Interview: Sony - Part 2

We sit down with B2B boss Jonathan White
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PCR: The bulk of your revenue comes from consumer sales, an area in which you are a market leader. How would you say you are positioned in the business space, and can you become a leader there as well?

JONATHAN WHITE, HEAD OF SONY'S B2B DIVISION: We don’t see ourselves as being a top three player within the business market – our product portfolio would not allow us to do that anyway.

The key thing for us is that we don’t play in the entry-level notebook market like some of our competitors do, especially those that have had massive growth in the last two to three years – a brand like Acer springs to mind.

We have consciously over the last 12 months made an effort to try and add value into the price point sectors where we’re stronger, and Vaio has always been about very strong product design or differentiating with the feature set.

I have no intention, or the product set, to push Vaio into a major enterprise space, but what we are seeing, certainly within business and SMBs, is a bit of a fragmentation of the sorts of notebook PCs that people are buying. This has seen a return to people buying a product that has more longevity, and a longer life cycle. I do see growth for us.

Which product area in particular has been growing?

Last year we had a tough year for sure, most companies in the computer and AV industry had similarly tough years, but this year is much better, an awful lot better. We’re seeing improvements really across the board. Sony in a way is quite unique – especially in the B2B division in the UK. We can sell anything from a 3D outside broadcast system to a dictation machine.

Obviously there’s a multitude of markets that take those products, but it means we can take an approach that some of our competitors cant take.

Can you give us an example?

Something we’re currently rolling out is based on classroom capture. This allows the teacher to record a lesson from a number of different cameras within the environment, and focus either on what they’re saying or what the whiteboard’s saying, what the videos are saying or what the pupils are saying. Once that information is captured, it can be played back from the server. That’s a solution we have seen some good success with over the past year.

All the different aspects of that – cameras, software, broadcast equipment – they come from all different divisions of Sony, so it is a good example of how we can put together a solution that involves lots of different areas.

Another really interesting area is video security. Security is going through a massive change, from an analogue world to an IP world, where security is hung off an existing or a new IT network. That’s something we have seen massive growth in this year. We had a good start to the year in terms of sales of both cameras and IP units.

That is a market IT resellers could get involved in, which is becoming more to do with IT than it is to do with just purely video security.

Is there a market for tablets in the business sector?

As an organisation we expect to see quite a rapid expansion of the tablet market in the UK over the next 12 months. We look at it with interest, and I think the adoption might be more limited in the business space until a tablet matures to the stage that it can be used in an enterprise.

We’ll see tablets used by some senior execs and in some vertical solutions, but as far as mass market adoption, just like the previous generation of tablets, they’re going to lag behind what you see in the consumer space, until there are those applications which justify an IT director investing in them in a business sense.

In certain vertical markets tablets would make sense, in terms of enterprise I don’t think there’s the solution yet, and I think that will hinder any sort of rapid growth.

To read the third part of our Sony interview, where we talk to imaging boss Rachel Banin, click here.

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