Sony sees but doesn’t raise the mobile game

by Steve Blum • , , , , ,

Coincidentally, it costs $200.

As the last MobileCon opens in San Jose, Sony announced today that it’s launching three mobile products in the US: the Xperia Z1 and Z Ultra smartphones and its new Smartwatch 2.

I don’t see any Wow! factor. The smart phones are standard, high-end Android devices and the smart watch seems more or less in line with Samsung’s Gear, although the fact that it can be used with any late model Android device (or so they say) and is a hundred bucks cheaper is a competitive advantage.

Sony can survive just fine in the sub–5% mobile market share club. Unlike Blackberry or Nokia (or Apple, for that matter), Sony is a diversified consumer electronics and digital content company. Like LG, it has a relatively small market share across a wide range of products, sectors and industries. Its competitive advantage is its brand. The joke in the consumer electronics industry used to be: what’s Sony worth? 50 bucks per letter.

That was twenty years ago. Back then, Sony could command a $200 premium on mainstream CE products like televisions and satellite receivers, just on the strength of the brand, which was built on a reputation for quality and innovation. These days, Sony isn’t innovating as much and although its quality is still among the best, the membership in that top group has expanded considerably.

Sony’s strategic positioning is against Samsung across a wide range of product lines, of which mobile phones are just one. Unlike major computer and tech companies, like, say, HP, Dell and Microsoft, it’s known all along that it needs to be in the mobile sector and has hung in through thick and thin. Today’s product announcements are more than enough to keep Sony in the game for the coming months.