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Sony’s Hirai Aims to Get ‘Mojo Back’ as TVs Talk to Cameras

Jan. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai suffered an embarrassing moment at the Consumer Electronics Show as his introduction of the first "ultra-HD" TV using organic light-emitting diodes (OLED) saw the screen go blank as the computer running it had an error.

Sony Corp. (6758) is enabling its Bravia TVs, Handycam camcorders and Xperia phones to communicate with each other as Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai tries to end four years of losses.

Higher-definition televisions, water-resistant phones and wireless speakers were among devices released by Sony yesterday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The Tokyo-based company expects the addition of Near Field Communication technology to its gadgets to entice buyers from products made by Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. (005930)

“It’s one product at a time to have people understand, ‘Wow! Sony is really starting to get its mojo back,’” said Hirai, who took over as president and CEO from Howard Stringer in April.

Sony also announced its intention to offer Ultra-High Definition content from Sony Pictures for downloading on Sony TVs, a move aimed at leveraging the company’s own movie studio. The service will offer 10 movies when it debuts this summer and will be exclusive to Sony sets, Hirai said.

The company has no plans to sell the music or film businesses, Hirai said. Sony is willing to consider selling operations that aren’t crucial to turning around the TV unit, gaining share in emerging markets or extending into medical. That includes the battery unit, he said.

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Kazuo Hirai, president and chief executive officer of Sony Corp., speaks during a news conference at the 2013 Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas, on Jan. 7, 2013. Close

Kazuo Hirai, president and chief executive officer of Sony Corp., speaks during a news... Read More

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Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Kazuo Hirai, president and chief executive officer of Sony Corp., speaks during a news conference at the 2013 Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas, on Jan. 7, 2013.

‘Surprise, Delight’

Hirai vowed to “surprise and delight” consumers with products including a TV that offers Ultra-High Definition resolution using organic light-emitting diode, or OLED, technology that is thinner and more energy-efficient than conventional sets. His demonstration of a prototype failed, as the model showed only a blue screen with white text.

Samsung (005390), the world’s largest maker of TVs, also showed off Ultra-High Definition models at the electronics exhibition.

Hirai said making higher-quality products featuring more- powerful technology will persuade customers to return to the brand that invented Walkmans and introduced CD players. The company is targeting a 20 billion-yen profit this fiscal year after posting four straight full-year net losses and eight straight annual losses from TVs.

When he was promoted, Hirai identified mobile devices as a key priority, and the company released two new models in Las Vegas. The company plans to boost smartphone sales 51 percent to 34 million units in the year ending March 31.

Sony also introduced a more-powerful digital camera that Hirai described as “a Ferrari in a Mini Cooper body.”

The 52-year-old said he’s approved at least four “wacky” projects for development, or unusual engineering ideas that may yield new products or technologies. He didn’t provide details.

To contact the reporters on this story: Tim Culpan in Taipei at tculpan1@bloomberg.net; Cliff Edwards in San Francisco at cedwards28@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Tighe at mtighe4@bloomberg.net.

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