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Sony’s 4-Step Plan To Destroy Apple

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Sony was, at a time, the most well-known name in consumer electronics, but the company has lost its mojo. It has been relegated to the middle of the pack while a company by the name of Apple shines brighter than ever. But does Sony have a plan to regain its former glory?

I’m not going to claim to know what that plan is, but I believe they do have a plan that the intend on executing in the next few years to put the company back on the map in innovation. If I was the CEO of Sony, these four steps would be the key to regaining our former glory. Sony does have the power and resources to accomplish these goals. But the question is whether or not they will be able to execute them.

But let’s be optimistic about Sony for a moment. What would they need to do to regain their image as the best?

Step 1: Mimic Apple

Interestingly enough, the first step is tried and true for anyone learning to do something well: learn from the best. Apple is currently raking in $60 billion in revenue last year, but Sony pulled in an impressive $77 billion in revenue during the same time. And while Apple is, quite clearly, doing something right, Sony stands tall on its own. But numbers can be deceiving. Apple has everything going their way, and it is only a matter of time before Sony feels the hurt.

But if Sony takes a few pages from Apple’s playbook, we could be telling a different story in the future.


First, Sony needs to create a distribution platform similar to Apple’s. Everyone wants to be a part of Apple’s iTunes Marketplace and App Store, from Hollywood movie studios to third-party developers, but Sony wants to be in that position. When you generate interest from consumers, developers, and creators of content, you essentially become one of the most powerful companies in the tech world, which happens to be Apple. But if Sony could put together a superior service than the iTunes Marketplace (they could start by actually building a better iTunes application, which really does blow), it could be a promising start.

Next, Sony should rethink its user interface and software platforms. Currently, Sony has an impressive UI that stemmed from the development of the PSX — the XrossMediaBar user interface. But I’m not sure if it is optimal for touch-based input, which is the future. If Sony wants to compete with Apple, consumers need an interface that can present more information and give easier access to that information than their current UI.

Then, Sony should develop more first-party applications for their platforms. These apps would need to do useful things that will help consumers understand the value that Sony offers — these applications must be unique and memorable. It’s no mistake that some of the most-used applications on a platform like Android, for example, are created by Google. If Sony creates a platform and creates high-quality applications for it, they will, at the very least, earn the respect of consumers and developers.

Finally, Sony needs to create new kick-ass hardware (more on that in step 2).

Step 2: Consolidate

The second step is to consolidate Sony’s current products and platforms. If Sony reduces its efforts to producing only a handful — here is the “less is more” argument — of smart phones, tablets, and netbooks while combining its content platforms into one unified system, the company would be in a much better position to compete with Apple.

Sony should begin by combining Music Unlimited, Qriosity, PlayStation Store, Reader Store, and any other content platforms that the company has into a unified platform like iTunes (Sony has already combined Music Unlimited and Qriosity, to their credit). Apart from providing developers and content providers a centralized location to deal with and directing consumers to a single platform to make all their purchases from, this would give Sony a single platform from which to base all of their hardware on. This is a very important step, and one that I have also criticized Microsoft about in the past.


(It is interesting to note that Apple is beginning to suffer from this very issue. There are three separate App Stores for the Mac, iPad, and iPhone alone. This segregation of developers and consumers could be causing unnecessary confusion for consumers and developers, which is sure to get worse if Apple continues at this rate. This isn’t that big of a deal right now, but it could become one in the future.)

After getting content platforms sorted out, Sony could then move on to creating a new breed of devices and products to harness it. They would create a flagship device for every consumer product category out there — with the most important being the smartphone. If Sony were to create a flagship mobile device that harnesses the power of a unified content platform, it would put Sony in a much better position to compete with Apple. Televisions, notebooks, netbooks, tablets, and e-readers would follow suit.

If they get this far, even I would be impressed. And then it would be time for Sony to focus on the competition.

Step 3: Cripple Apple

The third step might not be as difficult as it would appear. It starts off relatively simple: Sony would withdraw all of its content from the Apple ecosystem. This means that all of Sony’s artists that are signed to the company’s labels and all of Sony’s film and television content would no longer be available for purchase from within Apple’s iTunes marketplace.

If we entertain the idea that Sony would actually pull its content (and Sony’s COO sounded very confident that this could happen in time), this act alone isn’t what would devastate Apple. It only becomes a powerful statement if the remaining trio of the “Big Four” music labels and the rest of the “Big Six” movie studios stand with Sony. Apple would then have a situation on its hands.

