Is Sony Stealing the Thunder of Smartphone Rivals, Too?


Sony Corp. (NYSE:SNE) is well behind the biggest players in the smartphone game, but company officials are building confidence thanks to the company’s strong showing in 2013. The Xperia is the brand’s winning device, and a Bloomberg report indicates Sony may be about to steal the thunder of rival Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) by launching its flagship Xperia just before the release of the new iPhone.

According to Bloomberg sources, Sony will introduce its high-performance Xperia in the first full week of September, during the IFA Consumer Electronics Conference in Berlin, which takes place September 6-11. If the company releases the new Xperia in the early days of the conference, it would arrive about a week before the rumored launch of the iPhone, thought to be arriving on or around September 10.

Apple was in the news Thursday for releasing an early version of beta 6 for its iOS 7. While there is likely no relation between the early beta launch of iOS 7 and the release of a flagship Xperia, it would mark the second time this week Sony has looked to hop ahead of the competition in a key segment.

The announcement Sony had inked a content deal with Viacom (NYSE:VIAB) was reported Thursday by The Wall Street Journal, a move giving Sony the clear lead in the race to land Internet TV packages. Sony will receive access to youth-oriented content from Comedy Central, MTV, and Nickelodeon, all of which fall under the Viacom banner. In return, Viacom will be given input in how content is suggested to users, sources familiar with the negotiations told WSJ.

The deal made sense for Sony because of the many devices to which it can stream content — including tablets, Sony Bravia HD TVs, and PlayStation video game consoles. Should Sony introduce a new smartphone, it could add that product to the list of devices that would benefit from a collaboration between the entertainment and hardware divisions, both integral parts of the company’s offerings.

In fact, Bloomberg reports the new Xperia phone would feature technology from Sony Bravia televisions as well as enhanced camera capabilities (“X-Reality” chips) in order to attract buyers who may be in the market for a new smartphone around, say, the first week or so of September.

Sony could benefit from the weakness of the yen — now a significant factor in the profits of Japanese automakers — as well as any weakness in the launch of the new iPhone, should any real or perceived factors present themselves following the September launch. Exports favor Japanese companies at the moment.

Regardless of the movement of the competition, Sony has proven it is proceeding with its strategy to devote resources to improving both entertainment and hardware offerings. With the content it hopes to stream from Viacom under its belt, the addition of a first-rate smartphone would add several attractive elements to the company’s portfolio. Stealing some of Apple’s thunder would’t be a bad idea, either.

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