sony made up ground in the flat-panel TV wars. But whatever the reason, the PS3 debacle clearly hasn’t spooked investors yet.

– March 5, 2007

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