Howard Stringer

Something big could be happening at Sony—the company's board of directors is gathering tomorrow to appoint Sir Howard Stringer as its first non-Japanese chairman and CEO. Stringer, who is currently the head of Sony Corporation of America, would succeed current chief Noboyuki Idei.

We hesitate to read too much into this, especially since Stringer is already a company man, but it's always a big deal when a major Japanese corporation puts a foreigner in the top spot and this could very well mark a big turning point for Sony and its future strategy. For the past several years the company has been riven with infighting between its entertainment and electronics divisions, and they've done a really poor job adjusting to the new realities and of the global electronics business—apart from the massive success of the PlayStation, Sony has been caught flat-footed in the face of stiff competition from the likes of Apple, Samsung, and about a zillion anonymous Chinese and Taiwanese manufacturers (for example, Sony's the number 2 seller of DVD players in the US, number one is a company called CyberHome). Anyway, we're definitely very, very curious to see what new direction Stringer ends up taking the company (if any), but in the meantime you have to feel really bad for Ken Kutaragi, the president of Sony Computer Entertainment and the guy who helped create the PlayStation. Everyone had just assumed for years that he was going to take over after Idei retired, and obviously that's not going to happen now. 

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Howard Stringer taking over as Sony chairman and CEO