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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Is Sony Just Average?

Stocks: (MFST)(SNE)(TWX)(NWS)(VIA)

When Sony had the Walkman and the Watchman and Playstation first appeared, the company was viewed as the premier consumer electronics company in the world. Sony was on the cutting edge. It was the innovator.

Perhaps that crown has passed to Apple. Maybe even Microsoft with its Xbox succees. And, perhaps, Nintendo.

Sony has lost the crown, and it probably will not get it back.

Sony lost $175 million in the quarter that just ended. Its recall of faulty PC batteries was partially to blame. The company also said its game division was in real trouble. Sony has already started cutting prices of its new Playstation3, and Playstation portables are not selling well.

Oddly enough, rival Nintendo said that its profit for the last six months was up three-fold as sales of its DS game machine did well. Very well. And, Sony's Japanese competitor is about to come out with its new Wii game platform.

Sony is in some shacky businesses now. At least for them, their game platform business is doing poorly and now will rely on acceptance of the Playstation3. With real competition from Nintendo and Microsoft, success is not a lock.

Building PC batteries in another rough business. Not only can they catch on fire and cause massive recalls, but the PC business is no longer growing as fast as it once did.

Of course, Sony owns one of the major movie studios, Sony Pictures Entertainment. But, the studio business in notoriously fickle and faces challenges from online video and piracy. And, Sony has to compete with large, well-funde companies like Viacom, News Corp, and Time Warner.

Sony was once the envy of the corporate world. That may be gone for good.

Douglas A. McIntyre can be reached at He does not own securities in companies that he writes about.

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