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Sony CEO chimes in on iPod, iPhone

updated 12:15 pm EDT, Mon March 19, 2007

Sony CEO on Apple and PS3

Sony could have preempted the iPod years in advance, the company's CEO Sir Howard Stringer has revealed in a still-unaired TV interview. The chief observed that despite the company's major delay in entering the digital music player business, it had actually co-developed technology that would have beaten Apple and potentially changed the fate of the Walkman, which has suffered ever since the iPod's introduction in 2001..

"In 1997 we were working with IBM on electronic music distribution and could have put this out five years earlier [than Apple]," said Stringer. "But we couldn't get our people to understand software. And we are a music company. They saw digital media, panicked and didn't like it."

Isolation at Sony was a particularly dire problem even up until 2005, the CEO noted. Upon taking the helm, the company head complained that most of the product lines were trapped into "silos" where divisions were reluctant to ever share information with each other. Software -- essential for developing a digital music player -- was barely a factor, Stringer said.

The executive believed, however, that Apple was behind the curve in terms of phone development, noting that the iPhone came well after Sony-Ericsson first focused its attention on music playback.

"The good news is that Steve Jobs spotted a trend that we've seen," he said. "The [iPhone] is a convergence device, between music and a phone. We are all building variations on the same theme. We have sold plenty of Walkman phones, especially in Europe."

Even so, Stringer was careful to avoid a repeat exhibition in the phone industry of the same overconfidence that many have said resulted in the concession of the digital music business to Apple. "I would never sit up here and say I'm not worried about Steve Jobs," he said. "I wouldn't bet against Steve."

by MacNN Staff





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