There was a great article on the front page of the Wall Street Journal yesterday. I won’t link to it as, although I subscribe to the print edition, I don’t have access to the online version (you have to pay extra and since I read the WSJ every day in the dead tree version, there seems little point in paying extra to read it again on a PC). The issue presented is one of a dinosaur-like Sony experiencing slowing growth, strengthened competition across many fronts and a business where the bulk of profit for the last 2 years has come from the Playstation franchise. Idei-san, the chairman, thinks that that the head of the Playstation unit, Ken Kutaragi, may be the man for the future – the catalyst. He says “if his personal ego is stronger than his will to keep Sony prosperous, then he will fail … [the question is] whether he can change, can be a god.” Those are powerful words coming from someone like Idei-san who goes on to say “Most people think Sony in 2010 will be a continuation of today’s Sony. I don’t think so”. Kutaragi will be charged with injecting the lessons learnt from the video game business into the rest of the company and will be part of the 3-man team that runs the whole Sony group. That’s some promotion. But Kutaragi says he doesn’t want to run the show – he would have “to sacrifice myself endlessly for the coming years. My health would be ruined … [it’s] not for me.” Kutaragi is billed by one senior manager as the “Michael Jackson” of the business – quirky, but creative. Idei-san even told Bill Gates at one point, after an aborted (and secretive) plan to join up with Microsoft, that “he doesn’t control Mr. Kutaragi.”
So, a dinosaur like operation is going to get consumed from the inside out by its own video game franchise, led by a maverick who has minimal respect for the overall sense of things who in 1999 declared (loudly) at a conference that “the old guys [in Sony] should make way for the young guys”.
Now there’s something to conjure with.