Japan’s hemorrhaging technology giant Sony Corp plans to slice its TV and mobile phone product line-ups to cut costs, counting on multi-billion dollar revenue surges for its buoyant PlayStation 4 and image sensor businesses over the next three years.
Having lost ground to nimbler rivals like Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd in consumer electronics, Sony said on Tuesday its goal for TV and smartphones is to turn a profit, even if sales slide as much as 30 percent.
“We’re not aiming for size or market share but better profits,” Hiroki Totoki, Sony’s newly appointed chief of its mobile division told an investors’ conference. A poor showing by its Xperia smartphones has weighed heavily on recent earnings and Sony said more detail on plans for the unit will be unveiled before end-March.
Under its new three-year electronics business plan, Sony said it was aiming to boost sales for its videogame division by a quarter to as much as 1.6 trillion yen ($13.6 billion). It said that will be helped by personalized TV, video and music distribution services that should lift revenue per paying user.
At its devices division, which houses its image sensor business, Sony said sales could increase 70 percent to as much as 1.5 trillion yen. Sony’s sensor sales are already robust, with Apple using them in its iPhones while Chinese handset manufacturers are increasingly adopting them.
In a similar event last week for its entertainment units, the conglomerate said it was aiming to lift its movie and TV programming revenues by a third over the next three years.
Japanese electronics giant Panasonic Corp is mulling over M&A deals to bolster its presence in the European home appliance market, its chief executive said on Monday, as it shifts its focus to growth following years of restructuring.
“We need a partner who understands the European market in the white goods segment,” CEO Kazuhiro Tsuga, credited with leading the company’s turnaround since his appointment in 2012, told Reuters in an interview.
Panasonic returned to a positive net cash position last quarter for the first time in five years, a year and a half ahead of schedule, after exiting unprofitable product lines in smartphones, plasma TVs and semiconductor chips.
In contrast to Sony Corp, another Japanese consumer electronics icon struggling with deep losses in TVs, smartphones and other consumer electronics, Panasonic has been turning to new growth areas such as advanced driver assistance systems that look into blind spots or aid in parking. It is also supplying batteries to electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc.
While Panasonic’s transformation has shifted its focus to the automotive sector and other industrial clients, it also sees home appliances – unlike smartphones and other gadgets it has quit or pared back – as a potentially profitable area where it could tap its expertise in power-saving technologies.
Panasonic is aiming for 10 trillion yen ($90 billion) in revenue in the 2018/19 financial year compared with a target of 7.75 trillion yen in the current year to March, and has said this could be achieved in part through acquisitions.
Tsuga said Panasonic had room to expand in home appliances, particularly in Europe where it is a minority shareholder in Slovenian appliance maker Gorenje under an alliance that includes joint manufacturing and sales.
“We could deepen this partnership, or pursue other alliances,” Tsuga said. Asked whether that could include an acquisition, he said: “I wouldn’t rule that out. That’s currently under consideration.”
Video game maker Nintendo Co Ltd will develop a device to monitor a user’s fatigue and map their sleep, Chief Executive Satoru Iwata said on Thursday, the first offering from the company’s newly created healthcare division.
The device will be co-created with U.S. firm ResMed Inc, which currently makes products to treat sleep disorders, and will be available in the financial year ending March 2016.
“By using our know-how in gaming… to analyse sleep and fatigue, we can create something fun,” Iwata said.
Nintendo, better known for its Mario video game franchise and Wii and Wii U consoles, has said it expects its healthcare division to turn a profit in 2015/2016. The company already offers fitness games on its Wii console, played with a motion sensor controller.
According to an image Iwata shared at a media conference, the device will be about the size of a hand and can be placed on a user’s bedside table. It will use microwave transmission sensors to track sleep, with the data collected used to help users cultivate healthy sleeping habits.
Iwata refused to discuss the company’s sales expectations for the new device beyond saying that it may be offered via a subscription service rather than a one-off purchase.
“We only start something new if we think we will be able to create a big market, but as I’m not able to discuss pricing plans and other details today I don’t think there’s much point in giving a figure for our projected scale,” he said.
The device was launched a day after Nintendo reported an unexpected quarterly profit, after hit games gave a boost to sales of its Wii U console.
The Korean chip maker said the 20nm production process had been expanded from its PC and mobile memory markets to the enterprise server market with these fresh components, which it began producing earlier this month.
