Page last updated at 07:48 GMT, Monday, 3 November 2008

Sony president maps out the future

By Mariko Oi
BBC News, Tokyo

Sony president Ryoji Chubachi
Mr Chubachi says no rival can match Sony's breath

In gadget-crazy Japan, Sony president Ryoji Chubachi is somewhat of an aristocrat.

At a recent press briefing in Tokyo, he is met by a crowd of more than 50 journalists. They hang on his every word.

"Thank you for coming," he greets them, as he steps up next to one of firm's new super thin televisions.

"Amazing technology isn't it," he says with obvious pride.

Lost lead

Mr Chubachi is as passionate about technology as he is about business.

"Which brand is your TV at home?" he asks ahead of a one-to-one interview with BBC News.

Nintendo Wii
The Nintendo Wii has knocked Sony off its perch

It is not clear whether it is small talk or market research.

Then he laughs. "Oh actually, I don't want to know your answer."

It is a sensitive subject. Sony recently lost its lead in global TV sales to Samsung Electronics.

And that is not the only thing Mr Chubachi has to worry about.

Thanks to the Nintendo Wii, Sony is set to concede its position as the world's top video-game maker this year.

And an early dominance in portable music-players was long ago lost to Apple's iPod.

Survival

The Bravia ZX1 may be the world's thinnest LCD TV, first seen in Berlin earlier in the year.

resident Ryoji Chubachi

At the moment, thinness, speed and the environment seem to be on their minds so we'll make sure to launch products that would satisfy those needs

Sony president Ryoji Chubachi

But the company has not come up with any genuinely new products since, so many in Japan are disappointed.

Analysts and consumers have long been waiting for Sony's next killer product - a gadget that will change the world like the Walkman did in the 1980s

Yet when asked when, if ever, we can expect to see such a product, Mr Chubachi smoothly dodges the question.

"We listen to what our customers want," he tells BBC News in an interview.

"At the moment, thinness, speed and the environment seem to be on their minds so we'll make sure to launch products that would satisfy those needs."

But what about overheating laptops and exploding batteries?

Mr Chubachi dismisses suggestions that Sony is losing its reputation for quality.

"I don't think there are many other companies that are always questioned about its brand image," he says.

"But I believe Sony is known for our cutting edge technology so we'll make sure to live up to that image."

The company is facing a growing array of rivals, though, such as Samsung, Nintendo and Apple.

Though none of them can offer as broad a range of products as Sony, insists Mr Chubachi.

"Our products are very diverse so you can't really name one rival company of Sony," he says.

"I don't think one comprehensive measure would work so we'll try to survive in each category."

Innovate to survive

But "survive" was not a word once associated with Sony, which dominated consumer gadgets for decades.

Mr Chubachi seems conscious of a desperate need for new ideas.

"We shouldn't forget that we're an innovative company," he says.

"Not only our cosmopolitanism, or growth potential, or even novelty of a design.

"We have to make sure that we can provide innovate products to our customers."

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