The Korea Herald


Sony eyes opportunities in smartphone boom


Published : Sept. 18, 2011 - 19:13

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TOKYO ― The smart device craze is no stranger to IT companies, many of which are eager to replicate the success of Apple, and Sony Corp. is no exception in how acutely aware it is of the potential these new gadgets hold.

“The penetration of smartphones and tablets in the market is driving the demand increase for headphones,” said Katsuya Nakagawa, head of Sony’s Personal Entertainment Division.

Sony last week invited journalists from five Asia-Pacific countries including South Korea to participate in the launching event of its latest line-up of headphones using a driver that Sony developed. 
Katsuya Nakagawa, head of Sony Corp.’s Personal Entertainment Division Katsuya Nakagawa, head of Sony Corp.’s Personal Entertainment Division

The event was unprecedented in that it marked the first time, Katsuya said on the sidelines of the program, that Sony went through so much trouble for headphones.

But considering Sony’s market share, which is about 20 percent in both global and Asia Pacific markets, the company has good reason to have invested in the launching show.

“The market environment is very, very positive,” said Yosuke Aoki, deputy head of personal imaging and Sound Asia Pacific Sony Electronics Asia Pacific. Particularly, Sony expected the Asian market to lead this demand as these countries are typically more tech-savvy and filled with so-called “early adopters.”

Next year, the Asia Pacific market for headphones are expected to grow 10 percent to 200 million units, Sony said.

The positive outlook has led the Japanese electronics maker to target a 50 percent increase in headphone sales over the next two to three years. 

Headphone sales currently account for about one-fourth of the company’s global sales.

The floor layout of the Sony store in Tokyo is one reflection of the company’s determination to dig deeper into a growing market; the first floor is devoted to tablet PCs, including Sony’s new tablets, but starting from the second floor, headphones in all size and shapes adorn most of the corners of the shop.

As Nakagawa was quick to point out, Sony helped shape the world’s headphone history, starting with its first headphones that were launched at the early date of 1960.

“From then on, we have continued to develop world-class products, including the world’s first in-ear headphones in 1982,” he said.

In-ear headphones are one of the most commonly used type of headphones and indicate what many know to be “earphones” as the devices fit directly inside the ear.

In 2008, Sony launched digital noise-canceling headphones that effectively block out other sound sources.

But it also would not be wrong to say that Sony has not quite been the iconic electronics brand it once was, with rivals in South Korea and China close on its tails.

In the TV industry, Sony is one of the world’s top three flat-panel TV manufacturers, but it has been struggling on account of sluggish demand and falling prices amid a global recession.

It could be an overstatement to say that the headphones alone will put give Sony a leg-up, but the company seemed to be betting big on the sector. These efforts will pay off, the Sony executives said, especially the firm will continue to expand and sustain its other business, such as tablet PCs and laptops.

Entertainment is another area Sony has a big presence in, and this is touted at the Sony headquarters in Tokyo.

A tour of the parts revealed to the media starts with ceiling-to-floor sized display screens housing a rear projection 4K display.

Sony also boasted its expertise in the film industry, with rooms devoted to actual props used in movies like Spider-Man and Salt, both released by Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Sony does not miss the opportunity to advertise its up and coming movie ― the latest in installment in the Spider-Man series ― and in a 3-D trailer, no less.

Sony’s PlayStation Move was on display as well, and tour participants were encouraged to compete against a virtual ping pong opponent using a joystick that precisely senses “human” players’ movements so that if they miss, it means they really lose a shot.

All in all, Sony seemed eager to prove that it remains a competent player in the electronics industry, and that it plans to prove its worth by riding the smart-wave anew.

By Kim Ji-hyun (