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Sony Said to Plan Flagship Xperia Introduction Next Month

Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai
“Sony’s entertainment businesses are critical to our corporate strategy and will be important drivers of growth,” said Kazuo Hirai, president and chief executive officer of Sony Corp. “I am firmly committed to assuring their growth, to improving their profitability, and to aggressively leveraging their collaboration with our electronics and service businesses.” Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

Sony Corp. will introduce a flagship Xperia smartphone next month featuring imaging technology developed for its cameras and ultra-high definition TVs, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The new handset will be unveiled Sept. 4 before the start of the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin, the people said, asking not to be identified because the details haven’t been disclosed.

Xperia smartphones are part of Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai’s plan to revive Sony with handsets, TVs and game consoles that connect with the company’s entertainment content. To lure customers from Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co., the Tokyo-based company is using “X-Reality” picture-enhancement chips developed for Bravia TVs and sensors for its Cyber-shot cameras, the people said.

Yu Tominaga, a Tokyo-based spokesman, declined to comment on whether a new Xperia model will be introduced before the IFA show. IFA runs Sept. 6-11.

Apple will unveil its new iPhone at a Sept. 10 event, a person with knowledge of the plans said this month, asking not to be named because the timing isn’t public. The scheduled Xperia introduction would be about a week ahead of Apple’s event.

Sony’s new flagship has been developed under an internal code name of Honami, a Japanese hot-spring area. Sony has been using such names during the development of its handsets, including the Xperia Z, one of the people said.

Billionaire Loeb

Billionaire Daniel Loeb, whose Third Point LLC controls funds that own about 6.9 percent of Sony, cited Honami and other products as ways for Sony to gain market share, according to a July 29 letter to investors.

Sony this month rejected Loeb’s push for a partial sale of its entertainment assets, with Hirai citing growing Xperia sales for the company’s decision. Smartphone shipments in the June quarter rose to 9.6 million from 7.4 million a year earlier.

Sony expects to sell 42 million smartphones this year, it said.

Sony’s smartphone market share in the first three months of 2013 stood at 3.8 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Samsung is the world’s biggest smartphone maker with about 33 percent of the market, according to researcher Strategy Analytics.

In an effort to boost its content offerings, Sony reached a preliminary accord to stream cable television programming from Viacom Inc. over the Internet to TVs, game consoles and Blu-ray players, a person with knowledge of the matter said Aug. 15.

Earlier this month, Sony raised its full-year sales forecast as a weaker yen boosts the value of exports that account for almost 70 percent of the company’s revenue. Sony’s mobile-product segment, which handles smartphones, tablet computers and laptop computers, posted an operating profit for the three months ended June 30, compared with a loss a year earlier.

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