The new 32GB module offers a data transfer rate per pin of up to 2,400Mbps, equating to a 29 percent performance increase when compared with a DDR3 1866 server module, Samsung claimed. The firm is also planning on increasing the speed of the DDR4 modules further to 3,200Mbps.
Using the new 8Gbit DDR4 components, Samsung is initially delivering 32GB registered Dimms, but said the chips will allow production of future server modules with a capacity of up to 128GB by applying 3D through-silicon via technology to manufacture the chips.
“Our new 20nm 8Gbit DDR4 Dram more than meets the high performance, high density and energy efficiency needs that are driving the proliferation of next-generation enterprise servers,” said Samsung’s VP of memory marketing, Jeeho Baek.
As well as increased performance, the new DDR4 chips are touted as offering improved error correction features for greater memory reliability in enterprise servers.
The new DDR4 chip and modules use 1.2v, which is currently the lowest possible voltage.
Samsung’s 20nm chips follow Intel’s launch of the Xeon E5-2600 v3 family last month, which were the first server processors from the chipmaker to support the new memory standard.
The country’s third-largest carrier has confirmed that it will end its WiMax service on Nov. 6, 2015. It had disclosed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing last year that WiMax would shut down by the end of 2015.
Sprint deployed what was then a newly emerging technology in 2008, attempting to jump past its competitors with a mobile data network that would be faster than its own 3G CDMA system and those operated by the other big national carriers. WiMax launched first in Baltimore in September 2008 with advertised download speeds ranging from 2Mbps (bits per second) to 4Mbps.
The network ultimately was built and operated by Clearwire, another early WiMax adherent that owned spectrum licenses in the same band as Sprint, around 2.5GHz. Sprint bought its WiMax capacity wholesale from Clearwire before selling it to its 4G subscribers. The two carriers had a tumultuous relationship until Sprint acquired Clearwire as part of its takeover by Softbank in 2013.
WiMax predated LTE and may have helped to spur on the development of that standard, which became the 4G system for carriers that had embraced the GSM family of technologies. But as early as 2010, both Sprint and Clearwire were signaling that they would give in to LTE’s broader global backing and follow what was already expected to be the more high-volume technology.
The November date was first reported by AndroidCentral, based on a leaked newsletter that discussed a letter to be sent a year in advance to all corporate WiMax customers. The newsletter also said other WiMax customers would be informed six months in advance and that there would be comparable devices at low or no cost to replace WiMax equipment. Sprint had laid out the possibility of free LTE replacement phones in its terms of service last year.
Conventional LCD panels are rectangular — something that’s required because the tiny chips that drive each pixel of the display are fitted along the edge of the glass panel on which the screen is made. In Sharp’s new screens, the chips are embedded between the pixels, which offers more freedom in screen shape.
There’s still a requirement for a single straight edge but the rest of the screen can be cut with, say, curved sides so the display completely fills the dashboard area in front of the driver.
Sharp is showing several prototype displays at this week’s Ceatec expo in Japan. One, intended for use in the central instrument console, has cutouts for buttons while another has a wavy top that curves around three on-screen dials.
Another advantage of the technology is that because the driver chips are embedded alongside the pixels, the space between the edge of the screen and the edge of the glass is very thin, allowing the screen image to go almost right up to the edge.
Sharp, which is a major manufacturer of liquid crystal displays, said the technology is ready for mass production — it’s just waiting for orders from car makers.
But don’t expect them next year. Because it takes several years to take a car from concept to commercialization, the screens won’t likely be appearing in production models for the next three to five years. Sharp said they’ll cost more than rectangular LCDs, but it wouldn’t say how much of a premium they will carry.
Toshiba is entering the smart glasses market. The company is introducing a prototype pair of glasses at the Ceatec trade show in Japan this week, and while they might not edge Google Glass out of the market, they should be a bit cheaper.
Called Toshiba Glass, they have a tiny, lightweight projector clipped onto one of the arms near the lens. That projector displays an image that reflects off the inside of the lens to provide an augmented reality-type display.
It’s a similar principle to Google Glass, which also uses a built-in projector. But unlike Google Glass, Toshiba’s glasses don’t have a prism over the lens to reflect the image into the eye.
Instead, with Toshiba’s product, the glasses lens itself comprises a series of narrow, vertical prisms. They’re pretty much invisible when you look straight through the lens, but an image projected from an angle reflects back into the eye.
Toshiba says the glasses weigh 42 grams — about the same as Google Glass, according to this report (Google doesn’t give the weight in its specs). But they’re far less impressive than Google’s product for a few reasons.
