Sony’s woes should be a wake-up call for the Apples and Microsofts of the world

Sony’s announcement last month that launch of the Playstation 3 has been pushed back until the Fall is yet another image and reputation blow to the once-stellar golden boy of the consumer electronics world. Problems with the Blu-ray disk have been blamed for the PS3’s long-delayed launch and high price compared to competitors.

According to published reports, the PS3 is the cornerstone of Sony’s entire consumer electronics market strategy. If it fails, the fallout could be devastating and might bring the fabled Beast of the East to its knees.

Sony’s image and reputation challenges in the wake of its precipitous fall in recent years should sendPs3 a stark wake-up call to two American powerhouses: Microsoft and Apple. Both embody some of the same corporate arrogance and indifferent customer service that many ascribed to Sony in its heyday.

In the interests of full disclosure, I must admit I worked on Sony for three years in the 1980’s, and witnessed some of their ‘tude up close and personal. At that time, Sony was the absolute darling of Wall Street and seemed unstoppable. Their executives were masters of the universe and their attitude towards public relations and PR agencies was a pure lose-lose scenario from our end. If we scored, say, a major New York Times profile on the next generation Walkman, the response would be, "Well of course you did. We’re Sony. The Times HAS to write about us." But, woe betide the person or agency who didn’t get Sony included in a major consumer electronics industry piece. The beatings were merciless, to say the least.

I’m not suggesting that that same attitude pervades Sony today. But, I’m not surprised they’ve taken a serious drubbing over the past few years. When a company (or an individual) begins reading his own newspaper clippings and drinking her own Kool-aid, they stop doing all the little things it took to get to the top. Complacency sets in and, like a cancer, spreads throughout the organization. Now struggling to halt its slide, Sony has to not only build better products, but also undo a lot of the ill will it created over the years when it steamrolled, juggernaut-style, through the known consumer electronics world. Regardless of how they do, I hope some other market leaders are watching and learning from Sony’s painful slide.

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