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Can Sony Reinvent the TV Before Apple Does?

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Sony's (NYSE: SNE  ) TV business is in serious trouble.

The division has failed to generate any black ink in eight arduous years. CEO Howard Stringer told The Wall Street Journal that the status quo can't go on, saying that "every TV set we all make loses money." The mediocre conglomerate forecasts a loss north of $1 billion for the fiscal year on the heels of its loss-generating TV business.

Stringer described how the TV industry has devolved into an intensely competitive market as manufacturers raced to win market share. TVs are mostly commoditized, and rivals have little way to differentiate themselves from the next maker, taking pricing power out of the picture and giving all the bargaining power to consumers.

For the next generation of TV sets, Stringer said that there is "a tremendous amount of R&D going into a different kind of TV set" but opted not to delve deeper. While the phrase "different kind" is vague and mysterious enough to spark hope, Sony isn't the type of company known for reinventing the wheel -- unless you count continuous attempts to push proprietary memory formats.

He also acknowledged Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) upcoming foray, having "no doubt" that Steve Jobs had something in the pipeline. Stringer naturally believes Sony is in a great position to revitalize the TV market.

The 3-D fad is essentially dead, but Smart TVs have some promising potential. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) and Apple are going to war, and Sony will probably side with Big G since it already offers an Internet TV powered by Google. Logitech (Nasdaq: LOGI  ) has now officially killed the Google TV set-top box, the Revue, showing that Google needs to regroup its own strategy with soon-to-be subsidiary Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI  ) .

Can Sony survive the coming sea change? Only time will tell whether it can distinguish itself from its current rivals, such as Panasonic (NYSE: PC  ) , Samsung, and LG Display (NYSE: LPL  ) , while trying to devise a "different kind" of TV and beat Apple to the punch.

It had better hurry, though, since Apple's set may see an introduction as early as 2012.

Add these TV players to your Watchlist to keep tabs on the coming TV war. 

Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of Apple, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google, Logitech International, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple, Google, and Logitech International, creating a write covered call position in Logitech International, and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (2) | Recommend This Article (4)

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2011, at 3:32 PM, freediverx wrote:

    It's less important who does it first. What matters is who does it right.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2011, at 10:29 PM, VolkOseba wrote:

    I don't like Sony... they do whatever's in their power to sound full of themselves, make mediocre products, and charge premium prices.

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