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These companies would still provide their content to Apple customers by either forcing Apple to agree to their terms or by providing applications that provide access to the content purchased from Sony’s own service, but if they don’t allow Apple to sell it, consumers would have to flock to Sony to purchase the content, which would put the ball in Sony’s court.

(Keep in mind, however, that this is a best case scenario. And while it wouldn’t be difficult to get the ball rolling on this, it would be difficult to convince other content providers to abandon Apple and to switch to Sony’s content platform instead.)

If Sony pulled it off — and this is an optimistic outlook of things — it could make Sony a far more attractive company to the groups that count: consumers, content providers, and developers.

Step 4: Win Developers’ Interest

Speaking of developers, this is the last step for Sony to reach the pinnacle of tech stardom. Without the support of third-party developers, all of the actions taken by Sony would not matter, because Apple (or Google, Research In Motion, Microsoft, etc.) would still have the most important piece of the pie — the creativity and innovation from the outside world.


This is the primary reason that iOS is so intriguing to consumers. It is the best platform for seeing the best of what the tech industry can create. There is an application for almost anything you could imagine, and the best part is that these applications are with you wherever you go. Without this same enthusiasm by developers, Sony has no chance of dethroning Apple from its position.

And while this is all purely theoretical (I’m not exactly confident in Sony’s ability to pull anything off, especially the things I have listed above), if Sony actually did everything I mentioned above, there is actually a chance that Sony could take down Apple.

Do you think Sony has what it takes to dethrone Apple? Is it too late? Sound off in the comments!

  1. You got one thing right withdraw the content
    Dont mimic apple though, the only thing they do right is to fool people into theinking they are smarter and better than everyone else because they bought an apple product

    Their interfaces are fisher price, having to go through several layers if interface just to change a setting isnt good design it’s an attempt to enfore some turtle neck wearing j@ckass’ idea of how things should work.

    Sony make good reliable products withdraw your cotent and stick with Android and apple will be regulated to the same fanboy niche market they are in the computer world

    1. Why is it that the anti-consumer consumer never has anything useful to say?

      Apple “fools” people into buying their electronics, while Sony apparently does not? If your criticism was perhaps against all fetishization of technology, it would probably be useful. Instead, though, you just defend one company against another company that does the exact same thing.

    2. Rob,
      Interesting post. The remark regarding steps you have to take to change a setting-not good. In the finder it is one click, and it is remarkably easier than the windows platform. Try mounting another networked drive in windows for the first time versus apple. Other examples are display, desktop size, finder windows and more….
      Sony makes great TVs, they better pray Apple doesn’t get into that game….

    3. Rob, you’re in the minority. Apple has led the industry in UI design for decades. The only reason other device makers have UI’s that are decent is because Apple showed them what good design looks like.

    4. Jealous moron that knows swat about interface design. there must be something Apple is doing right interface -wise for designers to opt for it above all, read that? designers or the ones that know a thing or two about design.

    5. Rob
      Your living in a dream world if you think apple is going back to a fanboy niche in the computer world. Average people who switch to apple are not going back. For 100 people who buy a mac maybe one or 2 would buy a pc again. I know dozens who have switched over the last 10 years and only one who couldnt wrap his head around a mac. Real tech people may not. However they do not make up the majority of computer buyers anymore. baby boomers and kids are buying macs all the time.
      Clearly by calling jobs a jack @#$ you are saying you hate how it works. Well many people love it and think it works just great. Nobody I know buys macs because they feel smarter. They buy them because they like them. Peace. No go back to playing WoW. Im going to hop in my overpriced german car and go for a ride. I bought that because it drives better than anything else I could afford.


    6. I think that it’s not a case of emulating Apple but exceeding them. As both an Apple and Sony fan (having started out with a Sony smartphone years ago before moving to an iPhone 3 then 4, there are clear gaps in the market for both of them.

      Why can’t Sony and Apple work together to produce an app that lets you use the iPhone or PSPhone be used as a Move controller? Sure it reduces the potential for profit from the quite expensive Move accessories but it would open up games and apps to many more people.

      I would love to be able to use my iphone to interface directly with my PS3 but it doesn’t go far enough. I would like to order games, schedule downloads and then stream media and games to my iphone from my ps3… in an ideal world it would do all of that and Sony could easily charge a small fee for the app and I for one would be happy to pay that (as a fan of free apps that is a big thing for me!).

