It's not really a secret that Sony is in trouble. But the consumer electronics company is taking some calculated steps to change its fortunes.
On Friday, Sony announced it has hired longtime IBM executive George Bailey as chief transformation officer. He will report to Sony CEO Howard Stringer beginning June 1 as head of the Transformation Management Office and consult with two main company divisions: Consumer Products and Devices and Networked Products and Services.
Bailey served for five years as the global managing partner of IBM's electronics industry consulting practice. His new title at Sony--though grand--describes exactly what Bailey has been known for in his career: fixing the way consumer electronics makers approach the business and help them make money--he even wrote a book about it.
Someone who can transform or kick-start Sony's global business is something the company desperately needs. Stringer has been saying for years he will reinvigorate Sony and figure out a way to get the many different parts scattered around the world to be more tightly integrated. But the results have been dismal: On Thursday, Sony reported its first annual loss in 14 years, to the tune of $1 billion.
Stringer has reshuffled some executives between its Japanese headquarters and its U.S. electronics division and most recently set out a manifesto of sorts for his company during his keynote speech at the Consumer Electronics Show. In it he said they needed to be focusing on the creation of better networked devices with long-term value and that embrace open standards and green materials.
Bailey has a simpler approach. In his book, "Irresistible! Markets, Models and Meta-Value in Consumer Electronics," he says the key to successful electronics companies involves shepherding innovation and giving customers what they want, from the packaging to advertising.
He has in the past praised Apple's approach to both the computer and consumer electronics markets, and specifically compared it to Sony's. It's a pretty easy bet that Bailey will be pointing out these differences to Sony and trying to steer the Japanese giant toward mimicking some of Cupertino's best practices.