After nearly eight protracted years of losses in the TV manufacturing business, Sony has decided that it's time for a change. The company has this week announced plans to "review everything" about the way it makes and sells televisions, with the overarching goal being to increase profit margins rather than unit sales. That would seem to openly concede the price-sensitive mass market to the likes of Samsung and LG, but also points to the inadequacy of Sony's recent efforts to resuscitate its flagging TV fortunes -- chiefly through the introduction of 3D-capable and Google TV-infused panels.
So what can Sony do to turn things around? Well, 3D was a great money spinner in theory, requiring only a moderate investment in extra hardware for an exponentially inflated retail price, though it remains a gimmick that requires bulky and expensive glasses. The Google TV partnership was a bold stroke that's so far failed dismally, but Sony of all companies should know that a new content distribution model can't succeed without broad support from content distributors. Gearing itself toward a premium pricing model suggests Sony might seek to differentiate its products on the basis of picture quality or physical design, but neither strikes us as the right strategy in a mature market that increasingly treats TVs as disposable commodities. No matter what Sony and other manufacturers may want, it's entirely possible that the future of the TV is actually dumber -- a simple display for our increasing array of smart devices.
Sony's real strength right now lies in its Bravia brand, which still enjoys a premium-justifying cachet, and the popularity of its PlayStation console and Android devices. If the company's able to tie them all together through efforts like the split-screen PlayStation 3D display, there may yet be a future for its TV division, but the time to do so is now. It's good to hear, therefore, that Sony's top brass are keen to act expeditiously upon the findings of this review.