      So come on Sony and Apple, work together to make more and better content available for all users, not just use fanbois!

  2. Look: I’m a huge fan of Sony, we had their Vaio laptops, their desktop, their PSPs, the PS2, then PS3 and then the PSP Go…however, they’ve simply lost it.

    At a time when the playstation move came out (I can’t see a mention of this in your article?) the Kinect also came out. Despite loathing Microsoft with a passion (I but everything Mac I can)…I ended up purchasing an Xbox 360, kinect and a few games for myself, my kids and my wife. We have a Wii, too…and the PS3 move, which is WAY better than the Wii. But…the Kinect simply kicks the PS3 moves butt. By a mile.

    The exclusive titles are good (little big planet is one of my kids favorite all time games), Motorstorm is frankly the only racing game I’ve ever gotten into (both the first and the pacific rift titles) but in the current climate, their products are priced way, way out of pocket for 99% of consumers.

    Yes, apple is expensive, too. But apple’s media device (apple TV) I can’t get same from Sony, nor the router (best I’ve ever had)…the video games, to me, are Sony’s last strong suit. If they get their butts kicked by Microsoft, I’m going to be really upset, b/c I’m not into Halo nor anything else I’ve seen on the xbox. The only issue is the “touch” interface…the Kinect feels like the future.

    The move? It feels like Wii envy.

  3. The main problem with this is that the software guys at
    sony actually screw up most of their hardware.

    Have you looked at a Vaio laptop lately?

    Gigs and Gigs of absolute crapware.

    once the sony junk is removed- the hardware can stand on its own…

  4. Sony?!?! Take on Apple?? Right!!

    As far as I am concerned….Goodbye Sony!!! Hope Apple shuts you down like you did Sega’s hardware division.

  5. I think you are missing the key point that Apple’s distribution system is going to their hardware devices of which you have a very small set of hardware (iPhone = iPad = iPod touch = AppleTV).

    Sony has a clusterf@ck of different things.

  6. That was a very well written article, and I 100% agree. Although I do not like Apple’s practices, I think Sony is even more draconian. Both companies are very “closed” companies that strip away consumer rights, which I believe is wrong. That is why I would purchase an Android device over an Apple device any time of the day.

  7. This article is idiotic. Sony isn’t putting their content on iTunes because they’re doing Apple a favor, it’s because it works out very well for Sony. Pulling all their content from iTunes would more likely affect Sony negatively than it would Apple. What would share holders say if Sony decided to stop selling content through the largest music retailer in the world?

  8. sony is not bring out anything new anymore,it just copys everyone elses ideas,outsources to china sticks sony label on it and adds $100 extra for the sony name,the quality has gone way down as well what would last 20 years when made in japan,now lasts 2 years when made in china

  9. The only problem with this plan is that in the USA Sony owns a media producing company, and those subsidiaries have repeatedly demanded that Sony maximize its revenue on all media sales. So the programming you buy from Sony is always expensive through Sony channels, and, also, their products have been DRM disasters.

    I buy Sony stereos, used to buy their Walkmen, and they make excellent clock radios. But I would not buy a computer from them. I had one, paid a premium for the hardware, and found that their software was unruly and unusable.

    I will not go back.

  10. Rob,you sound like a bitter old man. If the interface is so bad, then why so popular? Because it’s simple and that’s what people want. This whole article had to have been written after several 6 packs. Sony is so disjointed they could never pull this off. Pulling their content from Apple would be just another move on their part to cut off their nose to spite their face.

  11. If Sony can overcome their internal politics, they might have a chance.
    The problem will be that any CEO that wants to change the company DNA a great deal will run into a lot of internal resistance. This may only happen when Sony is on the ropes, they’re not there yet.

  12. Sony is just over priced and the quailty and innovation they currently present is not unique. They were awesome in the 70s, ubiquitous in the 80s, and just aweful in the 90s. Sony products longevity sucks. Durabrand stuff from walmart last longer than Sony’s products.

  13. Withdrawing content that’s not in your ecosystem only hurts consumers. It will be the very behaviour for which the this article criticises Sony for.

    Also the you got the goal all wrong. The goal should not to make Sony better by restricting choice, hurting consumers, and taking down Apple. Sony will end up worse of following this path.

    Sony can be much better without resorting to these pathetic behaviours.