One is that Toshiba Glass isn’t wireless — it connects to a smartphone in your pocket in order to work. That’s partly because the battery for the projector would make the glasses too heavy, according to Toshiba — although Google somehow managed it.
The other they’re less impressive is that Toshiba Glass isn’t a full-blown computer. It’s really just a display system that connects to your smartphone.
Still, it might be a lot cheaper than Google Glass, which retails for $1,500.
Toshiba hopes to ship the product next year in Japan and North America, according to a representative at the Ceatec trade show near Tokyo, where Toshiba is showing its glasses for the first time.
It will offer three styles of frame — standard, sporty, and industrial, the last being protective googles like you might wear in a lab.
Coated with white rubber, Yubi Navi looks a bit like a game controller or TV remote. It can link to a smartphone via Bluetooth and contains small actuators that twist it left or right or make it bulge slightly in the middle.
When used for navigation, it can guide a user to a destination by prompting him to turn left or right at a given intersection. When the goal is reached, it vibrates.
The idea is to free people from the need to keep looking at a map displayed on their smartphone.
At the Ceatec tech expo outside Tokyo, DoCoMo did demos of prototypes of the device, which were linked to a power source via wires. A screen displayed a 3D animation of the streets of a town through which attendees could virtually navigate with the help of Yubi Navi.
Aside from avoiding the dangers involved in not paying attention to one’s surroundings, this can help people enjoy a location more by noticing new shops and other attractions,” said Koji Okamoto of DoCoMo’s strategic marketing department. “In Japan, walking with smartphones is a big problem and we want to solve it.”
The device can also be used to send tactile “nudges” to other people as a form of communication, much like the haptic messaging functions of the Apple Watch.
DoCoMo also demonstrated one of its own wearables on Monday, a credit card-size sensor that straps on your forearm to tell you how much fat you’re burning.
The 54-gram prototype is a semiconductor-based gas sensor that can detect acetone molecules, which are emitted from the skin when fat is being burned.
DoCoMo managed to shrink the sensor from one that weighed 6 kilograms. It can link to a smartphone via Bluetooth and relay data on how much acetone it detects.
“We’d like to realize a healthier world just by wearing such a device that can measure various types of health indexes like fat burning,” said Satoshi Hiyama, an engineer with DoCoMo’s Frontier Technology Research Group.
The device could be further miniaturized to fit into fitness bands or smartwatches, Hiyama said.
The price for a standalone PlayStation TV (PS TV) is $99.99, the company wrote in a blog. For $139.99, customers can get a wireless controller, an 8 GB memory card and “The Lego Movie” videogame along with the PS TV.
Around 700 games will be available to PS TV users, including “Metal Gear Solid” and the franchise “Killzone: Mercenary”.
PS TV was released in Japan and other Asian countries under the name “PlayStation Vita TV” last fall. Sony is trying to expand its entertainment network services to compete against players like Amazon.com Inc.
Sony did not say when it will launch its online TV service.
The company signed a deal earlier this month to carry 22 Viacom Inc channels, including Comedy Central and MTV, on its planned online TV.
PlayStation boss Shaun Layden told tech blog Re/code in June the company was “on track” to unveil its product some time this year.
Sony’s web TV service will join the ranks of an already crowded market with devices from Apple Inc, Amazon.com Inc and Roku.
The glasses can connect to Android smartphones via Bluetooth and project green monochrome text or basic graphics across a field within the lenses.
Sony said it will begin sales of the eyewear to developers by March 31, the end of its fiscal year. They will be sold in Japan, the U.S. and some European countries.
The Developer Preview SDK includes an emulator, tutorials, sample code and design guidelines to make the most of the device’s hardware and sensors including an accelerometer, gyroscope and brightness sensor.
The glasses, which weigh 77 grams, are more than 85 percent transparent and include a camera that can shoot 3-megapixel images and VGA video.
Sony has emphasized that the glasses project images to a user’s natural line of sight, which differs from the Google Glass display set in a corner.
“Sony’s competitive edge lies in our achievement of a thin lens with high transparency thanks to our unique holographic light guide plate technology, which enables us to provide a bright field of vision,” a Sony spokeswoman wrote in an email.
“Furthermore, the screen size is large, and images and text are displayed from the front for both eyes (not only one eye) to facilitate easier viewing and prevent eye fatigue.”
The price for the glasses as well as availability of a consumer version are still to be decided, she added.
Bulky prototype versions of the glasses were shown at the IFA and CES electronics shows earlier this year.
