CEO Kazuo Hirai stated that Sony Corp’s re-entry to the field of robotics emulates its commitment to its roots as a consumer-electronic gargantuan. Hirai mentioned previously on Thursday that it was time to advance toward a more ambitious future—and robotics is a part of that.
This announcement was made this week along with the company’s bullish profit outlook. At the close on Thursday, Sony’s share had soared 10% this week.
In an interview, the CEO told The Wall Street Journal that: “We need to push the envelope to really grow Sony into other parts in all of the electronics business, where we know we could make a difference.”
Sony’s return to robotics wasn’t as widely foreshadowed as its Wednesday report that it was on track to acquire an operating profit of ¥500 billion ($4.86 billion) for the year ending March 2018. The electronic giant, which went back to profitability only in the prior fiscal year ended March, has attained that level of operating profit only once during fiscal 1997.
Nonetheless, several analysts claimed the goal is at the low end of their anticipated scale, despite a global economic slowdown and Brexit worries.
Sony Robotics History
Sony was among the first developers of robots for consumers, releasing Aibo, a robotic pet dog, in 1999. It left the market it 2006 to reform. Many other companies have entered since then, but no one has taken robots mainstream yet.
Hirai said he was confident Sony can stand out in the market as it did more than two decades ago with video games, at the period ruled by Nintendo. The firm’s PlayStation business has evolved to be the key growth driver for Sony.
Route Back to Robotics
The CEO did not disclose the company’s robotics strategy in detail, however mentioned one theme is “recurring”, or bringing consumers back for periodical purchases. This strategy has already proved successful in its PlayStation and Alpha digital camera businesses.
Many firms in the robotics industry have taken the same method; Sharp Corp’s Robohon, a robot that acts as a smartphone, obliges users to pay monthly fees in exchange for software updates and add-ons. However, none have hit huge in the market since robots remain expensive and less than personable.
Hirai said that he is willing to nurture the business by offering products for consumers and firms, and could put up a separate unit for each.
Atsushi Osanai, a professor at Waseda Business School and former Sony employee, said that the decision to return to the robotics industry indicates that the company is plotting a complete comeback because Sony’s strategy is to select only fields in which it believes it can differentiate itself, regardless of market size.
“It is a welcoming move that Sony has made this shift. We could see Sony with a bunch of innovative products and great ideas once again in the near future,” he said.
Hardware Remains as Core
Additionally, Hirai said that hardware will still be Sony’s core business due to the fact that devices will always be needed no matter how the internet will evolve. “You can have all these great services, content, but there is a device you need to enjoy it, or actually to feed information to the network.”
Beginning as a hardware maker, the 70-year-old company has grown into a corporation inclusive of units in fields such as financial and network services.