  14. This is crazy.. Sony pulls in 77 billion by selling thousands of different products. Apple has a very tight product line and Sony lost its way because they started releasing crapy products. Have you seen their receivers lately? They are a joke. The key to Sony’s revival is not to kill Apple, but to focus on doing one thing well. Apple excels at that.

  15. hmm… How is this not everybody’s plan?

    This seems something that would come out of a Business 101 ‘strategy’ class. It seems little more than “Sony should make more money by making more money”.


  16. I don’t see sony really getting that hurt by this. Not only are the marking money off their own brand of electronics in literally every corner of the market but they are also making money off the sales apple does for them by pandering their movies and music and whatever all around to apple users who might never have bought a sony anyways. So how would pulling your product really help. You might hurt apple but you’re likely to hurt yourself as well at least if/until your product gains the extra popularity to make up for the business you just lost.

  17. I think you overlook a few things here. I don’t think Sony and Apple are competing head to head and destroying Apple by amassing resources is not in Sony’s best interest. Indeed, Sony has many lines of products that Apple do not have such as Bluray, TV, camera, playstation etc. and these products rake in considerable revenue. A better strategy for Sony is not to look outward to Apple to mimic their success but to look inward and persevere. Apple is the brand of the day but trendy products like ipod, ipad etc., like a longer lived fashion, can’t be exciting forever. Apple brand’s excitement will diminish overtime. Sony, on the other hand, can make their products where they have comparative advantage better. For example, they can make bluray better and more accessible to fend off Apple and Microsoft’s assault.
    Another thing you overlook is Sony, at its heart, is a Japanese company. American companies such as Apple will come up with completely new devices such as the ipad. Japanese companies always aim to make devices already invented better. For example, Vaio, Sony alpha etc. Being a Japanese company also poses another problem to Sony. Sony is producing too many products and competing with too many different companies. There is no point of producing walkman mp3 player when Apple is dominating the market. Recycling walkman brand is a bad idea (it’s so 1990s).
    I don’t think Sony’s problem is a problem of software and distribution platform. Going with your strategy means Sony will create software and distribution platform based on Sony current hardware infrastructure (playstation, walkman etc.). I think it is unwise because it slows down the innovation of Sony’s hardware. It will be better if Sony spends its resources to develop a new generation of hardware before creating an ecology system of software going with the new hardware. Sony should not look to Apple but they should copy Nintendo’s wii strategy by instilling new ideas and staying ahead of the curve on already existed products (tablets for example).

  18. Well thought out article, but in my opinion if they were going to try to de-throne Apple, I think they would be better off forming an alliance and using Android as their base by putting their muscle behind it. By doing this they absorb a markedly huge user base to kick off their unified gaming, music, movie etc. platform. This would allow them in the future to say use Android as the OS behind their next “Gaming” Console thus making it much simpler to link devices such as a cell phone or right off the bat have access to a huge market of apps/games that could be used on the device.

    Not trying to say this is what they must do. Just an Idea. Just something to think about.

  19. Mimicking Apple is a horrible strategy for anybody. A slew of tablets by Samsung and RIM are not going to dent the momentum of cool that Apple has built up. The iPod/Pad has become a fashion statement like wearing Nike Air Jordan’s and Guess Jeans. Companies like Sony would be better served by refocusing on their core competencies.

    Sony also needs to finally adapt it’s strategy to a market where more consumers are less willing to part with their money. So far they haven’t.

  20. Sony used to be such a great company, putting hardware first, but when they divested into producing content, their products suffered. This was evidence in crippling their minidisc players so it was impossible to get record your own content, and get a digital copy from them. Evidenced when they crippled their cds by putting rootkit on them. Now their laptops are generic rubbish, TVs are no longer special. And they have always lacked in Software development. Sony was great, but they lost it. Apple does not produce content, so will not be in the same position as Sony are.

  21. Sony used to care so much about hardware that they refused to sell color tvs until they could make a better one that everyone else, and came up with the trinitron. Now, they are just another company selling the same old rubbish as everyone else.

  22. Well first, the itunes store is not called “Marketplace” This is a Microsoft reference picked up for use by Android. It’s simply the “Itunes Store” Also, there is one Itunes store not three as you stated, mac apps, iphone and ipad. Yes, the Mac App store is separate since the apps runs on Mac OSX computers and apps for iphone and ipad run on IOS. When you access the store from an ipad, it will feature apps made more for the ipad then apps that are iphone only. In all, everything is part of and billed by Itunes store, including the Mac App Store. Apple centralized everything in Itunes.