Potential applications include displaying cooking instructions for chefs, running time for joggers and messages from friends.
Augmented reality-style functions are also possible, such as displaying information when a user looks at a certain bottle of wine, facial recognition or navigation information in an unfamiliar city.
Working with Fujitsu and NEC, the Japanese telecommunications giant verified the digital coherent optical transmission technology for distances of several thousand kilometers to 10,000 km. With it, a single wavelength of light can carry 400 Gbps, four times the capacity of previous systems. Each fiber can carry multiple wavelengths, and many fibers can be bundled into one cable.
The approach could more than double existing capacity to meet ever-increasing bandwidth demand, especially by heavy data users.
The technology could be used in the next generation of backbone links, which aggregate calls and data streams and send them over the high-capacity links that go across oceans and continents. The fiber in the network would stay the same, and only the equipment at either end would need to change.
While the current capacity on such links is up to 8Tbps (terabits per second) per fiber, the new technology would make a capacity of 24Tbps per fiber possible, according to NTT.
“As an example of the data size, 24 Tbps corresponds to sending information contained in 600 DVDs (4.7 GB per DVD) within a second,” an NTT spokesman wrote in an email. “The verification was done using algorithms which are ready to be implemented in CMOS circuits to show that these technologies are practically feasible.”
To compensate for distortions along the optical fiber, researchers from the consortium developed digital backward propagation signal processing with an optimized algorithm. The result of this and other research is that the amount of equipment required for transmissions over long distances can be reduced, meaning the network could consume less electricity.
“We are extremely excited to show this groundbreaking performance surpassing 100 Gbps coherent optical transmission systems,” Masahito Tomizawa, executive manager of consortium leader NTT Network Innovation Labs, wrote in an email. “This new technology maintains the stability and reliability of our current 100 Gbps solutions while at the same time dramatically improving performance.”
The consortium said it is taking steps toward commercialization of the technology on a global scale but would not say when that might happen.
In the same time frame, GM also will introduce more advanced technology allowing hands-free driving in some cases, she said.
“I’m convinced customers will embrace (vehicle-to-vehicle) and automated driving technologies for one simple reason: they are the answer to everyday problems that people want solved,” she said in a text of a speech delivered at a conference here.
Auto companies, academics and government agencies globally are working to develop cameras, sensors, radar and other technologies that allow vehicles and surrounding infrastructure like stoplights to alert each other about nearby driving conditions.
The industry is rolling out such features as adaptive cruise control, crash-imminent braking and semi-automated, hands-free driving like GM’s ‘Super Cruise’ feature to make roads safer.
However, GM and other automakers have emphasized that even with hands-free driving, drivers will be responsible and need to maintain attention on the road. Meanwhile, Internet search company Google Inc is working to develop fully autonomous vehicles.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has made developing connected car technologies a high priority, a view shared in Japan and Europe. And when cars can also talk to surrounding infrastructure, the gains will be exponential, Barra said.
However, she said commercializing a fully automated vehicle may take until the next decade.
Congestion causes urban Americans to travel 5.5 billion more hours and purchase an extra 2.9 billion gallons of fuel each year, she said, citing outside data.
In 2016, GM will sell a 2017 model Cadillac CTS sedan standardly equipped with vehicle-to-vehicle technology. However, the car can only communicate with similarly equipped vehicles and it will take time for the industry to introduce the technology broadly, GM officials said before Barra’s speech.
They added that U.S. regulators still need to finalize requirements for these technologies and cyber security protections need to be developed.
Also in 2016, GM will roll out Super Cruise as an option allowing hands-free highway driving at both highway and stop-and-go speeds, as well as lane following, speed control and braking in a new, unidentified 2017 Cadillac model in a segment where the company does not currently compete.
Sprint didn’t deny the report of Marcelo’s comments. A spokesman also confirmed Friday that Sprint is “focusing on providing the best value in the market.”
According to the account of Claure’s comments, he told workers, “We’re going to change our plans to make sure every customer in America thinks twice about signing up to a competitor.” The report, which first appeared in LightReading.com, also said that “very disruptive” rate plans are coming this week.
Sprint didn’t dispute Light Reading’s report, but a spokesman said Sprint is not commenting on “any potential pricing plans before they are announced.”
The spokesman, Doug Duvall, said Marcelo held his first all-employee town hall meeting before a standing-room-only crowd. He added: “He shared his passion for his family, work and soccer team and his commitment to leading Sprint. He discussed Sprint’s challenges and pledged to get Sprint ‘back in the game’ by focusing on providing the best value in the market, completing our network build and optimizing Sprint’s cost structure.”
