Technology


Sony’s Xperia tablet to take on Apple, Samsung


A handout photograph of Sony’s Xperia tablet Z device, provided to the media, Monday. It will be 6.9mm thick, weigh 495gm and has a 10.1-inch (26-cm) display. – Bloomberg News

Tokyo: Sony, the electronics maker struggling after four straight annual losses, will introduce a new tablet computer in Japan this year as it tries to lure customers from Apple and Samsung.

The Xperia Tablet Z will be 6.9mm (.27 inches) thick, weigh 495gm (17 ounces) and have a 10.1-inch (26-cm) display, Sony said in a statement yesterday. The waterproof device may debut in Japan as soon as March before appearing elsewhere, Noriko Shoji, a Tokyo-based spokeswoman, said by phone. The price hasn't been decided, she said.

Sony chief executive Kazuo Hirai is focusing on mobile devices to revive the company, whose TV unit has been unprofitable for eight straight fiscal years. The Tokyo-based company debuted its first tablet in 2011, making it the last of the world's top 10 laptop makers to tap surging demand triggered by Apple's iPad.

"It's a rational strategy for Sony to focus on mobile devices including tablets as its TV business is no longer a cash cow," said Keita Wakabayashi, an analyst at Mito Securities in Tokyo. "Still, the tricky part of the tablet business is that products can conflict with laptop computers on one hand and smartphones on the other."

Sony rose 3.3 per cent to ¥1,187 at the close of trading in Tokyo, compared to a 1.5 per cent decline for the benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average. The company has risen 24 per cent this month.

Tablet demand
Worldwide tablet shipments probably totaled 120 million last year and may reach 340 million by 2016, market researcher IHS's iSuppli said in December. In October, Apple introduced a smaller version of the iPad with a 7.9-inch screen and prices starting at $329. Sony also faces competition from Amazon.com's updated Kindle Fire and Google's Nexus 7.

Sony got 18 per cent of sales from mobile products and communications in the quarter ended September, according to data. It bolstered the division by buying out Ericsson's stake in a venture making mobile phones last year.

Sony NYC tower
Meanwhile, Sony's deal to sell its US headquarters for $1.1 billion is an aggressive price for a tower in need of renovations, according to Real Capital Analytics. The planned purchase of the Sony Building at 550 Madison Avenue in midtown Manhattan by investors led by the Chetrit Group values the 28-year-old building at $1,287 a square foot, data from the New York-based research firm show. By comparison, 510 Madison Avenue, two blocks to the south, was sold new and empty to Boston Properties in August 2010 for about $800 a square foot, said Dan Fasulo, Real Capital managing director.

"It certainly is the most aggressive pricing we've seen for a transitional asset since 2007," he said in a telephone interview.
"This is going to be an empty building that needs tens of millions of dollars in capital improvements, and then needs a redevelopment programme."

Sony said it expects the sale of the 855,000-square-foot (79,000-square-metre), Philip Johnson-designed tower to generate an operating-income gain of about $685 million.
The company and other units of the Japanese parent, including Sony Music Entertainment, will remain in the building for up to three years, the Tokyo-based electronics maker said in a statement released in New York.

Multiple bidders
More than 20 investor groups submitted bids for the tower, a person with knowledge of the offering said. Bidders included Vornado Realty Trust, Joseph Sitt's Thor Equities, Macklowe Properties Inc. and Japanese real estate firm Mitsui Fudosan, said two other people with knowledge of the negotiations. The three people asked not to be named because the matter was private.

Wendi Kopsick, a Vornado spokeswoman, and Montieth Illingworth, representing Mitsui Fudosan, declined to comment. Calls to Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for Thor, and Richard Dubrow, a Macklowe spokesman, weren't immediately returned. The sale "demonstrated the depth of worldwide capital available for the best assets in Manhattan," said Doug Harmon, senior managing director at Eastdil Secured, who represented Sony.

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