    For SONY, they never learned a lesson from their mistakes and they continue to make. I have friends that work for Sony and still state why the company is a mess. Its too big in its decision making. It has too many “silos” that compete against each other. Owning a movie studio and music company does not help Sony advance technology. The other studios and music company do not trust Sony as a competitor and a supplier of technology.

    Remember the minidisc. I have this somewhere. I loved this device. The biggest problem for Sony was the software. If you had 10 gigs of music, the minidisc software will copy, encrypt, and hide the music in areas that are unknown to you. Your music collection and hard drive space has now dobled to 20 gigs. Back then, we did not have 100, 200, or 500 gig hard drives. Plus it was still cheap to just but the Cd and pop that in then rip, format and load to a glorified cassette tape.

    I agree, the best they could do is mimic as a start.

  23. Sony’s revenue by far is their electronics division, of which, televisions are the largest segment with 23%. This should be their focus. They need to return to being the center of the living room, which incidentally was Steve Jobs approach in taking on Sony 10 years ago after Apple brought back the ‘iCEO’.

    Sony needs to make their own smart television, without partnering with Google. They need to be the Internet/media center. What they should create is a media distribution system that ties the internet experience.

    There’s no reason why Sony couldn’t reinvent the Internet TV, like Apple did the music player (that killed Sony). The iTV should have tools that people are familiar with without having to reinventing the wheel, by providing a familiar browser (Firefox/Chrome), multiprotocol IM client, Media Center (XBMC), Skype, mail client, etc, and providing an intuitive/simplified user interface (Think APPLE), with an intuitive remote/keyboard remote (license Logitech to design this, because Sony doesn’t know how to design a user friendly remote). All Sony devices should communicate in providing video/audio streaming, file/media sharing, etc. That is how you start to create your ecosystem and is able to support the application/content/media developers creating for your system, for a consumer base whose hearts and minds you’ve won over by creating an enjoyable experience.

    Trying to beat Apple by trying to restrict the distribution of your own media content is obtuse and short-sited. You win by being innovative and providing the best user experience. That’s what you should have learned from Apple.

  24. One of the things that you mentioned was consolidation, and I would like to say that Sony’s done a bit of it in terms of their Playstation Network (PSN). PS3 and PSP games share the same catalog (some games can even be purchased so they’re played on both devices), as well as movies (rental and bought) and (limited) music media.

    But here’s the thing, and maybe it’s just my personal preference.

    The games would have absolutely no impact on people who are browsing the store for e-books. e-Books would have little to no impact on PS3 and PSP users who aren’t going to stare at their big screen TV to read an e-Book. The target audience for both of these are different. Having a store which has both will make it harder for people to find what they want.

    For me, it doesn’t make sense for my desktop iTunes to present both music and app search results. I like the iTouch/iPhone version where if i’m looking for music, I get music results, and if i’m looking for apps, i’ll go to the app store.

    I think one of the few multi-media (in this case, physical and digital) store that’s worked well is amazon, and they use some pretty crazy algorithms to give you more of what you’re looking for.

    It would take some really good design to get that kind of a store working.

  25. Step 5- Wait for Steve Jobs to die. Let’s be honest folks, without him Apple is going to head south. No one can stay on top forever and without Steve, Apple won’t be nearly the same. It’s an eventuality and it looks like it may happen sooner than later.

  26. “Mimic Apple”, good luck Sony. It will be interesting to see tthe outcome off this duel. Now that you have given a blueprint we will now be able to watch this unfold.

  27. You can’t get past the fact that Sony make crap products, that aren’t designed to last. This is their biggest problem. They do an excellent job at design and marketing. You buy in heavily, then once the warranty expires, it’s basically all junk. If you want to build a sustainable ecosystem you need to first produce quality goods, otherwise once people get burnt, they learn from that experience and move on.

  28. Sony probably can’t destroy Apple alone, but it could start something which eventually will destroy Apple. What’s a platform without content?I say go for it, digital music sales is declining too, it’s not like you make a lot money from 99cents a song anyway.

    Pull all the content from iTunes, music, movies, everything. To be a bit naughty, get them on Andriod exclusive, steve jobs would hate that.

  29. Sony is loosing its glory, none of their current day products last long and they havy a very bad service. they make junk. I was once an ardent fan of sony. Now, I stopped buying them

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