By confirming Sprint wants to offer the “best value in the market,” it’s pretty clear that Sprint, the third-largest U.S. carrier, will soon wage a price war with the T-Mobile, the fourth-largest U.S. carrier that has quickly been gaining on Sprint.
Analysts recently said Sprint’s recent “Framily plan” isn’t competitive in the market, which former CEO Dan Hesse acknowledged in late July before his departure on Monday.
The Sprint Framily plans costs $160 a month for 4GB of data, but comes with overage charges and won’t allow tethering. Meanwhile, T-Mobile has a family plan offered through September that costs $100 a month for four lines and 10GB of data, although each line is limited to 2.5GB.
Hesse had earlier described subscriber plans Sprint was testing that have tiers of data and unlimited data.
According to Light Reading, Claure also told employees that price cuts are needed because Sprint’s network isn’t at the level of performance and reach that it should be. “When you have a great network, you don’t have to compete on price,” he reportedly said. “When your network is behind, unfortunately you have to compete on value and price.”
“Final production of the current Reader model, PRS-T3, was made at the end of May,” a spokeswoman for Sony in Tokyo wrote in an email Wednesday. “The product will continue to be available until inventory supplies last, which differs by country.”
There are no plans for a successor to the device, she added.
The PRS-T3 was launched last year in 20 countries including Japan, Canada and European states, but was not released in the U.S.
Weighing 200 grams, it has a 6-inch E-ink touchscreen display, an optional night light, Wi-Fi and a battery life of six to eight weeks.
While it’s still available on Sony’s UK site for 99 pounds (US$166), it’s out of stock at Sony’s sites for France and Canada. The PRS-T3 will continue to be sold for the time being in Japan, where Sony maintains its Reader Store.
The company said earlier this year it is closing down its e-book business in North America, Europe and Australia and that users would be transferred to Kobo, owned by Japanese online shopping giant Rakuten.
Sony helped pioneer e-readers with a product it launched in Japan 10 years ago, the Librie. Developed with Philips, it was billed as the first commercial device of its kind to use E-ink’s electronic paper display technology.
Beginning with the PRS-500 Portable Reader System in 2006, Sony marketed a series of e-readers that were well received, though some reviewscomplained about its price compared to the features of cheaper rivals.
Sony Reader shipments had exceeded 800,000 units for 2010, according to IDC. But the product was never as popular as competitors from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Kobo. By late 2012, Amazon’s Kindle reader was used by over 50 percent of e-book buyers, according to Publishers Weekly.
The market for e-readers peaked in 2011 at 26.4 million units, IDC noted last year, adding it expects only modest growth in 2014 after a period of decline. The category was expected to begin a gradual, permanent decline in 2015.
Sony also shed its Vaio PC business this year as it continues to struggle with restructuring efforts.
Sprint Corp has canceled its bid to purchase No. 4 U.S. carrier T-Mobile U.S. Inc after regulatory resistance showed no signs of softening despite months of lobbying, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
The move is a rare setback for Sprint’s Japanese parent SoftBank Corp, whose billionaire founder Masayoshi Son had seen the acquisition as key to taking on U.S. market leaders AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc.
Sprint, the No. 3 U.S. carrier, and T-Mobile have not ruled out consolidation in the future but concluded that a deal is unlikely to be approved at this time, the sources said. U.S. regulators have insisted that they want to keep the number of major wireless carriers at four.
“We didn’t think the opposition would be this strong,” a SoftBank executive said, but added: “The environment will definitely change”.
The failure to reach a deal could give added impetus to a rival bid for T-Mobile by French telecoms firm Iliad. Iliad made a lower bid than Sprint but is in talks with U.S. cable and satellite companies to sweeten its offer.
In the wake of the failed talks, Sprint will appoint a new CEO – Marcelo Claure, founder of mobile phone distributor Brightstar Corp which was acquired by SoftBank last year, a separate person with knowledge of the matter said. Claure, who has won a string of awards for entrepreneurship, joined Sprint’s board in January.
He will replace Dan Hesse who has been CEO of Sprint since 2007. Hesse led a rip-and-replace overhaul to modernize Sprint’s network but it caused cellular sites to go black and the company to hemorrhage subscribers.
Sources declined to be identified as the matter has not been disclosed by the companies publicly. Representatives for Sprint and SoftBank declined a request for comment. T-Mobile did not immediately respond to a request for comment.