Sony's days in the smartphone industry could be numbered

Sony's days in the smartphone industry could be numbered
Sony has never been able to obtain success in the smartphone industry the way it once controlled the mp3 market, the video game console market, and the television market. Trying to differentiate itself, this year's Xperia 1 flagship, unveiled at MWC in February, features a 6.5-inch 4K AMOLED display with a 21:9 aspect ratio. Despite what would appear to be a great screen for watching streaming video on, the pricing ($999.99 pre-orders for an unlocked model started last month at Amazon) is sure to turn some away.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports (via Android Authority) that for the second time in six years, a particular hedge fund is building up a stake in Sony hoping to influence its business decisions. Those familiar with the plans say that Third Point LLC, run by Daniel Loeb, is looking to implement its own turnaround strategy for Sony. Loeb's fund reportedly has $14.5 billion in assets and is believed to be raising money ($500 million to $1 billion) for a fund dedicated to the purchase of more Sony shares.

The parts of Sony that Third Point wants to take a hard look at include the semiconductor and insurance businesses and the movie studio, which some believe that Amazon and Netflix could be interested in. And while the report from Reuters doesn't mention the mobile phone business, it most likely would be a division that Loeb would prefer to see Sony jettison. Last month, the company folded its mobile unit into the same business segment that includes its TV, camera and audio products. And a report from the Nikkei Asian Review published in March stated that by next year Sony will cut the head count in its smartphone division in half.

Jefferies analyst Atul Goyal told clients in a note sent out last week that Sony needs to exit the mobile phone business. Sony will no doubt want to gauge the reception to the Xperia 1 before it decides whether or not to stop producing smartphones. But if Third Point LLC builds a big enough stake in Sony, the decision whether to cut its losses in the smartphone industry might be taken out of the company's own hands.

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