By Reiji Murai
TOKYO Oct 11 Sony Corp will move
cautiously in tackling key overseas smartphone markets such as
the United States and China as it strives to become the
third-biggest smartphone maker in the world, CEO Kazuo Hirai
told journalists on Friday.
Hirai has identified smartphones as a pivotal product for
turning around Sony's loss-making electronics business, but its
flagship Xperia handsets have not yet made much of a splash
beyond Japan and Europe, which account for 60 percent of sales.
Sony ranked ninth among global mobile handset makers in the
second quarter of this year, according to research firm Gartner.
In the United States, it is only offered by No.4 carrier
T-Mobile US Inc and it has not made major inroads into
the crowded Chinese market despite contracts with the three
largest carriers there.
"Our biggest priority is maintaining our share in Japan or
increasing it," Hirai said.
"Next, we want to actively fight to increase our share in
Europe, where we have a fairly high share. These are our two top
issues, we are pouring a lot of management resources into them."
He added: "But getting into the U.S. market requires a lot
of resources and marketing, so we have to go one step at a
Sony's home market just got tougher, however, as Apple Inc
moved to cement its dominance last month by finally
offering its iPhone for sale at the largest carrier, NTT DoCoMo
Inc, after holding out for almost five years.
Hirai, however, said the Xperia's reputation in Japan should
help to see off the threat from Apple.
"We have strong brand recognition here for Xperia's hardware
and services," he said.
The company has set a target of selling 42 million
smartphones worldwide in the financial year to next March.
Last year Samsung Electronics Co Ltd grabbed the
top spot among smartphone makers, shipping 218.2 million phones
according to research firm IDC, while Apple came in second with
135.9 million handsets shipped. Nokia Oyj, which is
selling its handset division to Microsoft Corp, was
third with 35 million.